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Four Sacred Treasures of Japanese Management

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Feb 28, 2013
Japanese management

Case no 1: One of my journalist friends is so serious about his career that he tends to be a true capitalist. From the very first year of University Life he has been working for many newspapers- one after another. He has got an insatiable interest in switching! and now working for Channel i. Once he told me that “The more you switch the more compensation you get.”

Case no 2: I have grown up in a remote village in the Northern Part of Bangladesh. Majority of the people of the region are farmers and live an agrarian life. In my childhood I used to see the villagers quarrel with one another over some trifle issues like land distribution, crops damage etc. Interesting fact is that after much quarreling for three or four days they both went to the chairman of the Union Parishad to get justice. Chairman with some local political leaders and Imam called for meeting to manage the dispute. They listen from both parties and gave a decision and convince both parties to accept the decision. Most of the time the dispute could be resolved in this way but not without exception.

Case no 3: In an interview published in the Weekly Saptahik, Samson H Chowdhury, founder of Square group, said that he encourages the labor Union in his organizations. It facilitates to increase the organizational productivity by establishing and maintaining good relationship between the owner and the laborer. Each year within a definite period of time he used to call a meeting with the leaders of labor union. He listen to their claims and complaints and after much discussion he solved their problems. But in the total industry scenario of Bangladesh the labor Union is not in a good condition. Most of the cases, the union leaders are politically motivated and not aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Although these cases can’t fully represent Bangladesh, but can partially depict some major prevailing values, and systems. These cases are written against some sacred treasures of Japanese Management to have view of how we are doing in those areas. The four sacred treasures are –

  1. Lifetime employment

  2. Seniority base wages and promotion

  3. Consensus decision making

  4. Enterprise unions

Every systems works making a balance between its strengths and weaknesses. Now question may arise- What Japanese managers can leverage from lifetime employment system.

“Its importance lies in quality, the vitality and the cohesiveness of disciplined and professional management team.” (Whitehill, 1991) They receive hands on training throughout their career. After every span of 3 or 5 years of career employees face job rotation. That makes them multi-specialist with sufficient knowledge of all aspects of the total management process to be highly effectively leaders.

As every employee is recruited through the seamless recruitment process proving their capability, it is assumed that senior employees are more experienced and efficient and are to be honored with more wages and promotion. Prevalence of paternalistic values within the corporations makes it easy to practice.

As Japanese are one of the mostly monolithic nations, their values, their attitude towards something differs a little among themselves. It is easier for them to reach to a consensus while decision making.

A Japanese enterprise union contains both regularly employed white- and blue-collar workers and low-level managers. Most enterprise unions in the same industry affiliate into an industry-wide federation, and, in turn, nearly all of these federations are members of Rengō (Japanese Trade Union Confederation). An individual enterprise union, however, normally bargains without the direct participation of industrial federation or Rengō representatives. Instead, these latter groups coordinate enterprise-level bargaining, especially for the annual “spring offensive” (shuntō). Strikes, however, do not last long. Frequently, as in the “spring offensive,” strikes are scheduled in advance as a series of short work stoppages.

To some degree, Japanese enterprise unionism reflects Japan’s traditional low turnover of labor; workers usually remain with one employer for all or most of their working lives and tend to identify with the company rather than the union. In addition, some unions seem to be unduly—even at times illegally—influenced by management because of the close identification of union with enterprise. Thus, opinion is divided on whether this practice, compared to other forms of unionism, effectively advances member interests.

"All these values are under pressure due to recent years of slow growth and the dramatic changes inherent in restructuring the economy. But each is a part of the heritage at the post war economic miracle and each may be more durable than some doomsday journalists would have to believe.”(Whitehill 1991)

Everything evolves. And a new thing often comes out from combination and interconnection among different separate ideas and things. So, it is not necessary that we have to follow these rules of management and activate those rules in Bangladesh. But it deserves consideration and if necessary and suitable the managers can take initiatives to creatively amalgamate the systems.

Complement with why some people makes things perfect and some can't  Excellence Demands Worship


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Mr. Julfikar Islam is currently studying Marketing (4th year) at University of Dhaka. He is truly an organizational being. He has been working with a number of knowledge-based organizations for last 3 years within the University. His area of specialization is Supply Chain Management. He also has an effective knowledge about Branding, Current Market trends. He has been blogging for last 1 year about these issues in a number of national blog and community website.

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