Strategy+Business: Lifelong High Performance, the Japanese–American Way
A few companies in Tokyo are using U.S. management methods to end the perennial trade-off between long employee tenures and global competitiveness.
Could the next big management fashion be a hybrid of Japanese and U.S. styles, providing the competitiveness of the most successful U.S. companies while still benefiting from the commitment and loyalty that Japanese companies earn from their lifelong “salarymen”? A few companies in Tokyo are experimenting with a prototype approach that, if successful, could be used by companies everywhere to combine high performance and creativity with a nurturing, community-oriented business environment.
Japanese companies are remarkably innovative. They invented the light-emitting diode, portable music player, bullet train, video tape recorder, compact disc, flash memory, motion-sensing video game controller, the humanlike robot, and the Toyota Production System, the original source of lean management. Yet the prevailing Japanese business culture is one of stability, consensus, and lifetime employment security. As freewheeling business cultures have risen up in places like Silicon Valley and parts of China, some Japanese enterprise leaders are beginning to worry that they are too staid, bureaucratic, and complacent, perhaps even coddling their employees. They fear they risk being overtaken by more aggressive newcomers.
“From early in life,” says Shin Sakane, CEO of the Tokyo startup Seven Dreamers Laboratories, “we are taught that ‘the nail that is sticking out will be hit down.’ Consequently, it is very difficult to find people willing to lead.”
This article originally appeared in Strategy+Business on August 30th, 2017. You can read it there in full length.