THE ART OF JAPANESE MANAGEMENT by Richard Tanner & Anthony G. Athos Pascale


Email this review


Given the current thinking that American business might be able to match Japanese levels of performance by adopting people-oriented Japanese management methods, the near-simultaneous appearance of two books that make almost identical points is neither to be wondered at nor disparaged--especially since in both cases the authors are authorities in the field. But William Ouchi's Theory Z (p. 273), though its title suggests a magic formula, is actually the more fluid, less dictum-prone of the two (Theory Z simply means worker-involvement--as against A-type organization)--while Pascale and Athos tend to rely on the very either/or appositions they decry in American business practice. Chief case in point is their use of one Japanese firm, Matsushita (National, Panasonic), as the model of a tightly run, successful organization managed with concern for, and total support from, its employees; and one American firm, ITT under Harold Geneen's autocratic rule, as the example of a tightly run, successful organization that exacted a human cost and disintegrated when the boss-man left. A second American firm, United under the successful and human but short-term management of Ed Carlson, is later introduced to underscore the need to institutionalize a people-oriented, all-pull-together management philosophy. But using bad tight-ship ITT and good tight-ship Matshusita as foils, on a one-on-one basis, obscures the underlying variables--most prominently, the importance of lifetime employment (which Pascale and Athos, as distinct from Ouchi, wish to discount) and of a lifelong ""desire for concurrence."" Thus, Pascale and Athos deem it ""remarkable"" that Matushita division managers don't find the system of controls ""oppressive,"" when any such thought or utterance would be remarkable indeed. To the extent that they also make overall comparisons, highlighting the disadvantages of ""macho-style"" management and the advantages of what they call the four ""soft"" elements (Staff, Style, Skills, Superordinate Goals), there is much to what they say; and to the extent that their Superordinate Goals embrace a ""spiritualism"" that is also in the air, the book will have an appeal.

Pub Date: May 29th, 1981
Publisher: Simon & Schuster