Japan Bus Tours - Example of Project Expectations?

A friend mentioned that she understands better “why Japanese are like they are”, after having been on a weekend bus tour to Mt. Fuji. I’ve been on Japanese bus tours before, but it never really dawned on me that they could be a window on the soul of the Japanese, but I suppose they are, in a way. I’ve always been against them, but occasionally bow to pressure from the higher authorities at my house, like my wife and daughters, and go on a bus tour.

On projects I’ve groused with other PMs that people here expect everything to be presented on a silver platter. And by people, I mostly mean Japanese people, who are the users in 99% of the cases where I’m managing projects. It has been difficult to explain why I would not write out every step for every action by users, and I think the bus tour is at fault! Consider the careful service you get on a bus tour:

  1. Everything laid out in great detail with to-the-minute scheduling of every stop on the tour. Now we’re using the bathroom, now we’re buying souvenirs.
  2. A tour guide with a little flag to lead you around the site, in case you can’t read the detailed map you’ve been given. This is a famous sight, is it not?
  3. Continual announcements about what’s next and what just happened, as well as the rules you’ll need to follow. Just in case you did not get it from the detailed itinerary.
  4. Big signs saying how many minutes you have at the particular stop, again, in case you did not understand the repeated announcements.

Westerners certainly have a different approach to things of course, and generally take a more independent, less supervised approach. So one could either feel a bus tour in Japan is either incredibly well put together, or incredibly overbearing. A taxi driver I mentioned this to said that Japanese expect this type of treatment, because their mothers tell them what to do at every turn.

Maybe the PM title stands more for “Project Mother”, in Japan. I suppose I should just get used to it, after such a long stay here.