Productivity—the Japanese Way


Economists are forever telling us that we need to increase productivity in order to improve our standard of living. Productivity is one of those concepts that are so loaded with meaning and implications that is very difficult to define, much less explain. Not surprisingly then, improving “it” is one of the most difficult tasks facing business. More to the point, the time for improvement is quickly running out. Industrial performance is being outstripped at a frightening pace by the Japanese. In fact, it has reached the point where their productivity performance is so superior that they can literally pick any product and any market and quickly come to dominate it.

The idea that Japanese are uniquely gifted in only a few related areas has been debunked by their proven successes in industries as diverse as automobiles and semi-conductors. As well, the facile suggestion that the Japanese are somehow culturally inclined to be productive doesn’t wash. Japanese managers have taken over factories in Europe and the US and greatly improved productivity records. Productivity has also been high in their North American plants.

If corporate managers believe that their workers can be as competitive as anyone else in the world, and technically, there’s no valid reason why they can’t be, then they must find better ways to help their employees realize their potential. In that sense, study of Japanese methods is a jumping-off point that can lead to adaptations that will produce unique ways of improving productivity.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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Personal Selling: Two Approaches


Personal Selling: Two Approaches

Many American companies do not put nearly enough effort into direct, personal communication. Japanese success in displacing the US as Saudi Arabia’s leading supplier is instructive. Japanese exporters and small teams to meet with Saudi importers: Japanese exporters; they go to Saudi workshops, travel to secondary towns, and meet with sub-agents. The Americans, on the other hand, invite all their Saudi agents together for a luncheon, do not have private meetings, do not get their hands dirty, and never travel to secondary towns—they tend to stick to the three market centers. Saudis complain that US effort is misdirected: American personnel devote infinitesimal detail to making advance arrangements for visiting executives, going so far as to specify rooms overlooking a certain view from the hotel.

Japanese firms supplement their direct, personal efforts with heavy local advertising. They use gifts generously in product introductions, and warrantees on Japanese consumer electronics range up to three years. To carry out this business, Japanese trading companies have large staffs of professional international marketers who have been cultivated since graduation from a Japanese international trading university, schooled in English and Arabic, and rotated worldwide as international trading specialists.

Compared to most other cultures, particularly non-Western. Americans are extraordinarily preoccupied with the tangible aspects of a product. They round up all their sales agents and give a product presentation instead of putting their energies into the more important component of international marketing—people. In American and only a few other countries it is normal to do business from a distance, between strangers, by mail or telephone.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Employee Rights


This issue actually spans a wide range of controversies. For example, issues have surfaced regarding the individual’s right to smoke in the workplace. As more and more organizations limit or ban smoking, this issue will continue to be somewhat controversial. Broader controversies involve issues associated with job ownership and individual rights while at work. A popular (albeit not entirely correct) assumption about Japanese organizations is that their employees have lifetime job security/ to the extent that US firms adopt this practice, the question becomes one of due process and the right to appeal in instances of dismissal or reassignment.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

International Codes of Environmental Conduct


A number of business organizations have developed codes of environmental conduct. Among the most important ones are the following:

  • International Chamber of Commerce (ICC): The ICC developed the Business Center for Sustainable Development, 16 principles that identify key elements of environmental leadership and call on companies to recognize environmental management as among their highest corporate priorities.
  • Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI): A group of over 20 companies dedicated to fostering environmental excellence, GEMI developed several environmental self assessment programs, including one that helps firms assess their progress in meeting the goals of the Business Center for Sustainable Development.
  • Keidanren: This major Japanese industry association has published a  Global Environmental Charter that sets out a code of environmental behavior that calls on its members to be “good corporate citizens.”
  • Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA): The U.S. based industry association developed Responsible Care: A Public Commitment, which commits its member-companies to a code of management practices, focusing on process safety, community awareness, pollution prevention, safe distribution, employee health and safety, and product stewardship. The group is working for the international adoption of these principles.
  • CERES Principles: These are 10 voluntary standards developed by the Coalition of Environmentally Responsible economies that commit signatory firms to protection of the biosphere, sustainable use of natural resources, energy conservation, risk reduction, and other environmental goals.
  • International Organization for Standards (ISO): ISO 14000 is a series of voluntary standards introduced in 1966 by the ISO, an international group based in Geneva, Switzerland, that permit companies to be certified as meeting global environmental performance standards.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Shitsuke


Shitsuke is a Japanese word that means discipline (training for continuous implementation). It makes the habit of keeping things in an orderly and neatly way. This comes by giving proper training and by every individual’s commitment.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Customer-Oriented Companies


How do companies become market oriented? It begins with the business culture. Consider top management’s values, employees, inter-departmental dynamics, organizational systems, and response to the environment. A dual emphasis on the customer (satisfy/delight the buyer) and on the competition  is needed, as well as  a long-term view. The Japanese are known for long-term marketing plans, which often will outlive the executives in the company sculpting the strategy.

Recognizing that today’s customers are quite smart and sophisticated, and they are looking for companies that: 1) create maximum value for them based on their needs and wants, and 2) demonstrate that they value their business.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Creative Management Operations


Operations management was a major area of organizational creativity in the era of scientific management during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It got a recharge in the 1950s and 1960s when mathematics and computer science were utilized through operations research models to schedule production, arrive at optimal inventory levels, and so forth. The superior productivity and quality of Japanese manufacturing induced a further revolution in operations management in the 1970s and 1980s, and management vocabulary was enriched by Just-in-time (JIT), Kanban, Total Quality Management (TQM), quality circles, continuous improvement, and so forth. And yet there is much scope for operations-related creativity.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

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