Acknowledging when one screws up is not part of Western culture. It's understandable. It wouldn't be a career-enhancing move for any politician, military commander, civil servant or business leader to admit, "I got it wrong."
Instead, what we hear are the reasons -- excuses, really -- why things didn't go according to plan and how they will be different in the future. Perhaps, but historical precedents generate skepticism.
The thoughts were prompted by the recent unexpectedly poor business quarter reported by Ford for Premier Automotive Group's Jaguar marque.
Put that alongside the continuing dismal performance by Saab under General Motors' custody and one begins to wonder whether Ford and GM knew what they were doing when they went on their European buying binges at the end of the 1980s.
Global vehicle demand over the following decade and a half was unprecedented, yet the commercial performances of Jaguar and Saab were usually poor and frequently pitiful.
Collectively, Ford and GM decision-makers have so far failed Jaguar and Saab. And yet, they employ some of the brightest and best automotive people money can buy. Enough excuses! More honesty is overdue.
If Jaguar has overcapacity, let's not forget that two plants were added on Ford's watch.
If Saab consistently fails to fill its production lines, it should build models buyers want.
If Jaguar has problems selling the X-type, that suggests a failure to understand the strengths of its German and Japanese competitors.
If Saab still has only a two-car range in Europe, that's poor product planning. Now Saab's product integrity is being battered by the decision to use Subarus and Chevrolets to broaden its US range.
Consumers in Europe would sneer at similar moves here.
If neither Jaguar nor Saab is hitting sales targets, perhaps it has to do with overestimating their own abilities and underestimating those of rivals.
If neither had competitive diesels until recently, it's because Ford and GM failed to understand the significance of new injection technology early enough.
If productivity is poor and costs are high, who's in charge of the factory floor?
If consumer surveys indicate indifferent quality, it's due to the companies concerned as well.
Exchange rates and tough competition are lame excuses. They are the same for everyone and are simply the costs of being a grown-up international business.
How much more time do Ford and Jaguar need? The corporations would do well to study the scale and speed of the achievements of the Renault-Nissan alliance and Renault's smooth takeovers of Dacia and Samsung.
International takeovers are tough, but they don't have to be as painful and protracted as Ford and GM are making them.
E-mail correspondent Richard Feast at