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This disconnect from a cultural standpoint needs more empirical research to further understand and capitalize on from a change management strategy perspective as well.
Implications for Individuals Working Multinationally with the Japanese
The work completed by Masumoto has major implications not only for expatriates working in Japan yet for anyone going to work for a Japanese company anywhere in a westernized nation. The vast differences in how space is allocated are diametrically opposed to how western nations view work space given in companies being more of a relative indicator of independence, individuality, achievement and status. In Japan there more of an orientation on arranging working space to speed up the assimilation and socialization process. This is a critical point for anyone joining a Japanese corporation anywhere in the world to keep in mind, as many Japanese corporations continue this practice of using space for collaboration in the U, S, and Europe as well.
Second, the fluidity of time and its polychronic state in Japan needs to be underscored through training, examples, and internships that show how time is blended, not segmented, in Japanese society vs. western nations. It is the exception rather than the social rule for Japanese managers to not socialize every night after work, yet in the U.S. In many businesses the converse is true. This is again attributed to the differences in the perception of time and its value from a continual acculturation standpoint in Japanese corporations. Time is not "metered out" by Japanese managers as is the case with their western-based counterparts; rather the Japanese managers see the majority of their time as being available for continual "learning" of the interpersonal relationships throughout the organization. This varying perception in time alone needs to be taught to American employees joining Japanese corporations to understand the expectations their manager swill have of them in the future.
Third, the implications of trust on the part of interns and Japanese managers wasn't measured by Masumoto yet this entire area of reciprocity across cultural boundaries is a fascinating one that deserves more research to empirically measure and understand. While the Japanese managers viewed their role as instructors or parents in a parent-child scenario, the interns saw themselves as peers willing to contribute to the company's objectives once they had become assimilated to their new positions. In fact the interns' level of trust only grew after they realized that they were as much expected to learn their interrelationships and how the basic organizations functioned as much as they were expected to excel in their specific professional areas. It is one of the more fascinating aspects of Masumoto's work that illustrates how Japanese managers were able to provide a sense of contribution to interns when the managers' expectations were to provide their guests with a sense of the acclimation process worked. This aspect of the research, worth additional study by Masumoto, speaks to the abilities of Japanese managers to both provide guidance on acclimation of the interns in addition to providing leadership in regard to potential contributions the interns could provide.
Fourth, Masumoto doesn't share the key success factors from both sides of his study, specifically how the interns rated the performance of their managers over time as their orientation of time changed, and conversely, how Japanese managers' perception of interns' performance changed as both groups' perception of time became more congruent with each other. Additional research of this type would also need to measure how closely or loosely interns began to map from a psychographic standpoint to their peers who were Japanese. That would be a fascinating study to see how over time interns came to approximate the level of performance of based on the extent of their internalization of Japanese values.
Fifth, the perception of time being monochromic vs. polychronic speaks to the expectations of interns of their own present and future performance in Japanese firms relative to American firms. As the perception of changed from monochromic to polychronic, expectations of performance each intern had of themselves changed, yet the extent of that change needs greater clarification. The implications for cross-cultural professionals are that literally what success looks like in an American-based corporation is significantly different than those of Japanese corporations. Working hard at cause-and-effect in an American-based corporation is always celebrated; and in Japanese firms working hard at interpersonal relationships and understanding the processes by which consensus is achieved is paramount. The implications of this are essential for any professional looking to work in a Japanese corporation.
Sam Beldona, Andrew C. Inkpen, Arvind Phatak. 1998. Are Japanese managers more long-term oriented than United States managers? Management International Review 38, no. 3 (July 1): 239-256. (Accessed December 3, 2007).
Meredith Downes, Masoud Hemmasi, Lee a Graf, Lane Kelley, Lenard Huff. 2002. The propensity to trust: A comparative study of United States and Japanese managers. International Journal of Mgmt 19, no. 4 (December 1): 614-621 (Accessed December 3, 2007).
Tomoko Masumoto 2004. Learning to 'Do Time' in Japan a Study of U.S. Interns in Japanese Organizations. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management: CCM 4, no. 1 (April 1): 19-37. (Accessed December 3, 2007)
Neelankavil, James P. 1992. Management Development and Training Programmes in Japanese Firms. The Journal of Management Development 11, no. 3 (January 1): 12 (Accessed December…[continue]
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