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Case Reaction to Japanese Management Styles

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Tiffin University

CASE REACTION TO JAPANESE MANAGEMENT STYLES

Submitted for
MGT 505 (Section 91)
Fundamentals of Business Enterprise
Dr. Perry Haan, Professor of Marketing

By:
Michael Bond
Ypsilanti, Mich.
September 25, 2011

The Effectiveness of Japanese Styles of Management

Introduction The article was a review and critique of the effectiveness of Japanese styles of management. Through case studies, three main research questions emerged: 1. What are the distinctive qualities of Japanese work organizations? 2. What happens to these qualities when Japanese organizations are established in western countries? 3. Are there ‘universal’ effects of particular forms of organization, or is it more the case that what is required at one place or time would not have the same effect at another place or time?

Points of Agreement • The difference between the western viewpoint of Japanese society and the Japanese management style. (Smith, 1984, p. 123, col 1, par 1). Western society, mainly writers and movies, have presented Japan as a conformist society. The movie, Gung Ho (1986, Paramount Pictures) is about a Japanese auto company taking over an American auto company. The Japanese management is shown as working as a unit and not trying to rock the boat. They also lower salaries and try to get everyone trained on every job as to conform. A study by Klauss & Bass (1974) studied group decision making by managers in 13 countries (Smith, 1984, p. 123, col 1, par 1). Japanese managers showed the highest amount of high individualism and anti-conformity. They were more likely not to be influenced by the group and were willing to go in a direction not recommended by the group. The results of the study were very surprising for me based on the aforementioned points. I’ve always view Japan as a country that valued conformity more than anything else • Japanese blue-collar workers are no more satisfied and possible less satisfied with their jobs then Western workers (Odaka, 1975; Azumie & McMillan, 1976; Cole, 1979) (Smith, 1984, p. 122, col 1, par 1). I feel that this is due to the differences between Japanese and Western viewpoints on their jobs. In the western world, we are satisfied with coming in, working 9-5 and leaving the job at the work place. We tend to view our job as a source of income and something we have to do. We have an attitude of settling. There is more of an emphasis on how much you can accomplish than there is on quality. We still care about quality as long as it is done quickly. In terms of management positions, the most qualified person is not always hired. In Japan, the workers take pride in their job. They see the workplace as an extension of themselves. How they conduct themselves at home is how they want to be at work. They are an equal concern for quantity and quality. They are expecting themselves and their company to make mass quality goods and services. When you compare these viewpoints, it’s easy to see where the Japanese could become frustrated. That frustration would come when they felt the company was not living up their expectations. They would also see that as negative mark on their character.

• Japanese managers more willing to spend on product quality and less willing to spend on pollution control (Smith, 1984, p. 130, col 1, par 4). I agree with the conclusions of the report of Bass & Burger (1979) (Smith, 1984, p. 130, col 1, par 4). As I stated in the points of agreement, Japanese workers are very committed to produce a quality product. So, in terms of budgeting, that would be a high priority for the managers. There are apparently contradictory attitudes toward nature and air pollution in modern Japan. (http://aboutjapan.japansociety.org/content.cfm/nature_and_the_environment_in_postwar_japan) Japan is well known for their cherry trees, efforts to maintain and improve their parks and their society feels that they are more sensitive and in tune with nature than the rest of the world. Japan is also well known for taking advantage of the environment and the natural world to meet human needs and the demands of labor. At times, Mount Fuji, outside Tokyo, was completely obscured by smog. A chemical company in Minimata dumped chemical waste into the bay. The end result was nearly 2300 cases of mercury poising (http://www.env.go.jp/en/chemi/hs/minamata2002/ch2.html)

Points of Disagreement

• Japanese managers score highest on belief in participation in decision making by subordinates (Smith, 1984, p. 130, col 1, par 4). This conclusion was reach by Haire et al. (1966) (Smith, 1984, p. 130, col 1, par 4). As stated in one of my points of agreement, Japanese managers would not be influenced by a group decision. That would lead people to think well if a group made suggestions, then the Haire conclusion would be valid. I disagree with that line of thinking on the basis of wording. To me, decision making refers to the person or person who actually makes the decision. Employees can be involved in offering input or making suggestions, but they aren’t the ones making the final decision. For example, my boss is trying to decide whether to redesign the Tiffin Athletic website. He will call me in, get my thoughts on the matters, and ask me how we can improve it. A few days later, he will make the decision whether we redesign it or not. I’m not involved in the actual making of the decision.

• Japanese respondents had a strong motivation to please the researchers (Smith, 1984, p. 125, col 1, par 3) This was the reasoning by Haire et al. (1966) Smith, 1984, p. 125, col 1, par 3) to explain their surprise by their findings. Going back to what was stated in one of my points of agreement; this statement does not hold water. Japan is not a conformist society and it does not make sense that they would feel that motivation to please the researcher’s. • Preference of vertical differentiation and horizontal differentiation (Smith, 1984, p. 128, col 1, par 1). Lincoln et al. (1978) (Smith, 1984, p. 128, col 1, par 1) hypothesized that Japanese workers and managers would prefer organizations with a maximum amount of vertical differentiation and minimal horizontal differentiation while Americans would prefer the opposite. Vertical differentiation is where there are several goods that can be ordered in an objective way, basically along one decisive feature. Horizontal differentiation is when goods cannot be ordered in an objective manner due to many different variables, I.E. ice cream cones. Based on my earlier assessment of the Japanese and American workers, the opposite is true. The Japanese would be more concerned with the bigger picture. They would want to take everything in and make the decision that is best for the company. The Americans would be focused on what is right in front of them. They would prefer fewer choices because they could make their decision quicker and then move on to the next thing.

Application of information to worldly views The recalls at Toyota were a big eye-opener for many consumers. The case studies in the article presented Japanese management and workers caring about the product. Toyota comes out and admits mistakes were made and they are taking care of it. Then several months later, more cars are recalled and you got insight to the company caring about quality.

Integration of information with materials or concepts from the text As a whole, Chapter 6 Management (Dias, Shah, 2009, pg. 174-206) is a good guideline to what the article is discussing. The chapter tells you what management is, the functions, and the levels of management among other items. I reread the chapter after reading the article which gave me a better understanding of what was being discussed. In particular, I could see Theory X, Y and Z (Dias, Shah, 2009, pg. 196-199) in what was being said in the article. By going back and looking at each of the theories, then applying them to the article, I could see what they were talking about.

Points of Interest This was an interesting paper to write as I had problems at times understanding the language of the article. There were some valid points made about the Japanese management style. However, no one style is the end to beat all. The one issue I wish had been covered more was the cross-cultural study of managerial effectiveness.

New Questions Sparked 1. There were a lot of words that I had to look up in order to understand what was being discussed. Is there a way to write the review and critique in a more understandable format? 2. How would the Japanese management style need to be adjusted to work in the United States? 3. The article mentions vertical and horizontal differentiation. What are they and how do they affect worker morale? 4. What are the criteria for being an effective manager?
Reference List
Smith, P.B. (1984). The effectiveness of Japanese styles of management: A review and critique, Journal of Occupational Psychology, 121-136

Dias, L. & Shah, A. (2009). Business in Global Markets, Introduction to Business, Chapter 6, 174-206.

Tsutsui, W. (5/15/09). Nature and the Environment in Postwar Japan. Retrieved from (http://aboutjapan.japansociety.org/content.cfm/nature_and_the_environment_in_postwar_japan)

Minamata Disease The History and Measures (n.d.) Retrieved from (http://www.env.go.jp/en/chemi/hs/minamata2002/ch2.html)

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