Zimmerman, M. (1985). How to Do Business with the Japanese. New York: Random House.
In a vertically structured, group-oriented business system that is operated under a pattern of inferior-superior relations with no individual responsibility, individual members within the system cannot make decisions on their own on matters of any consequence. There are exceptions, but in general, decision making in Japan is a communal affair requiring unanimous approval by management.
Managers in a western company might be expected to emphasize their ostensible specific responsibilities. The sales director of the Western company might think of himself as having sole responsibility for the sales of a new product although in practice he spends his time in meetings with other directors, market research departments, accountants, production supervisors and lawyers. It would be impossible for the sales director to make important decisions without the consensus of these other individuals. His Japanese counterpart would be likely to think of himself as the head of a team of salesmen, and part of a larger team of senior managers, all working on different problems involving the new product (Clark, 1979, p. 129).
It can be therefore difficult, if not impossible, to find one person who is expected to take full responsibility for any one decisions. The notable exception to this is for serious accidents or failures. Because it is impractical to hold large groups of people collectively responsible for important mistakes or misfortunes, Japanese society has developed the system of allowing one man to assume full responsibility for the setback and make amends by resigning his position. Examples of this occur frequently in both business and politics in Japan. However, when a president or department director or section head takes personal responsibility in such cases, it is only a formality. He is not particularly dishonored and customarily collects his retirement allowance. Not to