To talk about problem-solving or decision-making within a national environment means examining many complex cultural forces. It means trying to measure the impact of these forces on contemporary life, and also coming to grips with changes now taking place.
It also means using dangerous comparisons - and the need to translate certain fundamental concepts which resist translation and comparisons.
For example, the concept of vocational or professional identity differs markedly between the United States and Japan.
In the West, the empahsis is on what a man, or woman does for a living. Here in the U.S., if you ask children what their fathers do, they will say "My daddy drives a truck" or "My daddy is a stock broker" or "My daddy is an engineer."
But in Japan, the child will tell you "My daddy works for Mitsubishi" or "My daddy works for Nomura Securities" or for "Hitachi." But you will have no idea whether the father is president of Hitachi or a chauffeur at Hitachi.
Japan, the most
important thing is what organization you work for. This is of extreme
importance when trying to analyze the direction-taking or decision-making process.
At the least, it explains the greater job stability in Japan, in contrast to the great job mobility in America.
While we differ in many ways, such differences are neither superior nor inferior to each other. A particular pattern of management behavior develops from a complex mixture of unique cultural factors—and will only work within a given culture.
Let me try to describe three or four characteristics of the Japanese environment that in some way affect decision-making and problem-solving. These characteristics are related to each other.
First, in any approach to a problem and in any negotiations in
Japan, there is the "you to
you" approach, as distinguished from the Western "I to you"
approach. The difference is this: In "I to you", both sides present
their arguments openly from their own point of view—they state what they want and what they expect to
get. A confrontation situation is thereby set up, and Westerners are very
skillful in dealing with this.
The "you to you" approach practiced in Japan is based on each side—automatically and often unconsciously—trying to understand the other person's point of view. Thus, the direction of the meeting is a mutual attempt to reduce confrontation and achieve harmony.
A second characteristic is based on "consensus opinion" and "bottom-up direction". In
great consideration is given to the thoughts and opinions of everyone at all
levels. This is true of both private enterprises and Government agencies.
To understand this, it is important to realize that Japan is a very densely populated homogeneous country. Moreover, the people are aware and are articulate. Literacy is almost 100 per cent. Problems are shared. In Japan there is a drive for the group - whether it is family, company, or Government - to act as a unit.
Tremendous weight is given to the achievement of solidarity and unanimity. Unilateral decision-making or direction-taking is generally avoided, or where it does occur for very practical urgent reasons, it usually happens along with a sounding out of all concerned.
This bring us to the second part of this characteristics. When I use the term "bottom-up", I am referring to a style of management - perhaps what you would call keeping your finger on the pulse of the public, or the labor force, or other audiences.
The difference is that in Japan we record the pulse and it has real meaning, and it influences the direction finally taken at the top regarding a specific important issue. In other words, Western-style decision-making proceeds mostly from top management and often does not consult middle management or the worker while in Japan, ideas can be created at the lowest levels, travel upward through an organization and have an impact on the eventual decision. This is "bottom up".
There is also a characteristic style of communication in
Japan that is different from the
The Japanese business person works to achieve harmony, even if the deal falls through, and will spend whatever time is necessary to determine a "you to you" approach, communicating personal views only indirectly and with great sensitivity.
This places time in a different perspective. In
the Western deadline approach is secondary to a thorough job. Owing to this
difference in emphasis, the Japanese are thorough in their meetings as well as
in their production. Thus Americans are often frustrated by the many successive
meetings in many Japanese businesses. But where the American is pressing for a
specific decision, the Japanese is trying to devise a rather broad direction.
On the other hand, once a given agreement is made, it is the Japanese who sometimes wonder at the slow pace in which Westerners implement the decision. The Japanese are eager to move forward and Westerners, perhaps, lag behind as they take the time for in-depth planning.
industry and technology are highly developed, they have not replaced the
fundamental force of human energy and motivation. By that I mean that the
Japanese take great pride in doing a job well and getting it done no matter how
much time is required. There is a commitment and sense of responsibility, which
have not yet been discarded in this age of machines.
In my field—finance and securities—I am often asked by Westerners how Nomura Securities has managed to escape the paper traffic jam that American firms have faced. We, too, have had that problem. The Tokyo Stock Exchange often has between 200 and 300 million transactions a day. This volume is many times more than that of the New York Stock Exchange. How can it be feasible to handle this load?
First, we have very sophisticated computers. Second, and most important, the operational personnel responsible for processing all these transactions stay and stay until the job is done. Perhaps in 20 years—or sooner—they will be more westernized and insist on going home at five o'clock. But today, still, most insist on staying until the job is done. There is a sincere concern for quality.
This willingness to help in a pinch is an important aspect of Japanese problem-solving, and you find it at every level. Some years ago, the Matsushita Company was having a very bad time. Among the many measures taken, Mr. Matsushita, the founder and then chairman, became the manager of the sales department.
Also, when we at Nomura converted to computers about five years ago, the new system eliminated the jobs of 700 people. We did not dismiss these people; rather, we converted them to securities sales people and some of these are now our leading sales people. Provided there is intelligence and a willinginess to exert yourself, there is a place within the company to try and to succeed. In
person's capabilities are not forced into an inflexible area. And we feel the
company owes a worker something for loyalty and commitment.
A-lndicate whether each of the following statements below is a characteristic of Japan (J) or The United State (US). (5 marks)
- ---------- In business meetings, confrontations arc avoided by communicating one's personal views indirectly.
- ---------- An important decision is made by the president of a company and a memo is sent to all employees informing them of the decision.
- ---------- Several weeks of meetings pass before a policy decision is made.
- ---------- Several weeks pass after agreement is reached before action is taken.
- ---------- A new machine is installed to increase production and as a result 100 workers lose their jobs.
B-In each of the following definitions, the paragraph number is written in brackets. Find the phrases in the text that best fit the definition given. (5 marks)
- par( 1) Understanding and taking appropriate action. ----------
- Par(4) As a profession; to support oneself. ----------
- Par( 14) Trying to find out someone's opinion. ----------
- Par( 15) Knowing the feelings of a group of people. ----------
- Par( 18) Fails; comes to nothing folk. ----------
C-Find the meanings of the following words that are underlined in the text. The paragraph number is also given. (5 marks)
- Par (1) impact
- Par (2) fundamental
- Par (6) job mobility
- Par (9) distinguished from
- Par (10) confrontation
- Par (11) mutual
- Par (13) literacy
- Par (16) consult
- Par (19) dead line
- Par (31) willingness
- Par (12) disagreement
- Par (20) general
- Par (23) irresponsibility
- Par (30) incrcascd
- Par(31) fail