Japanese Style of Management – can Bangladesh learn?

From birth to death we need management. When a child is born we need to manage many things for the kid and its proper care. As time goes on, for growing up the baby we also need management of several things and issues. In the same way, if a man dies, it requires many things to manage. Therefore, management is everywhere it is pervasive in our personal life. However, the style and nature is different. Likewise, managing things in our professional, social, and national arena in a justified and perfect enough way is very important for a successful life. The system, panache and nature of management differ from organization to organization and even country to country.

If we split up the word “Management” we can find “Manage” “Men (women)” and “T”, this “T” stands for “Tactfully”, hence managing men (women) tactfully may be called management.  In fact, managing people is very difficult due to uniqueness of every human being. Therefore, it is important to tactfully organize and manage people to attain the desired goals at a minimum cost. In this context, many writers define management in different way. Terming management as a philosophy Mary Parker Follett stated that management is getting thing done by and through others. It means get the job done by the art of management. Whereas, Peter Drucker defined as “Management is a multipurpose organ that manage a business and manages Managers and manages Workers and work”. So there has a multipurpose organ that manages both work and people. Nevertheless, management is a long process consisting several stages. According to George R. Terry, ''Management is a distinct process consisting of planning, organizing, actuating and controlling; utilizing in each both science and art, and followed in order to accomplish pre-determined objectives."

Analyzing Terry’s statement we can see, management is admixture of science and arts in achieving set goals while going through the stages of Planning, Organizing, Motivating and Controlling. Planning is the cornerstone of the process, it is the blueprint of any work. It shows where we are now and where we want to go. Planning answers the WH questions – Why, What, When, Where, Who, and How. Another important aspect is organizing, means to collect and arrange all necessary data and resources and then put them in right places to get back the maximum output. The 5M i.e. Men & women, Money, Material, Machine and Method are the main resources an executive or manager needs to organize. In addition, nowadays, information is power and it demands timely management. Motivating on the other hand is catalyzing function. All the above mentioned inputs would produce nothing if those are not used properly to accomplish the desired objectives. Among those resources people are difficult to motivate, nonetheless, a congenial work environment, adequate pay, required training and career development facilities can inspires the employees to work hard to successfully realize organizational goals. Finally, controlling is a stage where self-correction is made after finding the variations in the process. Here a benchmark or standard is set to which generated output is compared and then necessary action is taken. Again, control may be of three types; Feed-forward, Concurrent and Feedback. Feed-forward is sort of preventive measure taken before any deviations take place and generally focuses on human, materials and financial resources of an organization. Concurrent control is an ongoing monitoring over the employee activities based on rules, regulations and standards to guide them in right direction. Where Feedback control means taking corrective action after the discrepancies.

Concepts and system of management is almost same for private or public organizations of home and abroad. However, style of management being shaped by culture, differs country to country. This write-up attempts to compare and contrast the management practice of Japan and Bangladesh. It also tries to learn the Japanese style of management that we can follow. Style of Management played important role to make Japan an economic super power. Influence of Culture is inseparable from management practice, so a manager must take culture into account. Bangladesh’s culture is pretty similar to that of Japan, therefore, can absorb and utilize management style from them. Now we will analyze the management style based on the functions of management.

Recruitment and Selection is an important function of management. Japanese private organization use to recruit yearly from the beginning of graduation of a student by written examination and interview putting importance on the family background and teachers’ recommendations. Like Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS), Civil servants of Japan are selected through a tough national testing system administered by National Personnel Authority (NPA). Merit is the main criteria for Japan Civil Service (JCS), they try to attract the brightest and the best. However, in BCS major portion of civil servants are coming with the favor of different types quota. Again, Lifetime Employment is a salient feature of Japanese style of management. It may be termed as Long-term employment means an employee will continue the job till retirement age set by the government. Nevertheless, it does not mean the job is secure for good. But Japanese public organization provides a congenial environment to work. On the contrary, Bangladesh public service is also for life-time i.e. up to retirement. A civil servant in Bangladesh can work till he is aged 59 years, nowadays. BCS should follow the meritocratic recruitment style like JCS.

Another important aspect is Mobility of job or job rotation. Job mobility, is very little in JCS, officers are recruited for a ministry for lifetime and their commitment and loyalty to that particular organization is very high. It can enhance efficiency and expertise in works of a ministry, however, this trend is changing gradually. In contrast, in BCS job rotation is very high. Officers change positions quite frequently in their career. Too much rotation is like rolling stone that is not good for experience and service. As soon as an officer get accustomed to a work environment, he/she might be changed to a new place; hence commitment to a particular sector or job is not that high in BCS.  Civil Servants’ loyalty in BCS is mainly cadre based not organization based. Therefore, we need to think for specialization by making pools of services or cadres. Within a pool job mobility might be possible. 

Furthermore, Japanese private companies follows the principles of life-time employment, therefore they offer detail and career-based training – may be on the job or off the job for their employees. Training may be of external or internal. Training is directly linked with the promotion system of JCS, as a result, extensive training that is need based and career oriented is design for their civil servants. Comparatively, training in BCS is not need based or detail rather scanty. Foundation training is an obligation to job confirmation in BCS. Sometimes, members of privilege cadre get easy access and chance to avail the training conducted – home or abroad. Hence, training needs to be based on career and nature of job to better serve the people.   

On the other part, ability, participation or discretion to Decision Making is a crucial managerial issue. Hitherto, gradually decentralization is being practiced in Bangladesh, organizational decision making is highly decentralized. Usually BCS follows the Top-Down approach of Decision Making though power is delegated to middle and junior level officials who however, hesitate to decide due to lack of confidence and tendency to avoid responsibility. Fear of contravening the decision of top level is another reason for not to assume any responsibility by lower level. Conversely, Japanese believes in participative management and decision making. They motivate bottom level to come up with new idea and suggestion; it will make them feel better and contribute more in attaining organizational goal. Japanese not only follow Bottom-Up approach but also the ‘Ringi system’ where suggestions from all direction - vertical, horizontal and diagonal are asked for on a proposed matter. We can learn the participative decision making system from Japanese organizational decision making process.    

Similarly, Pay and Promotion is also a critical issue in management. A general custom in Japan is seniority based payment and promotion, though considering the merit and ability of the employee. In JCS, promotion depends largely on seniority; however, merit principle counts for functional promotion that increases competition among the staffs. Remuneration in JCS is quit high and monitor by the NPA who regularly suggest for any adjustment needed due to economic changes. While promoting in BCS, the main criterion is seniority-cum-merit. The Annual Confidential Report (ACR), experts term it as subjective, is used to measure the performance of an employee. Irrational practice, political intervention and manipulation in promotion sometimes demoralize public employees that result under-performance. Nevertheless, the payment of salary and other benefits in BCS is set by Pay commission formed by the government time to time. Promotion in BCS need to be based on performance, merit and educational achievement. An examination system for promotion may be expedient here.

As we know, Cash is a big motivator; nonetheless, social-welfare benefits in kind can also be proved as a great stimulus that make employee work efficiently and effectively. Japanese companies offer a wide range of social benefits such as, suitable working environment, recreational facilities etc. Except basic pay, they also provide medical and dental care support, housing loans and subsidies, various allowances and so forth. In contrast, government employees in Bangladesh get salary by newly declared pay scale. But others benefits are not sufficient that can act as an incentive. Therefore, they need to provide such extra facilities that inspire them to work hard and contribute more. 

Another unique feature in Japanese management system is Labor Union which have a sound relation with their owners. The unions think that their demand can be satisfied only by attaining the goals of the organization. In fact, they are running for the same target. In Bangladesh many organization, public or private don’t have (not permitted to have) any union. In some cases, political affiliation, manipulation and grouping, lack of trust and credibility make their relation fragile and therefore hampers the productivity of the organization. The nature of Management - subordinate relationship in Japan is wonderful. A warm and cordial personal bond exists in between seniors and juniors. Seniors always motivate and protect their juniors from wrong doing and going. Harmonious labor-management relation is one of the keys that help Japan to be successful. On the other hand, vested personal interest, grouping and class-based interest degrading the congenial organizational atmosphere in public service of Bangladesh. However, various interactions, seminars, training consisting officers of different ranks and cadres can improve the situation. In this milieu, creating and maintaining sound personal relation is an important issue for Bangladesh.  

Nonetheless, the most important dimension is Service delivery. By nature Japanese people are sober and polite. Rendering service to people without any benefit flows into their blood. Hence, delivering service to the client whether in public or private organizations is like their moral and ethical obligation. Every staff deals a punter with a smiling face, utmost sincerity and diligence and promptness. Client’s satisfaction is their main objective. Whereas, public service in our country is no near to that of Japan. Bangladesh can learn a lot in this arena from Japan. However, at first we need to change our mind-set for better service delivery to mass people. Though, public service delivery in Bangladesh is getting better day by day.

Interestingly, women participation in work-force in both Japan and Bangladesh is quite low. Japanese work culture is basically male dominated and mostly women are engaged in part time job. The bright side in Bangladesh is that women are actively participating in all sorts of job though the rate is not that high as men have. Above all, government and NGOs are preserving some quota for women to inspire them to join and bring them in the mainstream. Finally, technically and technologically Japan is very advance than Bangladesh. They use the state of the art technology like Total Quality Control, JIT- Just in Time, Tight in Process Control, Quality Circle etc. to make things perfect. Considering the socio-economic and political condition Bangladesh can follow Japanese production methodology to enhance productivity and efficiency.

In fine, we can say, all Japanese techniques and management styles are not applicable here in Bangladesh. However, we can accept and adopt the suitable approaches from Japan to gain benefits and increase productivity – quantitatively and qualitatively.

Writer is senior information officer at public administration ministry

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