4. Management Culture Differences

Typical and simplified examples of analyses and solutions of problems derived from the difference between Western and Japanese management cultures are shown here, although recently Japan is changing rapidly.

4-1. Personnel Manager

In a Western firm with less than a few hundred employees - many Japanese companies in Europe are of this size - the personnel manager is usually a personnel affairs clerk or a social assurance clerk. He does not take any initiative to motivate the employees like a Japanese personnel manager does. Personnel General Managers in Japanese companies are usually No. 1 candidates for board members, but in the Western world they remain as chiefs of management-support departments. Japanese companies in Europe should find an optimal compromise between the two different concepts of a personnel manager according to his ability and personality. In traditional Japan, collective harmonic cooperation and its conductor, personnel manager, have long been more highly evaluated than individual creativity to attain high quality and high productivity of mass production. Still so we can see in the fact how Mr. Tanaka, 43 yeas old Novel Prize winner of chemistry in 2002, has been treated in his company.

4-2. Promotion and Salary

Westerners say gCompetition until 40 years oldh. In their fortyfs the difference widens, for example, from presidents of companies to professional salesmen to average salesmen. A turn of the tide does not occur after that. In traditional big companies in Japan university-graduate-white-collar employees are promoted at almost the same speed until they reach their middle forty fs giving everyone the expected promotion, thus keeping them motivated. The average salary difference between able Westerners and Japanese reaches its maximum in the first half of the forty fs. That is a reason why Japanese companies can not keep able Westerners, why they hesitate to recruit able Westerners, moreover, why average Westerners remain in Japanese companies and get an excellent salary at 50 through the Japanese salary rise seniority system, and an elite-level salary when they retire. Most of the Japanese companies are successful not through their sales strategy figured out by clever brain, but through their good product quality. In the headquarters in Japan, they say, gOur products are excellent. Everyone can sell them,h Excellent quality overwhelms the cultural difference.

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4-3. Salesmen

A 30 year-old freshly graduated German salesman begins his carrier with an annual salary of EUR 40,000. If he is able, his salary will be doubled in several years, and can reach more than EUR 100,000 in 10 years. Then he continues his job satisfied even without job rotation until he retires. Sometimes there is an age layer of salesmen in their industry according to when the industry began to flourish.

For Japanese, real selection and promotion begin after the first half of the 40 fs. Before that they are sensitive how large a small difference will be amplified later. Everyone defends his status especially against a new comer, just as every creature acts instinctively. So Japanese Companies in Japan recruit most of the employees through periodical freshmen recruitment at graduation time in April.

In Europe, some Japanese companies decide the new salesman fs recruiting specification through democratic discussion in the company, resulting in a salesman of a few years of experience who can manage the job, but is thrifty and does not threaten another fs status. That man does not exist in some industries. If there is one who fits this description, there is no advantage in moving, because he loses his seniority in his present company, the salary rise will be not so much as to be over other fs, his status will be at the lowest level unthreatening to others, and moreover, the risk of the trial period in the new company is added. Recruitment should also be a g give and take g compromise between the two different cultures.

4-4. Recruitment of the Japanese Car Manufacturers

Japanese car manufacturers have built up many factories in the USA. They have chosen factory locations far from the influence of UAW, to train newly recruited layman workers to their own production practices. But usually a foreign company must adapt itself to the local employment practices.

4-5. Capitalist

It is said that Japan has, g capitalism without capitalistsh Majority share-holders of Japanese companies have been, still strongly, banks and insurance companies partly through other companies. The ultimate major share-holders are insurance companies owned by a number of insurance members, although some of them are now being re-formed into stock companies. The leftists could not find an individual people fs enemy, because the actual capital holders are the grassroots community, average person, although some are rather rich. The communist country leaders who visited Japan were always surprised to find that Japan is the only one true communist country on the globe. Toyota family fs spiritual influence on Toyota Motor Company is still very big, but their share holding percentage is smaller than Bosch fs through Denso, I believe.

The presidents of Japanese companies in Europe are mostly at the middle management level in the headquarters in Japan. They lack the consciousness of capital representatives and quite different from the European owner managing directors. Some of them are too democratic and like Soviet managers to reject their subordinates f wishes that contradict company interest.

4-6. Job Authority

Japanese managers inform their European managers of various and sometimes contradictory information as well from various sources, ask them to think together, and ask for their opinion even on top management level problems. This is to educate them, to let them show their potential ability and to discover their hidden talent. This is one of the motivational methods in Japan. Some European managers waiting their superior fs order in the hierarchy are not able to easily distinguish order from much reference information given to them, and observe their bosses without sympathy thinking that they showed their indecisiveness and inability.

On the contrary, if they are given orders without being suggested before, they are pleased to carry out the order independently within their authority, because the boss is responsible whether the order is right or false. But it is difficult to fix a completely independent authority. If they save the adjustment and consult with related people, and supplement with European common sense and their individual sense, it will be ggoing my wayh from the Japanese view point. The consciousness of an independent job authority is stronger in European than that of mutual cooperation. The reverse is also true in Japanese.

4-7. Warning, Dismissal

Some Japanese companies do not hand out written warnings to their employees regardless of repeated oral warnings, because they think the written form is a serious form of demanding improvement and reveals an unintended implication of dismissing the employee. By repeated oral warnings, the company is admitting, in effect, that the employee does not appear able to improve. That makes both the self-improvement of the employee and the dismissal difficult.

4-8. Individualism and Collectivism - 1

Every Japanese can remember the odd feeling he felt in his young days when he read the masterpiece of European literature, Shakespeare fs Merchant of Venice. Furthermore, there is no more refreshing clarity of the well known legendary judge Ohoka fs decisions in the Edo era of Japan. It is sticking to hard and fast rules to swing up a knife to cut off one pound of chest flesh in the court. It is also a sophistry to confiscate the whole property if even a drop of blood would be shed in cutting off the chest flesh. Only the interpretation of words and phrases in the contract has meaning in Europe, putting aside assumptions of the existence of the unwritten common sense of the society. We can see the height of individualism here. The Japanese see a bit of selfishness as well.

Although many tough detectives and judges appear on TV dramas in Japan as well, the main theme is not strictly the decision of justice or injustice, but the universal humanity of the Japanese that overflows from the TV screen.

What a big difference there is between the Japanese who are very happy being absorbed in universal humanity, and Westerners who breathlessly follow how the phrases will be interpreted.

4-9. Individualism and Collectivism - 2

A Japanese company seeks a Westerner who becomes highly motivated by the company fs cause and thinks they have the right to move him to any position if necessary. A Westerner seeks a job with attractive conditions almost regardless of the company fs cause and thinks he remains in the same job in the company.

Colonel Akashi, who disturbed Russia by sending weapons from Europe to revolutionary groups in Russia during the Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905, said, g It is more effective to conclude individual mission contracts to activate Europeans to carry out risky jobs, than to talk over the war cause to find ourselves kindred h and was surprised to find how strong Europeanfs contract consciousness was. Internationalization lies more in each individual give and take compromise, than in finding universality of mankind. That is not so easy for the Japanese to comprehend who have long lived on an island country.

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Yoshihiko Nagano

NGM Consulting GmbH

Eisen Str. 31, D-40227 Duesseldorf

Tel. +49 211 34 00 34 / 35 (direct)

Fax. +49 211 31 33 51

e-mail address. nagano@ngm-glocal.de

September 15. 2003