Give your opinion about the Japanese management style and its possible application outside Japan.
Japan was totally destroyed during the World War II but in less than 40 years Japan has risen from the ashes to world leadership in many areas of technology and business. This success is attributed to its unique managerial techniques.
Some of the main characteristics that Japanese management have are: participative decision making, bottom-up management, lifetime employment, “amae-dependency relationships”, lean production, total quality management, total cost management, and infrastructure support. Applying all these, have produced high levels of teamwork, an atmosphere of innovative ideas and a willingness to constantly improve.
To take all these elements from the Japanese management and try to use them in the west as goals would probably be beneficial. However, to take them as a methodology without realizing the enormous cultural base on which they rest and which makes them successful in their setting is to risk to failure. The general culture in Japan prepares people to participate in its processes through ways they often are not even aware of. So, probably that is why the efforts to apply Japanese managing insights have met with limited success outside Japan.
There are many positive and fundamental concepts in this management, that probably can be applied all around the world, such as the total quality management that devotes the responsibility of quality to everybody working in the firm, and also the cost control production which tries to improve quality while reducing costs by setting budgets based on future costs rather thatn on historic costs.
Other characteristics of the Japanese management are very positive too, but probably they can just apply to their culture because they oppose or contradict in a certain way the ideas of Western cultures. For example, the lifetime employment, it is great for them, but generally in the West we are taught to always look for more, not to stay in the same position.
Different management styles work for different cultures, we should take the more neutral and positive thing of each style and combine them with the others, but not just try to copy it because probably it won’t work in the same way.
What is the culture-excellence approach to management?
The culture-excellence approach to management basically identifies eight characteristics as being essential to both organization and managerial success:
Organizational Bias for Action
The organizational approach should emphasize a preference for doing something – anything – rather than obfusticating ideas through endless processes of analysis and committee work. “Do it, fix it, try it”.
This suggestion appeals to the go-and-get-it manager. The argument is that without action and experimentation then new ideas, products, services, relationships are never tested and no movement is obtained. The organization and its staff are locked in the status quo and if the external environment is changing rapidly, making new demands and offering new challenges – then – the organization atrophies and becomes decrepit.
Move towards and Stay Close to the Customer
Businesses are encouraged to learn about/discover customers preferences and cater for them. Thus virtues of listen carefully/regularly and responding with quality, added-value service and reliability are emphasized. Offer added value to the customer and working in co-operation with them are important to competitiveness.
In a competitive supplier-customer relationship – the customer wants better quality for lower prices. The supplier wants the highest possible price at the lowest cost. So quality and support for customer relationships involves costs i.e. there is a tension in a competitive and collaborative supplier-buyer relationship. Collaboration involves trust, confidence and joint problem-solving. If a supplier becomes too confident in a relationship then complacency may set in. Both sides – it is argued – need a penetrating dialogue with detailed, evaluative feedback and mutual support to resolve problems a difficulties arising from the relationship.
Autonomy, Entrepreneurship and empowerment
Decentralizing is recommended: organizing the corporation into small business units which can operate independently and competitively. Corporate managers are urged to enable autonomy & entrepreneurship, innovation & risk taking as being a normal expectation of “empowered” behaviour rather than conformist and conservative habits.
Productivity through people
This is the old human relations nutmeg. The managerial call to arms is to create an organization, a place and a culture in which all employees are aware that their contributions and best efforts are essential to business success and that they will share in the rewards of the organization’s success. Managers therefore should adopt a range of behaviours which “empower” others (employees) to bring their talents to bear in productive, mutually satisfying ways.
Hands-on, value driven
Executives should be “hands-on”, come out of their offices and be visible and available at the point where the action is. Their objective as to secure value-added at every point and through every intervention. A hands-on, value-added approach with manager visibility and management by walk-about inspires a strong corporate culture.
Stick to the knitting
Corporate managers in contemplating corporate development and acquisitions are recommended to stay close to what the business does well and not to diversify into unlikely tangential areas. The problems of managing these will take executive attention and energy away from focusing on the business that the organization knows best.
Stick to the Knitting
This metaphor again emphasizes the “core” business. Executives should keep in touch with the organization’s essential business and avoid being distracted by programmes and activities that are peripheral to success. Corporate decision makers should focus their attention on what the business knows and does best and divest themselves of non-core activities which do not add-value. The stick to the knitting argument introduces the “down-sizing, right-sizing and outsourcing” imperatives which were taken up on Wall Street in the late 80s and early 90s.
Rather than constant corporate growth in pursuit of the vertically integrated and self-sufficient organization – the “knitting” argument encourages consideration of whether or not organizations that have grown too big, monolithic and cumbersome should split up into more nimble, agile, entrepreneurial parts.
Simple form with a lean staffing structure
Having fewer administrative layers with few people at the upper levels. Simpler structural arrangements and systems are recommended including a small HQ staff.
Simultaneous loose-tight properties
Corporate managers are urged to generate a climate where there is dedication to central organizational mediated (via operational decentralization and autonomy) by tolerance and empowerment of employees who accept these values.
As we can see, the Japanese management style and the culture-excellence style, even though they have some similar characteristics, they are very different and have many opposing views. For the Japanese management it is extremely important to see the organization as a whole and act as a whole and the culture excellence approach is constantly underlining segmentation, decentralization, autonomy, empowering employees, concentrating in the core and not in the whole.
The characteristic that both approaches share is the search for high quality and to innovate as much as possible with new ideas and technologies, because this is the only way to have a competitive advantage and therefore be a successful company.
Each managerial style has its advantages and disadvantages, both have been efficient, even though that they are different. The Japanese management style obviously has been successful in Japan but not that much in the western culture. Unlikely the culture excellence approach is more successful in the west but not in oriental cultures.