MANAGING THE MANAGERS: JAPANESE MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES IN THE USA
The article reviews one of the greatest difficulties that Japanese multinational companies face, that is integration of its subplants in other countries, where not just management is viewed as different, but also the general running of the “mother” company’s, not to mention the cultural changes which may be faced when atempting to integrate into another country.
The article reviewed attempts to do two things. Firstly, the authors explore the management self so as to give reasoning into the two different managing styles of the United States of America and that of infamous Japanese management. Secondly, the authors report their research on management self-conception and style in Japanese owned factories or ‘transplants’ in the United States.
The article is a summary of a large Japanese multinational company’s intergration into the United States. This multinational opened 3 transplants in the same region of the United States. One of the transplants (Honshu manufacturing, which incidently seems to hold strategic significance as concluded by the massive capital investment of $300M) has a Japanese General Manager. The second, Honshu assembly holds and American born and raised General Manager. The third transplant is of an intereting nature as this is a Hybrid of Japanese and American management.
The article begins with the facts involved when a firm of a more than a modest size is doing business in a foreign environment. It outlines the difficulties and failures that could be encountered when integration is involved. The article continues to inform us on how the article will be presented and the goals of the study at hand. The article is divided into 8 separate but relevant sections, these are:
Introduction which talks about the methods used in the study and gives a brief rundown of the subject of Japanese and American management.
Management in the Japanese transplants which talks a lot about previous surveys already concluded of which the nature is the same as the subject at hand. This subsection of the article also provides us with a history of the subject, as far back as 1976 . This section gives case example of previous studies made within the field of Japanese management and integration by Japanese multinationals.
Mediating the selves. This section enables us to see what the Japanese managers thought of the American management style and likewise, what the American managers thought of the Japanese managerial system. Primary conclusion of the interviews enabled us to see that each side was very aware hat they were managing side by side with a foreign management ethos. Furthermore, the meanings each side attributed to various management practises – meetings, plannings, everyday communication, differed dramatically and uncomfortably . From the interviews conducted , four variables were believed to have significant effect on the management style of the managers, and these variables were critical in shaping management styles in the three electronic plants. These four variables are: the initial culture established by the parent company, the level of budgetary control exercised by the home office, the role and influence of the Japanese managerial assigness in the day to day management of the transplants, and the country of origin of the transplants general manager.
Japanese-Dominant Transplant. Due to the large investment made by the parent company into this transplant, it is not surprise that Honshu manufacturing holds a very strong Japanese managerial presence. Upon start of production, the transplant had seventy-one Japanese assignees. Four years down the track, this number dropped to thirty-one, this by no means meant a weaker Japanese managerial system as of these thirty-one employees, ten of them held key managerial positions including General Manager and director of manufacturing. The reasons for this are considerably understanding as this was the first factory of its kind to be built by Honshu Corporation outside Japan. The authors noted from their interview that the control exerted by the Japanese managers was quite noticeable, as an American manager hired during the facilities building stage noted that the Japanese engineers were doing all the tasks and that he was just left to watching, without ask for opinion or decision.
The General manager of Honshu manufacturing was senior vice president of Honshu manufacturing’s US operation. He was given a lot of freedom over decisions without hindrance from the parent company. This is what led to this particular transplant’s more autonomous running, and the very Japanese style way of management. One American manager demonstrates the differences in work culture by saying: “They are not taught to manage people. To them manage means you tell somebody something and your subordinate will go and take care of it”. By this, the american managers quickly gathered that their conception of ‘management’ was not recognized or accepted by their Japanese counterparts. The American managers at Honshu manufacturing that were interviewed were the ‘success stories’ , as they had adapted to the Japanese culture of work, by gaining the trust of the Japanese, a big cultural issue in Japanese society. This manager gained success partly because he had subordinated his American management self to the more patient Japanese style . Japanese managers believed that the American managers had done well to learn the Japanese system, but were somewhat let down due to their lack of communication and share of thoughts. Japanese managers believed this problem to be largely in part due the failure by Honshu manufacturing to socialize its American managers into the Japanese management culture. This led to a lack of involvement by American managers, which is in contradiction to the Japanese system of management, which believes in contribution of ideas for improvement and benefit. This factory worked well due to good adaptation to the Japanese system by American managers. It was however not clear whether the transfer was superficial or whether the properties of the Japanese system had been properly inducted.
American-dominant transplant. At Honshu assembly, the Japanese presence was kept to minimal, with most key positions being held by Americans. The highest and only position held by a Japanese expatriate was the post of deputy general manager. This left the American managers control of manufacturing, engineering and finance. Due to lack of Japanese presence, there was no felt pressure to adapt to the Japanese style of management. It is interesting to note the reversal of situation from that at Honshu manufacturing. By this is meant the lack of accommodation for communication and interaction with the Japanese. Some conflict of communications arose between the Japanese and the Americans, as the Japanese disclosed their feelings of exclusion. Japanese input later proved essential. The American manager executed a very traditional top-down management style with him in control. The American general manager’s attitude towards regular morning meetings reflected his belief in turfs, individual responsibility and his constant rejection of the Japanese diffusion of power within the organazition. He believed that the practise of having all managers at a daily meeting was a waste of time . Honshu assembly’s human resource manager, an American in a good position to note the induction of blue-collar workers into the company, described the Honshu assembly transplant as “failing to invest in the company”. Lack of communication, exclusion from meetings and no attempt to socialise workers and Japanese managers, management pratices were controlled by US norms, despite Japanese ownership.
Hybrid transplant. From studying management styles of the two previous company’s integrated in the USA. Honshu Corporation decided to adopt a more unique style of management. They aimed at creating a Hybrid US-Japanese type of management. The Japanese presence in this transplant was considerably strong, yet to balance this presence Honshu Corporation appointed a American General manager supported by an American director of human resource management and deputy director of manufacturing. This novel mix of management style required all American and Japanese managers to read the 1987 book by Peter Wickens, the road to Nissan:flexibility, quality and teamwork. The reason for this being located in the nature of the book as it outlined the problems faced by automotive giant Nissan when they began operating in a Western culture. Communication can be seen as a major key in the success of this management style. Socializing was seen as an important key to bridging the cultural gap between the workers. This point of view led to the “Stride-out”. This is consisted of part philosophy, part education and part fun. Like a automobile rally, the participants work in pairs and are required to find their way from start to finish via spatial checkpoints. This emphasizes on teamwork and socializing, consolidating the Kyushu manufacturing process of ‘look, conceive, strtegize, execute and inspect’. In contrast to Honshu’s assembly transplant who simply get a short speech, the blue-collar workers at Kyushu manufacturing learn of the company’s mission statement by enacting the ‘Stride out’. This Hybrid managerial style adapts a very social management style. Communication at Kyushu works both ways. This is seen as the factory encourages employees to participate in the quality improvement suggestions. The General manager believed that the transplant unlike Japanese style management tried to keep their meeting more ‘task-orientated’, but admitted Japanese style nemawasi shortened meeting by solving many difficult problems before the meeting. As a whole, the US and Japanese managers co-operated to develop a hybrid system that adopted some features from both cultures.
Conclusion. Both Japanese and American managers forced to submit to an alien management style to their own admit frustration, stress and alienation. The managerial leadership at two of the firms openly admitted that they believed cross-national socialization as important, and paid not much attention to conflicts arising as the two different concepts of self and social process collided.
When looking at the two management styles it is important to understand the cultural differences that make up the Japanese management style and the may I dare say ‘common’ Western management style. This is very stereotypical, but works as a majority. The table brings forward facts that may help to point out what type of management can be associated with each of these:
Continuity of employmentLife-time employmentLay-off as necessary
Hierarchy in the companyPromotion by SenioritiesPromotion by competence
Utilisation of employeesNot fullyFully Utilised
Blue-collar / White collarSingle ClassDouble Class
External relationLong termShort term
Basis of relationshipGive and takeMarket mechanism
Ambition of employeesPromotion within companyPromotion in other company
Dreams/ GoalsHappily working togetherEfficiently working together
The Japanese management style is deductive and believes in insight and intuition. They believe in the power of logic and reasoning, they believe that which cant be seen or measured can exist, they do not break a whole down first into parts to analyze. Compare that with the Inductive American contructive reality belief that we believe in observing and measuring, the belief that that which cant be measured or seen does not exist, alongside the Joe Friday approach: Just the facts ma’am!
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