Japanese View on Business Process Management

While Fredrick Taylor’s scientific management had help create huge American corporations that were quick to adopt the viewpoint, the 1970’s saw the emergence of Japanese corporations. These corporations were very small at the end of World War-2 when Japan had been economically devastated. However within two decades, a group of Japanese companies completely turned the tables on the Americans. The most notable examples being companies like Toyota, Suzuki, Nissan and Honda. They had defeated the American giants of Ford Motors, General Motors and Chrysler on home turf.

The sales of Japanese imported cars were outstripping the number of local cars sold even though there were high import duties to act as trade barriers. This brought the Japanese philosophy of process to the world’s knowledge. Since it had exploited loopholes in the hitherto invincible “Scientific Management” theory, it became even more popular. Here are the concepts laid in the Japanese viewpoint.

The Flaw in Fredrick Taylor’s Philosophy

Fredrick Taylor had created an immaculate system to create a process at a given point of time. However, he forgot to take into account the dimension of time. Simply put Taylors methods were good in their heyday, however the world was a dynamic place. New and new technologies were being introduced every day. These new technologies were capable of changing the best practices of many businesses. Organizations like Ford Motors did not realize that their best practices were no longer the best practices at all. One particular example is about the falling prices of information technology and computing and the consequent utilization of these technologies by Japanese in monitoring their inventory real time cutting significant costs. Hence the Japanese viewpoint teaches the world that processes are not static and should not be considered that way. There are changes which affect the price and availability of inputs like labor, technology and raw material. An effective process keeps a good watch on the changes and continuously improves to be abreast with the market. The focus here is not only on creating best processes but ensuring that the best processes remain best over an extended period of time.

Principles of Japanese Way of Business Process Management

Some of the principles of the Japanese way have been mentioned below. However it is essential to understand that they are mere tools and not bigger that the concept itself. The tools are as follows:

  • Lean: Japanese believe that quality is that which is right for the purpose. Anything less brings dissatisfaction, anything more increases costs and makes products unaffordable. The rethink the whole process and each activity from the point of view of the customer. They consider the amount of value added at each stage vis-a-vis, the costs generated at each stage. Activities of questionable value are either eliminated or modified.

  • Kaizen: The Japanese built the concept of small improvement in their business. They made it the responsibility of the workers in the organization to suggest better ways and the use of newer technologies that could add more value to the process. Since technologies were adopted as and when they became available, the businesses never lost track.

  • Six-Sigma: The focus here was on doing things right. The Japanese created an immaculate methodology to create a system in which only 3.14 defects per million were tolerable.

The philosophy enabled Japanese companies to do the right things and do things rightly enabling them to compete and outmaneuver American giants.


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