Business Management Articles / Asian
and Business Management
THE JAPANESE QUEST FOR "THE BETTER WAY"
Rene T. Domingo (email comments to email@example.com)
Outside Japan - we, being exposed only to
Japanese products, Japanese ads and Japanese
trading companies - we tend to oversimplify
and explain away the phenomenon of Japanese
business success by attributing it to their
sheer marketing drive. But were we to live
in that country long enough to study their
modus operandi, we would discover that their
true competitive advantage lies in their superior
manufacturing and production systems, which
provide their marketing front-liners with
the needed firepower and staying power. Their
marketing force can offer the best quality,
variety, price and delivery time, because
their production people can assure them of
these things. Most competitors lose out to
the Japanese, because of their bottle-neck
in production, which tends to drag down marketing.
What is the secret of the Japanese? An insatiable
company-wide desire to cut costs and inventory,
improve quality and delivery, and enhance
efficiency. An indefatigable work improvement
effort that is not just a project (with a
beginning and an end), not a mere management
goal or directive, nor one of those faddish,
throw-away management techniques. It is a
WAY OF LIFE: the Japanese modus operandi is
their modus vivendi. And it extends all the
way from the CEO that makes the decisions
to the worker that tightens the bolt. This
non-stop effort is based on and sustained
by simple pragmatic precepts that everyone
understands. . .
is always a better way (of doing things)."
quality into the product and the process."
not inspect quality - create it."
it right the first time."
the next worker in line as you would a customer."
costs are potential profits."
inventory is waste."
Other companies may know these principles,
but the big difference is that the Japanese
take them seriously - and make them a "way
of life." For example, they have developed
smart automated machines that automatically
stop a production line whenever they detect
a defect. Likewise, workers are trained to
solve problems on the spot or press buzzers
to seek assistance from others. In this age
of high-speed technology, Murphy's Law should
be updated to "If anything can go wrong,
it already did." So, the Japanese have
made sure that (1) nothing goes wrong and
(2) nothing can go wrong.
Seven decades ago, Frederick W. Taylor, the
father of scientific management, said that
it was possible to give the worker what he
wants most - high wages - and the employer
what he wants - low labor cost. The Japanese
have proved that both can be done by endlessly
striving for "The Better Way."