Special Features of Japanese Management

Japan’s success in industrial development is primarily attributable to its system of management which has certain specific features of Japanese management as under:

Features of Japanese Management

Reflection of national character

The national character of the Japanese has been, by and large, reflected in their system of management. Each and every Japanese tries to put to his or her maximum in industry. The Japanese put their national interests above anything else and feel proud of being Japanese. They are engaged in healthy competition with each other and are determined to take revenge in the economic front of the defeat of world War-II.

In fact, the Japanese nurture a deep feeling of mutual interests of serving the nation and thereby serving their own personal interest. Drucker thus rightly remarked, “However, when people or parties must live together, let alone when they must work together, the Japanese make sure that their relationship have at their core a mutuality of interest.”

Joint responsibility

This is the must prominent feature of Japan’s management. Joint responsibility has intimate and direct relation with the determination to the attainment of common objectives. The success and/or failure of managerial decisions of Japanese industries are not attributed to the effort of any single individual, rat her they are being shared equally by all the members for the group.

Groups, not individuals, are entrusted with jobs and are also evaluated in the same way. Thus when a division or a branch is entrusted with certain tasks, all the people employed therein remain responsible for their accomplishment. The manager acts as the leader and co-ordinate of the group and tries to move ahead through odds and difficulties.

Although the responsibility of accomplishment lies with the group, no one tries to avoid his or her part of the joint endeavor. The concern for recognition and advancement in the management hierarchy, keeps each and every group member to put to his or her best and thereby making joint endeavor really competitive and successful.

They hardly try to break the chain of command and are respectful of the wishes of superiors. This makes the position of Japanese mangers easier than that of their western counterparts in motivating their group members in joint endeavor.

Participative management

Japanese management can rightly be called participative. The formulation and implementation of all major decisions are done by managers in consultation and conjunction with subordinates. Inter-personal relation in Japanese management is very important which the Americans are trying to follow in their business enterprises.

Theory Z, which is the outcome of a hybrid of both American and Japanese management, emphasizes upon workers participation in decision making. There is also an emphasis on informal and democratic relationships based on trust. These tend to reduce industrial conflict, labour turn-over, tardiness and the like.

Japanese management uses decision making by consensus to deal with everyday problems. Lower-level employees initiate an idea and submit it in the form of a proposal called Ringishu, to the next higher level, until it reaches the desk of the top executive. If the proposal is approved, it is returned to the initiator for implementation.

Although the decision-making process is time consuming, the implementation of the decision because of the general consensus at various levels of management is swift and does not require additional “selling”.

An important characteristic of Japanese decision making is the large amount of effort that goes into defining the question or problem; there is a great deal of communication before a decision is actually make. American managers are often accused of making decisions before defining the problem. IN contrast, Japanese management makes a decision only after long discussions of the issue.

To quote Drucker in American context, “After making an decision we must spend much time ‘selling’ it to and getting people to act on it. What may be worse, it takes so long to make the decision truly effective that it becomes obsolete if not out-right wrong, by the time the people in the organization actually make it operational…the Japanese, by contrast need to spend absolutely no time on selling a decision. Everybody has been pre-sold.”

Harmonious industrial relations

In Japan, the industrial relations are more harmonious than that of any country of the west. The employers and workers organizations are tolerant to each other. The managers, who are professionals themselves, help maintain and develop congenial relations between employers and workers. The trade unions bargain with employers and workers.

The trade unions bargain with employers but they never right against the company. Thus it is often said that “American unions fight the company but Japanese unions fight the management.”

The formation of “Joint consultative committees” in industrial enterprises after World War-II made the participation of trade unions in management imperative.

Prof. Ichiro Nakyama’s remarks are pertinent: Many enterprises are communicating with trade unions and exchanging views. As a general trend, it may be said that management not only reports the result, but is explaining basic policies or plans to trade unions before implementation and asking for union co-operation.”

Japanese industrial relations can well be compared to that or Germany and Sweden. Some researchers call it outstandingly participative and pragmatically reformative. The existence of “Joint Consultative Committee has also provided benefits to both parties in that it has enabled management to maintain its prerogatives within the enterprise, and the union to increase its influence.”

In Japanese industries the employees are not only highly paid but are also highly valued as human beings. The enjoy psychological security at their work-place and for these reasons, Japanese industries are almost free from industrial conflicts of unimaginable proportion.

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Features of Japanese Management

Lifelong employment (Nenko) and the seniority system

These are the unique features of Japanese management. Typically, employees spend their working life with a single enterprise, which in turn provides employees with security and a feeling of belonging. This practice brings the culturally induced concept “Wa” (harmony) to the enterprise.

Closely related to Nenko, is seniority system, which has provided privileges for older employees who have been with the enterprise for a long time. But there are indications that the seniority system may be superseded by a more open approach that provides opportunities for advancement for young people.

The fact that under ‘Nenko’ an employee remains in job so long as she/he wishes to continue, adds to business costs, because employees are kept on the payroll even though there may be insufficient work. Consequently, firms are beginning to question about life-long employment which was started in the face of acute scarcity of labour after world War-II.

Indeed, changes appear to be very slow. What is often overlooked, however, is that permanent employment practice is used primarily by large firms. In fact, it is estimated that the job security system applies to only about one-third of the Japanese lobour force.

Firms are beginning to question about life long employment since it adds to business costs.

Continuous training

For employment in Japanese industries, candidates of younger age are preferred. They are being trained and groomed for appropriate job responsibility. On-the-job training is, of course, an on-going process.

Employees are also sent for attending off-the-job training. T he main objective of all such training is to enhance productivity. Compared to our training programmes it can well be stated that our training is promotion focused but the Japanese training is performance focused.

Since performance is the main focus of employee training in Japan, each and every employee becomes an asset to the enterprise concerned. Managers in industries do not act as masters, they act as teachers. The sub-ordinates get work-related guidance from them and that is also a good supplement to training.

Quality control

The consumer products of Japan are noted for their quality. High quality at low price is the slogan of Japanese industries. They have captured world market by making the consumers serve their purpose at low cost. In the field of quality control Japanese follow a peculiar method called “Quality control Circle (QCC).”

The workers work as members of these QCC’s and they themselves ensure quality under the guidance of foremen. This ensures quality control as a continuous process. Japanese managers have used the high motivation of workers in ensuring product quality. During the last few decades the quality of Japanese managers has used the high motivation of workers in ensuring product quality.

During the last few decades the quality of Japanese product has gone so high that it has surpassed that of many western countries even. It is a crime on the part of Japanese managers to compromise with quality. In fact, each and every worker is a member of one or the other QCC and thus each and every worker is a quality controller.

Paternal human relations

The Japanese managers act as ‘parents’ of sub-ordinates and take care of their problems as guardians. They have used the “Confucian” concept, into their management system, which makes it imperative to regard seniors as respectable persons.

The seniors, in their turn, also extend all possible help to juniors. This ensures a galaxy of cordial human relations within the industrial enterprise, thereby improving productivity and profitability in almost an automatic manner.

Besides the distinct features of Japanese management as described above, the industrialists also maintain healthy relations with the Government. The strength of Japanese management also lies in its capacity to keep all the relevant parties-workers, employers, consumers and government-satisfied.

The fruits of industrial development are being shared equally by all and this has reduced income inequalities within the society. This should not be attributable to any magic, rather it happened because the Japanese have worked hard under their unique system of management and have put their national and organizational interests above their narrow personal gains. As if they are working under an oath to take revenge of the humiliations that they suffered during World War-II.

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