What We Can Learn from Japanese Management
Wenyun He Barou
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
This course is the very first management course for me, and I was very excited about learning about all the “American managing techniques” in order to be a great manager. Obviously American firms are the pioneers in many different fields and those top companies in the states have been playing a huge role in the stage of global business. Everyone including me would expect American management should be the best in the world too. However, just after reading the introductory chapter of my management textbook, I discovered a whole new aspect of good management style. And surprisingly, the role model of management is not from this dream land but from the second country of mine, Japan. The first example which caught my eyes was the one of dynamic change of General Motors’ plant in California introduced in textbook (David & Kim, 2011). Due to being organized under Japanese method of managing after only one year, the workers were improved dramatically in terms of their productivity, morale, and performance quality compared to the same workers but under American management previously. Not only that, friendships were formed and workers were more committed to contribute to improve the company’s profitability. There are plenty of other successful examples of Japanese companies that demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of Japanese management. For instance, Sony has achieved higher productivity compared to other electronics companies in the same areas by valuating personnel relations between employers and employees (Richard & William, 1974). Another example can be Japanese bank in California. It has achieved rapid growth rate compared to other small banks in the states by maintaining lifetime employment of staff and carrying out extensive cross- training for workers (Richard & William, 1974). Starting to know all of these wonderful achievement firms have reached under Japanese management, I started to ask myself what part of Japanese management can be so powerful to make such a tremendous difference. After conducting some research, I have concluded five important attributes which highly reflect unique and effective Japanese managerial approaches. Those attributes which can be learned from Japanese management are: making decisions by consensus, developing junior managers, paying daily special attention, conducting lifetime employment and concerning for employees. This paper is going to examine each of the attribute by combining previous work done on this topic and providing the real life examples I have experienced in Japan. Literature Review of Main Topic
The Japanese approach of decision-making is very simple. Its principle is to make everyone to agree. (John, 2009) It has an obvious disadvantage: time consuming. That is the reason why organizations in the West find it absurd to make decisions by consensus. However, during the slow decision making process, each member can participate and feel they also own the idea and treated as equally as those top leaders. It also fastens the process move quickly after everyone agrees the decision at the first place. (John, 2009) Peter (1971) studied deeply about the whole process of the Japanese approach of decision-making in his paper. He also recognized most of organizations make decision only after thoroughly debating a proposed decision within the whole organization and after all of departments agree on that decision. Peter (1971) noticed the essence of Japanese decision making is to define the question. Japanese organizations try to figure out what the decision is really about in order not to waste time working on “the right answer” to the wrong problem. After the Japanese reach the agreement of one decision, they will enter a new phase called “action stage”. Decision often depends on certain groups of people and during this stage is when top...
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