The emergence of Japan in the 1980s as America’s foremost industrial opponent seems to have persuade a kind of moral panic in business with the Japanese cast in the role of ‘folk devils’. The implicit assumption that America had the best management system in the world was now noticeably in question, and from an American perception this seemed appalling. In addition, if Japanese management was indeed effective but could not be transferred to American) firms, then the future for American business seemed miserable.
The problem of learning from Japan proved, however, to be intricate, and it has raised difficult questions of fact and worth. In some points of the dispute evidence has been tough to come by whilst in others there have been sharply divergent understandings of the data. A case in peak is the impact of the Japanese system on Japanese employees. Should the Japanese worker be regarded as a devoted, protected, contented employee embraced by a humanistic organizational culture which promotes pride of work and company loyalty as Ouchi’s Theory Z proposes? Or is he better seen as a gloomy robot tied to a life of unending toil by an authoritarian management system and a disciplinary set of social values that suppress individuality and bump up conformity as a supreme end, a vision characterized as Theory F = Fear?. Such queries cannot be replied by facts solely because even facts must be construed. At this spot cultural assumptions and values are likely to go into the debate so raising questions concerning what the facts mean.
Can the Japanese management system be shifted to the United States? It looks as if it can, if only partly. The evidence so far suggests that both the advocates and the detractors of learning from Japan have clasped some portion of the truth. It has been quench agreed on all sides that the Japanese must be doing something right.