Project Management

Comparison between the US and the Japanese management model

Western Waterfall project management and Eastern Agile product development practices and management philosophies are the two most popular topics today in project management, product management. The terms Kaizen, Kanban, Scrum, Lean are popular.

However, all of them have their roots in the early processes of production optimization in Japanese large companies.

The basic theories and ideas of modern management theory and practice are generated and developed in the United States, though very often by scientists and specialists who have immigrated from Europe.

Until the 1980s, US hegemony in all fields of science, technology, and industry was considered indisputable. At the same time, however, a small island nation as large as California without natural resources is beginning to worry about the American business elite with fast and steady economic growth. These concerns are well-founded. In such traditionally American industries as the automotive industry, in the early 1970s.

Japan is entering the US market with about 5-6 thousand high-quality cars. In 1975, exports of cars to the United States were already 800,000, and in 1981 1 900,000. As early as 1980, Japan produced 7 million cars and outstripped the US by 500,000. Japan’s electronics successes, especially household appliances, electrical engineering, shipbuilding, and more, were no less and no less rapid.

Specialists cannot explain this phenomenon. Japan by the 1950s was in the midst of the war. It imports 100% of aluminum, 99.8% of oil, 98.4% of iron ore, 66.4% of wood. However, in less than 30 years it has become an economic giant and ranks second in the capitalist world in terms of production.

Scrum, Kanban, Lean, Extreme programming, Scrumban methodologies are not original Japanese

This draws the attention of scientists and specialists to the Japanese model of management. Many years later, modern management systems such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean and others have emerged that claim to have used the Japanese Kaizen principles, but a detailed analysis of today’s Agile methodologies does not show this.

The comparative characteristics of the US and Japanese management show that there are significant differences between them.
American management is characterized by:

  • Individual decision-making process.
  • Individual responsibility.
  • Precisely formulated governance structure.
  • Precisely formulated quality control procedures.
  • Linking remuneration and career to individual outcomes.
  • Training of narrow specialists.
  • Formal relationships between managers and subordinates.
  • Free transfer from one company to another.

Scrum, Kanban, Lean lack of lifetime employment

An analysis of Japanese reality shows a completely different picture. As a result of factors related to the history, culture, value system and national character of the Japanese, reality there is far different from anywhere. Although Agile methodologies today are rooted in Japan, today Scrum, Kanban, Lean, Extreme programming, Scrumban methodologies and all practices do not teach the principles of long-term relationships.

Lifetime of employment

Japan has traditionally had a lifetime of employment. Moving from one company to another happens very rarely and is not well received. This leads to the resilience of the company structure and its divisions. Favorable preconditions are created for the emergence of a wide network of informal relationships and relationships. This reflects on the employment relationship:

  • collective responsibility,
  • group forms of control,
  • informal relationships,
  • a priority of group achievements.

When developing and deciding traditionally, collective methods are preferred. In many cases, the draft decision (written) is submitted for study and proposals by competent or interested persons.
The consensus itself is preferred when making the decision, although it takes a long time to reach a consensus. The selection, evaluation and promotion of the Japanese model are also very specific.

Japanese companies do not require specialized vocational training

Young workers entering Japanese companies do not require specialized vocational training. This is also based on the educational system, where the principle of universalism prevails over specialization in preparation.
The completion of the education does not mean an end, but the beginning of the preparation of each worker.

In his working career, the worker must go through all the posts at the lowest hierarchical level before he or she starts climbing the hierarchical spiral (not a ladder!). Strict adherence to seniority can not take the place of the chief before he receives a higher post. Ascension is therefore very slow and depends on seniority and seniority in the job. Based on the study of the Japanese system in the early ’80s.

Progressive and effective in firm management

William Ouchy publishes his book Theory Z, where he attempts to summarize the progressive and effective in firm management. This theory is a kind of synthesis between the theories of MacGregor X, inherent in American companies and Y, characteristic of the Japanese model.

As basic principles of Theory Z, Ouchi recommended:

  • Prolonged work in one place;
  • A slower process of professional growth;
  • Multilateral career opportunities;
  • Consensus-making;
  • Achieve a high degree of confidence;
  • Constant care for people.
  • According to most management professionals, the West’s attempts to use the Japanese experience have failed.

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