Japanese Management Culture - Managerial Style

Managerial Style

The Japanese term "hourensou" refers to important attributes that are said to characterize collaboration and information flow within effective Japanese corporate culture. "Genchi genbutsu" refers to "getting your hands dirty", to identify or solve immediate problems and leaders are not exempt from this. Aspects of these principles are often mistaken by western managers for the type of micromanagement that is constant and unprincipled and interferes with processes. In contrast, these principles are used as tools to shepherd processes.

Mohammed Ala and William Cordeiro (1999) describe the Japanese “decision-making” process of “ringiseido.” “Ringiseido” provides the opportunity for equal ranking managers or employees of a group within a company to partake in an individual’s idea. The process adheres to the Japanese cultural desire of “harmony” among people. The physical action of “ringiseido” is referred to as the “ringi decision-making process.” The “ringi decision-making process” fosters an environment of support and agreement for a decision once a higher ranking manager has reviewed and accepted the recommended decision.

The term of “ringi” has two meanings. The first meaning being of “rin, ‘submitting a proposal to one’s supervisors and receiving their approval,’ and gi meaning ‘deliberations and decisions.’” Corporate “policy” is not clearly defined by the executive leadership of a Japanese company, rather, the managers at all levels below executives must raise decisions to the next level except for “routine decisions.” The process of “ringi decision-making” is conducted through a document called a “ringisho.” The “ringisho” is created and circulated by the individual who created the idea. As the “ringisho” reaches a peer for review, the peer places his or her “personal seal(hanko) rights side up” to agree, “upside down” to disagree, and side ways to indicate being undecided. Once all peers have reviewed the “ringisho” the peers’ manager reviews the “ringisho” and places his or her “hanko” on it. The upper level manager’s “decision is final” and the “ringisho” is sent back to the originator who either initiates the idea or re-evaluates, based on the “hanko” of the upper level manager (p. 22-23).

Tony Kippenberger (2002) elaborates on the leadership values that are deeply rooted in the Japanese business culture. These values were created by Konosuke Matsushita, the prominent deceased entrepreneur of Matsushita’s Electric Company, who cared deeply for the employees of his company as if the employees were family. Matsushita firmly believed that a business as large as his was responsible to help all of society prosper, and not simply for those that owned and ran the company to prosper. In 1933 Matsushita, during the great depression, created seven “guiding principles. . .:

  • Service to the public – by providing high-quality goods and services at reasonable prices, we contribute to the public’s well-being;
  • Fairness and honesty – we will be fair and honest in all our business dealings and personal conduct;
  • Teamwork for the common cause – we will pool abilities, based on manual trust and respect;
  • Uniting effort for improvement – we will constantly strive to improve our corporate and personal performances;
  • Courtesy and humility – we will always be cordial and modest and respect the rights and needs of others;
  • Accordance with natural laws – we will abide by the laws of nature and adjust to the ever-changing conditions around us; and
  • Gratitude for blessings – we will always be grateful for all the blessings and kindness we have received.”

The “guiding principles” were “remarkable for their time.” The seven principles are used by Matsushita’s company today and serve as principles for other Japanese companies. Because the “guiding principles” are such powerful statements and an extension of the Japanese cultural into business, the principles have been renamed to the “’Seven Spirits of Matsushita’” to honor Matsushita (p.71-72).

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Melvin R. Laird - Secretary of Defense - Managerial Style
... Laird noted this in his FY 1971 report, "Except for the major policy decisions, I am striving to decentralize decisionmaking as much as possible.. ... So, we are placing primary responsibility for detailed force planning on the Joint Chiefs and the Services, and we are delegating to the Military Departments more responsibility to manage development and procurement programs." The military leadership was enthusiastic about Laird's methods ...

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