Provided by James R. Martin, Ph.D., CMA
Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida
Introductory question. The Japanese economy has been in recession for several years and many Japanese companies have lost their competitive edge. Although Japan ranked number 1 in world competitiveness during the 1980's, it has been in steady decline since the early 1990's. Then why study the Japanese and compare American management concepts, assumptions and practices with Japanese practices? (See World Competitiveness Reports). In developing your answer, also think in terms of the management concepts and techniques that the Japanese developed such as just-in-time, the lean enterprise, target costing, kaizen, and kaizen budgeting and costing).
2. How do Americans compare with the Japanese in terms of respect for authority? (See the Martin 92 and Dillion summaries. Does Hofstede's cultural dimension referred to as "power distance" explain this difference? See the Hofstede summary and the Chow, Kato & Merchant summary). Do you think our attitude towards authority is changing? If so, how is it changing?
5. Which do you think is more important in reference to the question above, the characteristics of the people, or the characteristics of the system? See Imai 86 Kaizen Summary.
6. The Japanese believe that cleanliness and orderliness are important for a productive society and for productivity within a company. What do you think? How do cleanliness and orderliness promote productivity? (See the Martin 92, Hayes and Dillion summaries).
9. How does your answer to the previous question translate into management policy, i.e., which policies or management practices support your answer? (See the Martin 92 summary).
12. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the democratic process of voting, e.g., in committee decisions?
13. Compare the Japanese concepts of management dress and accessibility with the traditional American concepts. How do they differ? (See the Martin 92 summary).
15. Explain the difference between the continuous improvement concept and the constrained optimization concept. (See the Martin 92, Tanaka 94, Monden & Lee, Imai 86 Kaizen and Dyer summaries). (Several other articles are applicable, e.g., see Spear & Bowen and Womack & Jones).
17. Relate the concepts of just-in-time (JIT) and just-in-case (JIC) to the concepts of continuous improvement and constrained optimization. Which concepts go together and which ones conflict? See the Martin 92, Hayes and Dyer summaries and MAAW's Figure 8-3). Explain why.
18. Thinking in terms of the definition of quality as conformance to specifications, can a company have too much quality? Compare the Japanese (Deming) answer to this question with the frequent American answer. (See the Martin 92 and Hayes summaries).
19. Compare the Japanese and U. S. Company strategies in terms of equipment acquisition and maintenance. Relate your answer to the JIT and JIC concepts. (See Martin 92, Hayes, Imai 86 Kaizen and Bensaou & Earl summaries).
20-22. Leverage is an important concept in terms of both personal and business strategy. Three types of leverage (there are others) include financial leverage, human resource leverage and technological leverage.
20. What is financial leverage and how is it used? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using financial leverage?
21. What is human resource leverage and how is it used? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using human resource leverage? (See Martin 92 summary).
22. What is technological leverage and how is it used? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using technological leverage? (See the Bensaou & Earl summary for an idea).
24. Compare the Japanese management concept of control with the American concept. How do they differ? (See Martin 92, Tanaka 94, Chow, Kato & Merchant, Howell & Sakurai, Spear & Bowen, and Spear summaries).
25. What is target costing? Is this concept consistent with the concepts of constrained optimization and continuous improvement? One, both or neither? Explain. (See the Tanaka 94, Monden & Lee, Sakurai 89 and Hiromoto 88 summaries).
27. What is a horizontal or portfolio investment strategy? (See Martin 92 summary for an idea).
28. Some observers believe that Japanese methods cannot be applied as well in the United States. (e.g., see the Dillon, Wheelright, Spear & Bowen, Womack & Jones, Dyer and Ouchi & Jaeger summaries and the Note on Saturn). Do you think this is mainly a cultural problem, or a problem with the way American organizations are designed?
29. Why have some American researchers believed that the Japanese were hiding the real secrets to their management system? (See the Cooper & Raiborn, Johnson & Broms, Spear & Bowen, Spear, and Womack & Jones summaries).
30. The Japanese were very competitive until the early 1990's. What appear to be the main causes for Japan's decline? (See the Sakurai 95, Crawford and Porter summaries and the World Competitiveness Reports for some recent competitiveness ranking).