Автор: Ludmila Matiash
Дата: 2003-05-14 18:47:49
I was encouraged by Ms. Zubrycka's response to this article. When I first read the article I was tempted to dismiss it as another example of Ukraine's fascination with the "Mysterious East." Having lived and worked in Japan for 8 years of my life (and almost the same number of years in Ukraine) I am skeptical of generalizations about national characteristics and cultural features. Ironically, in many cases misconceptions are a result of the resources we use to gain a true understanding of those same characteristics and features. Often we are limited by the availability of literature and translations contribute to our misconceptions as well.
Still, we must begin somewhere. Mr. Veretnov has made a good effort to synthesize the lessons learned from the Japanese management experience. Clearly we can learn from others mistakes as well as from best practices. But my experience suggests that there is a tendency to refer to certain kinds of resource materials and not others. Sometimes we are limited by what is available. Still, relatively new areas like management consulting, cultural studies and organizational development, perhaps because of their newness, seem to attract a demand for "guru" literature.
A "guru" is not necessarily the author of an idea, but also the idea itself which becomes fashionable at some time, for a period of time, and……for a reason! For example, Japan's own fascination with its "uniqueness" produced a library of home-grown writings about the superiority of the Japanese language, the exclusivity of the Japanese mentality, and recently the effectiveness of Japanese management practices. But the concepts of life-time employment, company loyalty, and consensus decision-making, for example, are famous "myths" which were not true even 20 years ago.
The Japanese factories were and still are very different from what we read about them. The famous "Ringi" system of consensus decision making is actually a lobbying exercise to force agreement on a decision that had already been made at the top. The Japanese company "sanatoriums" are not happy communal vacation resorts for the whole family. They are pressure cookers intended to shape the Japanese employee and family all into a standard (and manageable) mold. What was described as guaranteed lifetime employment with one firm was, and is in reality, an absence of employment alternatives. A student from Poland who was studying in Japan once said to me, "The whole society is controlled by fear. Fear of not belonging to the group."
Of course there are Japanese companies who have implemented management philosophies of developing their individuals. Kyocera's director Kazuo Inamori believes in having "implicit psychological employment contracts" with his employees. Yoshiro Maruta's management approach at Kao (Japan's largest producer of consumer packaged goods) is based on his religious philosophy as a Buddhist. The motivations of these companies are described by authors Sumantra Ghoshal and Christopher Bartlett in The Individualized Corporation (1997: Harper Business Press). These are examples of companies who believe that as important social institutions they should use their economic power to add value to society and to people's lives.
Many examples of Japan's national "myth" receive a lot of attention from foreign tourists who visit "exotic" Japan to see the Zen gardens and the cherry trees. Unfortunately, the "myth" has lost a lot of its sparkle when Japan's economic bubble burst a few years ago. Still, I certainly agree that we should borrow those principles and values which Japanese "mythology" is famous for and which are relevant to our own situation. Implementing them in our circumstances becomes our own challenge. I encourage Mr. Veretnov to continue this challenge.