It is important to include the influence of Japanese management styles on current businesses. This story begins in the late 1940’s, in post-war Japan, when an American management consultant, William Edwards Deming, began working with Japanese organizations. He was invited by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE), after working with the US Army on the Japanese census, during the allied occupation. Deming trained hundreds of engineers and managers in Statistical Process Control (SPC) and the concept of quality. Deming taught his new students that these concepts would not only improve quality but reduce expenses while increasing productivity and market share. A number of firms applied these techniques with amazing results and their high quality, low cost manufacturing created demand for Japanese products.
Deming became a legend in the Japanese business community and had the country’s highest business award named after him, the Deming Prize.
The Japanese management culture is quite different than that of the Americans, the Japanese focus more on the soft elements of the business model, such as, staff, skills and style, while the Americans focus on the hard elements of strategy, structure and systems.
The Japanese also focus on continuous improvement, in their language, kaizen. It is the belief in continuous, never ending, improvement of every facet of the business. The Japanese were very successful at blending their soft style of management and the teachings of Deming while creating a culture of kaizen. This created a recipe that would soon be studied and implemented worldwide. Kaizen and the Japanese style of business met mainstream America in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when the prestigious management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, began using the 7-S Framework and continual improvement as a basic tool in their day to day operations. Since then, many companies have emulated this business model with great success and it has changed the world of business forever. This kaizen culture has grown and flourished in American circles where continuous improvement strategies have been developed to provide structured tools for use across a large business landscape, such as Six Sigma and Lean practices.