By Clardy, Alan
Publication: Personnel Psychology
Date: Tuesday, April 1 2003
During the 1980s, commentators and researchers of almost every stripe witnessed what was invariably seen as a miracle: the juggernaut Japanese economy. It seemed a perfect system, with all cylinders-from the political coordination of the economy through industrial structure and interfirm interactions to human resources management practices and cooperative relationships on the shop floor--clicking at high, flawless speed. In the mindset of the time, one question quickly followed: How could the American economic system, with all its contrasting warts and imperfections, hope to compete against this titan? Now, little more than a decade later, that sighting of a miracle has been downgraded rather substantially. In the words of a Fortune analyst (Powell, 2002), "Being compared to Japan these days, economically speaking, is about as low as it gets" (p. 91). The reasons for this decline are varied but include many of the same factors that supposedly accounted for its ascendance. Now, Keeley pulls back the curtain even more, exposing a system seemingly trapped in neutral. Keeley, a Westerner fluent in Japanese and professor in international management at Sangyo University in Japan, is well positioned to reveal the inner workings of the Japanese corporation, particularly its international human resources management (IHRM) practices, without the infatuation that marked many of the earlier reports. The inescapable conclusion from this volume: These practices create almost insurmountable competitive disadvantages. In addition, Keeley provides a deep look at the tenets of Japanese culture, the management and personnel practices tied to that culture, and the resulting business practices and organizational dynamics that characterize the modern Japanese corporation. In the process, he also offers up a compelling argument for diversity, not...