Critical evaluation

ABSTRACT

This research focuses on critical evaluation of management practices in the United States and Japan, which are now the most developed industries in the world, and their contribution in developing of the management science deserve a special attention. Both economies have had a long way through before coming to the present management system. Japanese new innovative tactics proved to be effective: strong emphasis on a social factor, corporate unity, life-time employment, seniority bonuses made Japanese workers to be advanced to a new quality level of performance, driven by quality system. Japanese miracle has been recognised by the rest of the world. What was the basis for success of the Japan while US has a twofold advantage in industrial development. Was it a symbiosis of management approaches developed by Deming, Shewhart, or Joseph Juran in the late 20's, which were not accepted in the US, but accepted in Japan? Or was it a favourable business environment set by the Government, which recognised the need for new revolutionary, important steps for the national interests of Japan? The research tried to discuss and critically evaluate reasons of Japanese management practices handled in Japan against those in the USA, trying to spot problem areas and developing recommendations.

Introduction

The US economy was blooming after WWII, the advantage in GDP was twice as much in comparison with any other industrial country of the world. Established methods of mass production and management system were in use, achieving unprecedented growth and there was no need for changing existing management strategy. While Japan was in a difficult post war condition, had limited financial and materials resources, low level of technology and training of labour force.

The new specific feature of Japanese management culture is that the corporate or group goals and objectives are prioritized over the individual ones, the roles and responsibilities are less sharply defined, compared with those in most of the US and western firms. What makes the Groups having more autonomy as to how tasks are carried out against the individual accomplishments controlled by managers (Lincoln & Kalleberg, 1985). These characters of management have deep roots in the Japanese past (Smith, 1959, 1988). It seems like the Japanese management system is completely different from Tayloristic management concept, but if given a closer review, a complex relationship can be discovered (Warner, 1994). Hypothesis comes on the surface that some features of individual structures of organising business activities might be useful, if transferred to other countries, even when the total structure may not exactly be the same (Whitley, 1990).

Research questions

Essential points of this research are anticipated the examination of one basic question: are Japanese management techniques applicable outside of Japan or can it be successful only in a Japanese cultural environment? What are the advantages or disadvantages of the Japanese management and American management approaches? What are the core features of the Japanese and American methods and how Japan achieved adaptation of best management practices for their local requirements? Why is it important for management strategies used in other firms and for global economic development?

Research Objectives

Basically, successful management can be described as the process of finding the best means of using human and material resources to satisfy the changing market/production needs, or to achieve set goals, as quick and effectively as possible with relatively minimum costs. Management of resources is a task that usually requires a comprehensive approach in terms of both human and material management methods. It should be widespread in determining most effective system in a range of options, while more specific and focused, in terms of the area, where the management technique should be applied to. The main objective of this research is to assess the hypothesis that management of human and material resources used in Japan is effective only in Japan. How big is the potential of developing of the local management techniques in example of best management practices of Japan? In the process of this evaluation, this research seeks to gain an insight as to how the managers observe a particular management approach and what are the main reasons for them having to use certain management techniques; subsequently, it leads to production of recommendations, by which manager can provide greater benefits.

Literature review:

According to numerous researches made on this issue, the Japanese companies manage their corporate idea on 'humans are most valuable assets' approach (Pucik, 1984), while historically, Japanese companies had a very little concern on corporate social performance, as long as they were successful their social roles to public was considered fulfilled (A.Lewin, et al., 1995).

The Japanese managers follow a slogan 'wakon - yosai', which could be translated as 'Japanese Spirit -Western Technology'. Japanese industry takes all the best from the West of both technologies and know-how and adapted them to Japanese specifics (Whitehill,1991). This process started approximately from the Meiji era in Japan, which was ground-breaking in terms of taking the latest Western achievements on a selective basis, while preserving the traditions aiming to restructure the isolated feudal society of Japan (Westney 1987).

Taylor's concept of management technique, developed by F. Taylor and his followers (Taylor, 1915), was widely common in Japan at the early stages of industrialization, but in a specifically Japanese cultural perception, believes Morishima (1982). Adapted into Japanese industrial practices, the Tayloristic concept became a core point in the creation of what has later been described as uniquely Japanese system of organization and management, that involves: first of all, high level of worker commitment, high flexibility, considerable seniority bonuses, life-time employment, enterprise unionism, and so called 'social norms within the enterprise', involving the notion of an enterprise as a social community (OECD, 1977).

Although the United State has the technically most sophisticated, well-funded, behavioural science community, a little research has been aimed on the area of critical importance for Americans: scope, origins and the nature of Japanese labour productivity advantage (Lincoln, 1989).

Methodology

This research is more exploratory than exploratory by nature. The research adopted a Grounded theory approach (Glaser & Strauss, 1967), based on deriving of theory from data obtained from research. The proposed research has used the Triangular concept of Denzin (1978), which refers to a surveying process where two points (and their angles) are used to determine the unknown distance of a third point (Tashakkori and Teddlie, 1998).

A combination of data collection method of semi-structured interview, and participant observation is used in the proposed research. The interview has been conducted with a short list of predetermined questions to keep the research context, but interviewee has been given the opportunity to talk freely on the topic, which is known as the informant interview, where the interviewee leads the course of the interview process (Dawson, 2002).

Data Collection Methods and Analysis

The research proposes the implementation of an unstructured, in-depth interview with the research subject to obtain an in-depth exploration of the management activities on a wider context. The interviews has been conducted by telephone, the whole conversation was recorded on a digital voice recorder. The disadvantages of interviewing by the telephone, the lack of visual contact, and trust establishment is compensated by the speed of data collection and lower costs connected with long-distance access.

The interviews took approximately one and a half hour; a schedule of questions was prepared in advance to ensure that the general idea of research questions was covered during the conversation. However, the interviewee was not supposed to strictly adhere to the questions, due to the nature of the interview. The disclosure of researcher's identity enabled to ask questions on the research subject for establishing rapport and trust.

This research proposed the use of more qualitative, than quantitative data analysis. Information obtained via interviews has been semi-structured and participant observation were analysed using the procedures of Grounded theory approach of selective coding, axial coding and open coding (Strauss and Corbin, 1998). The advantage of this approach is that data analysis will be conducted in a less formalised manner.

Resource Requirement

The review of literature has been obtained mainly from the library facilities and from the internet. The fieldwork assumed an extensive usage of telephone and world-wide web. Subsequent interviews with non-users or new users of management activities, as a result of participating in the workshops, have also been conducted via telephone according to the interviewees' preference. Interviewees are contacts in Japan, employed in various sectors.

Main Discussion

American economy was the leader in post war period of late 40s and they were leaders in almost all areas of industry, technology and scientific research. There was no competition to the US until the 70s (Thurow, 1992). America has an advantage in industrial development, output, and in many other fields of economy. On the opposite side of world, the Japan was quite struggling after war, and it managed within a comparably short period of time to develop and catch up the US. How was that possible, was there a magic involved or was it a comprehensive set of measures in industries, through putting an emphasis on science, and research activities, as well as developing management techniques. A new strategy of Japanese management was to adapt best management approaches developed in the world as per Japanese cultural specifics. It was realised that the best management practices developed, but not used in the US, could be helpful and effective for Japan. The Japanese managers revised old management system and created a new one that would stimulate the growth and reduce the costs. The principle of the new management was to effectively deal with human and material resources to satisfy the market demands. Through more socialised restructuring, with a number of motivational factors, incentives, bonus schemes - the Japanese management dream has become a reality.

It was developed so that the Employee is not just a paid-worker as described by Taylor (1915), but a full member of a new corporate family - a new socio-economic community. Being treated as family member, employees feel themselves in a more comfortable position that stimulates and more responsible for the work they are expected to do - this improves quality and consciousness of workers; Life-time employment: hiring an employee with prior work experience is extremely rare and practically uncommon in Japan. Usually they hire graduates with no or little experience to employ them for life. Seniority bonus is another standard used in Japanese management to motivate personnel loyalty to the employing company: the longer they work - the more they are paid; Thus they become very interested in companies prosperity and results - company's success is their success and more pay; Corporate unionism - all employees are part of live community, not of a cold work-place. As any community it has its own social life, like company kindergartens, company's grocery store, group tours to remote destinations, like London or Paris, or group pilgrimage to Fujiyama, etc. These kind of out-of-work activities improve human relationship amongst group members, strengthening the team spirit, allowing employees simply to know each, other more in an informal situation, which is usually impossible at work - all that positively influence their work performance. The results are amazing - Japanese workers and managers are the most long-working employees in the world - they work for over 50-60 hours per week, mostly working on weekends and with no or short holidays. Japanese are known as true workaholics, unlike their American or European colleagues. Economy is striving and business activities are enjoying new approaches, managing those scarce resources better and more effectively, than it is being managed in the Western world. Japanese management is developed within their cultural frames and scopes. Government is active facilitator and motivator of the process, as well as the Royal family.

The way western world carry out recruitment process is different than in Japan. For instance, Americans consider interviews as a selection process, with limited time per interviewee and sometimes they rely on written tests to identify whether the candidate is suitable or not. They tend to automate any process, including recruitment, which takes time and efforts. Japanese prefer more old fashioned methods preferring a more friendly usually long (2-3 hour) discussions in free, non-related subjects, just about anything to establish a social contact. This is considered as a very important step for Japanese HR managers, and most of them are very well trained, and skilled interviewers. The HR personnel should identify the personality type of the new recruit, to find out where he would fit in the organisation. Careful and balanced selection process is another factor that ensures the characteristic compatibility of recruits, team building, and overall job satisfaction. The interview looks like a conversation of old friends, is usually unstructured, or semi-structured. It is recognised that interviewee may be nervous and first hour he or she do not expose their true nature and characteristics - after an hour of so-called adaptation, merely 'talking about anything'- can be weather, or football team, or latest fashion news, they start exposing little by little their inner characteristics, likes and dislikes, and further strengths and weaknesses. In human behaviour management - knowing these characteristics is crucial and contributes a lot for a compatible team-building process.

Research findings

Recommendations

Global companies like Coca-Cola grow and thrive, whilst they get too big, and too bureaucratic and inflexible, due to its organisational structure - it is a disadvantage of global companies that they loose control of the overall situation, in example of General Motors. Most of global multinationals have complex organizational structure, which pose a weakness on internal environment. No matter how wonderful is marketing strategy, if internal structure is too bureaucratic and too inflexible. Flexibility sometime is a key to success, since "successful global marketing is about finding and satisfying global needs faster and better than the competitors"- as per Hollensend, S., (2004). When companies grow, they hire new managers, workers, staff. Corporations and multinationals usually have a hierarchic Role structure (Cartwright, 2001). This creates a hidden impediment and challenge to effective and quick decision-making process. Global scope of tasks tackled restricts developing local strategies as part of the global strategy. Most usually, global strategy has a paramount importance as compared to local strategy. This, in my point of view is a bottle neck of global marketing. Global marketing only becomes local, if it is a high income market, like Japan. For other markets, global companies dictate their points of view and their vision of how it should be, as per their homeland experience. In this particular research, a new finding has been made - international brand strategies not adapted to local specifics face a failure and shortly managers understand the mistake(s). If local marketing strategies of global firms are not carefully developed, according to local cultural, ethical and other specifics, the domestic firms with strong domestic marketing strategy will take advantage of this.

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