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One has to speak Japanese, like a native Japanese speaker, but not shop like Japanese (Watanabe, 2004). To be talented and gifted means nothing to the Japanese, adopting a Japanese way of doing business is the only way to become a success in Japan (Watanabe, 2004). Regardless of the global standards and practices, the foreigner must comply with every centimeter of Japanese requirements, even if this means operating less efficiently (Watanabe, 2004).
The foreigner who wishes to succeed in Japan with their business must be willing to give up their own culture and adopt one that is Japanese (Watanabe, 2004). They must learn to support the local economy and purchase from local Japanese businesses. This may go against their traditional business sense that entails searching for less risky, or lower priced goods and services. However, if the business does not support the local economy, they will be ignored by local Japanese customers as well. This concept does not exist in the competition-driven American model of doing business.
As one can see, there are many differences between Japanese and American management styles. The Japanese model means attention to loyalty and reputation. The American business model is less concerned with dogma and tradition, trading it instead for efficiency and productivity. The Japanese value hard work, whereas the American management model is more concerned with getting the job done. Americans are considered to be stereotypically less polite and more ruthless than their Japanese counterparts. Even when the news is bad, the Japanese have a gentle and polite way of expressing their news. These cultural differences often cause a clash when these two cultures must come together in an atmosphere of mutual understanding.
Americans prefer a centralized style of management, whereas the Japanese model favors decentralized managerial styles. The American business is used to fewer governmental restrictions than those operating in Japan, but they also operate in a riskier marketplace. American businesses are more independent than Japanese businesses, which can make them more ruthless and willing to take chances. These, of course, are generalizations, and there are businesses that do not fit this model. However, these ideas reflect trends that summarize the cultural clash between Japanese and American managerial styles.
The Japanese manager considers themselves to have a responsibility to the people of Japan. Their businesses are treated as a national treasure. Japanese business practices are steeped in traditions that may go back hundreds of years. This often takes precedence over sound managerial decisions. The American business must satisfy the needs of the shareholders and does not have the cultural stigma attached to success or failure. An American business failure may not be seen as a personal failure, whereas for the Japanese, their reputation depends on their ability to preserve the business. Once again, these are generalizations, and one can find examples that both support and undermine them.
The true test of both American and Japanese managerial styles comes when they become business partners. Both sides have much that can be learned from the other. Both Japanese and American managerial styles have advantages and disadvantages. Learning to over come differences and to accept the advantages of managerial styles are the keys to developing a managerial style that reflects the best of the east and west.
Cultural blending of managerial styles will continue to be a trend will into the future. Japanese and American managers will have to overcome many challenges as they form close business alliances and partnerships. The Japanese could benefit from the flexibility and adaptability of the American managerial style. Likewise, the Americans could benefit from the ethical standards that are indoctrinated into Japanese children from an early age. If they felt a greater sense of social responsibility, they may not be as inclined to participate in unethical behavior. Both business cultures have advantages and disadvantages.
This research is not about whether one managerial style is better than the other. When one compares Japanese managerial style to American managerial style, it becomes apparent that they are very different. They have a different focus, and have developed under different governmental models, historical models, and cultural models. The world will continue to become more internationally intertwined in the future. Understanding and resolving cultural differences will become more important as well. As the world moves into the future, managers must take the opportunity to enrich themselves by developing an understanding of different business models and international managerial styles.
Cultural enrichment for managers means developing a deeper understanding of their business partners across national boundaries. This opportunity allows them to reflect on their own managerial style and to learn new innovations to make their managerial style more effective. Learning about managerial styles that are different from one's own allows for greater leadership growth and ability. The manager who does this becomes a valuable asset to their firm.
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