Japanization


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Japanization

the adoption of Japanese organizational practices by organizations in other societies. The key elements include JUST-IN-TIME supplier relations and stockless production; continuous improvement and zero-defects; TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT and quality circles; employee involvement, training and lifetime employment; corporate welfare, seniority wage systems and enterprise unions. Two broad issues are raised in debates about Japanization. The first issue centres on the model of Japanese practices which are supposedly being transferred to other societies. In this respect differences can be observed between those theorists who use a broad and/or static model which contextualize it within Japanese society, and those who employ a more restricted model of Japanese practices which are seen to have emerged incrementally. Those using the former model find, perhaps not surprisingly little evidence for Japanization in the UK whilst those using the latter are more open-minded (Wood, 1991; Ackroyd et al., 1988). The second issue concerns an evaluation of the benefits of Japanization. Those theorists who use a ‘received’ (some would say idealized) model point to the many advantages which flow from worker empowerment, transformed employee attitudes and industrial relations, FLEXIBLE PRODUCTION systems (see FORDISM AND POST-FORDISM), innovative capacity, and the efficient production of quality artefacts. Other theorists suggest that ‘reality’ is somewhat different. In particular, Japanese practices are perceived as Neo-Fordist systems which:
  1. reduce worker autonomy through systematic surveillance and lateral pressure in ways which involve work intensification;
  2. shift some of the costs and problems of production onto 'S queezed’ smaller suppliers; and
  3. involve a dual economy in which employees in the supplying firms are unprotected and poorly paid due, in part, to the need of larger firms to offset the cost of using practices such as permanent employment and seniority pay systems.