KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Jan. 8, 2005
"Shift: Inside Nissan's
Historic Revival," by Carlos Ghosn and Philippe
Ries (Currency/Doubleday, 256 pages, $25.95)
Although Nissan has Japanese
culture and Japanese history and most of the
company's executives are Japanese, all meetings
of the company's executive committee are
conducted in English.
Carlos Ghosn, the Brazilian-born,
French-educated, Leba-nese chief executive of
Nissan, underscores the significance of making
English the lingua franca of the upper echelons
of the Japanese company in "Shift," his account
of how he spearheaded the ailing automaker's
The use of English, he maintains,
is crucial to that company's success in the
global economy. And Ghosn, whose name is
pronounced "phone," suggests that what holds for
Nissan in that regard may also apply to any
company with similar international business
Imposing that requirement, he
writes, was made simpler for him because he has
no cultural predisposition toward English.
"All my education was in French,
and French is still the language I speak best,"
he writes. "But we chose English because we had
to be objective and acknowledge that when a
Chinese person gets together with a German, a
Frenchman, an American and a Japanese, there's
not much chance they're going to speak French,
or Chinese, or anything other than English."
In addition to the globalization
dimension, English is a tool that helps people
who work for the same company but come from
different cultures communicate with one another.
The main thrust of "Shift" is to
detail the "Nissan Revival Plan," which brought
that company back to profitability in less than
Under that plan, Ghosn eliminated
21,000 jobs, closed five factories, increased
funding for research and disentangled Nissan
from its kieretsu, a Japanese network of
permanent financial, human and business
relationships. Abandoning that kieretsu was
crucial to the revival.