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Production and Inventory Management

Production and Inventory Management

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Published by amithakim

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Published by: amithakim on Dec 14, 2010
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11/09/2011

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Traditional management styles in the United States and Europe had their
origins in the military. Managers were the modern versions of "natural"
social leaders, and as such had prerogatives and rights not accorded to the
common folk, who were expected to follow dutifully the orders of their
social "betters." The repression inherent in this arrangement, of course, soon
gave way to militant unionism in the United States and to socialism in
Europe.

Since most of the largest companies in the United States are also the
oldest, these traditions have been carried forward pretty much intact at many
companies, and with only slight modifications at others. Probably the most
difficult part of making a transition to a more participative mode of
operation, besides developing managers with a different style, is that workers
are now long accustomed to not taking any real responsibility for results. One
outcome is that employees who have been at the same company for many
years have often done virtually the same job, not growing or learning, but
just getting paid more due to seniority "rights" garnered them by the union.

336

Chapter 13 – The Present is the Future

In Japanese-style management, the workers carry considerable
responsibility for operational results. Each worker is, in effect, responsible
for all those things that influence the results he obtains and the things he can
potentially control. Since workers are not just blind servants, complete
agreement as to major changes must be obtained before implementing any
significant changes. If this approach were not followed, it would be
impossible to hold the workers accountable in any kind of meaningful way
for operational results.
In many Japanese companies, the quality circle/participative management
effectiveness is so great that virtually all suggestions are implemented. The
author recalls an experience early in his career with a company and its
recently implemented suggestion program. Not only were the suggestion
forms somewhat intimidating, and the boxes anonymous, but each suggestion
had to be approved by not one, but two different management committees, no
matter how trivial in nature. The unstated message was that management
regarded employee suggestions as essentially threatening in nature, and so
they would have to be carefully screened before implementation, so as to
avoid upsetting management's brilliantly designed schemes. Needless to say,
the company regularly lost money on major projects.
What participative management recognizes is that, at the bottom, the
company consists largely of its employees. As products grow more complex
and have more "intelligence content," employee motivation, skill, and
knowledge become more critical as business factors. The only way to tap this
resource effectively is with people's active involvement and consent. It
cannot be effectively forced from people.
A high level of job security contributes a great deal to creating the kind of
cooperative environment where employees can become really committed to
the company and its performance. If an individual feels that his situation is
tenuous, that his contribution is not especially valued by those who control
his employment at the company, he will naturally withhold full commitment
as a matter of normal, emotional self-protection.
To obtain the full cooperation and enthusiastic motivation of employees,
full employment must become a major goal for the business. This same logic
holds both for individual companies and for an economy as a whole. It is
probably this complete agreement on the goal of full employment by the
government, business, and union sectors that makes Japanese businesses so
effective; they are much less at cross-purposes than the businesses,
government, and unions of other countries.
The best way to achieve full employment, whether for a company or an
economy, is to always go for market share in every market that is
participated in. In the short run, American companies often view this strategy
as "buying" market share through giveaway, unprofitable prices. They forget

Chapter 13 – The Present is the Future

337

that once the market is dominated, it is a lot easier to increase profitability,
which of course is what the Japanese do in the long run.
Thus it appears that the strategy of participative, cooperative management
styles places the needs of employees first and the demands of stockholders
second. To some extent this is true. How true this may be depends on
whether the stockholder's point of view is for the short- or long-term
investment. In any case, at some point in its growth a company must generate
sufficient profits to finance its growth, at least partially.
Considering an economy as a whole, capital in the form of savings or
profits must be generated somewhere in the system. That this is the case for
Japan can hardly be denied. The success of its major companies has created
great wealth for the country. In the final analysis, then, a strategy consisting
of going for market share first, profitability later, and making maximum use
of employees' talents and energies just may be a more effective business
strategy than a number of others.

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