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Japanese & American Management Styles

A number of works, such as William Ouchi's Theory Z (1981), have sought to explicate Japanese management approaches in terms familiar to American managers and students of management.

In response to this challenge, some American firms made attempts to incorporate elements of Japanese management thought, such as "quality circles," in their own management systems. Some of these efforts were serious attempts at improvement. However other attempts were sheer window-dressing, seeking for example to give an appearance of group decision-making while retaining real control in the hands of management. In general, these measures -- even the relatively serious and sincere ones -- have met with only limited success. Japanese management, it has been found, is too deeply rooted in Japanese culture and Japanese modes of thought to be readily importable into American business culture. Thus, even Japanese firms operating in the United States have been prone to adopt what might be called "window dressing" measures (Byham, 1993, pp. 3-9).

Americans, for example, tend to be amused or perplexed by such Japanese customs as having workers sing a corporate anthem at the beginning of a work day. In American eyes, such practices are irrelevant to the actual business of conducting business, and American managers and workers might feel vaguely silly engaging in such a practice. Viewed in the Japanese context, however, the corporate anthem is not an isolated thing in itself, but one


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