Task Environment in Japan Essay

Task Environment in Japan            Understanding task environment requires the analysis of human cognition as well as environmental factor in the accomplishment of tasks.  It emphasizes how environment as an important factor in the cognitive processes of a person motivates him to accomplish a certain task.

  Wayne D. Gray, Hansjorg Neth, and Michael J. Schoelles explained the importance of task environment as “something to be rigidly controlled and factored so as to shed light on just one aspect of cognition or one aspect of perception of one aspect of action” (p.

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100).  Task environment involves both the human cognition and environment (or physical characteristics) as controllable variables towards task accomplishment.            Likewise, the emergence of globalization and global recession, Japan has to allow foreign competition to set in their country, which creates a new task environment to Japan.

  Factors such as economic, technological, political, competition, and others, have considerable impact in the task environment in Japan. Tomoko Hamada noted that “the task environment of a Japanese firm has been changing rapidly… due to changing demography and other environmental requirements” (p. 57).  The environmental factors according to him are aging of the Japanese labor force, the shortage of high-tech professionals, and increasing global competition.Planning and Decision-MakingPlanning and decision-making complement each other and both are influenced by the realization of an organizational goal, vision and mission. Organization sets plan to help carry out the goals of an organization; while decision-making lubricates the implementation of the plan in many aspects and circumstances.

  Japanese style of management is noted for having achieved a wide array of recognition from different international organizations.  Many but not all western and even eastern companies adapt the management style that has been proven effective so far.In Japan, business leaders are synonymous in setting organizational goal.  Primarily, they are concerned about total customer satisfaction, which gear towards improvement of “both product and service” (Taplin, p. 90).

  Being the early pioneers in the promotion of customer satisfaction, they express their profound understanding of the concept by aiming: (1) reduction of customer complaints, (2) increase in their market share globally, (3) pursuing continuous improvement of products and services, (4) continuing self-education and self-improvement among employees, and (5) instilling in their employees that they have direct involvement in producing high quality work (Taplin, p. 90-91).Given these information, Japanese managers conduct planning that centers on achieving total customer satisfaction in which it covers many aspects of organizational functions.

  Taplin mentioned that Japanese companies adopt the concept of Total Quality Management through which good quality product or service is highly emphasized in the process.  To realize this goal, they develop the “top-down/bottom-up decision making approach” (p. 91), in which managers involve the employees in producing quality product and service through delegation of tasks and decision-making by consensus in such a way that they do not alienate themselves from the product that they do.  Task environment dictates that since planning is focused on customer satisfaction, they are not obliged to meet deadlines but they are important in the accomplishment of the goal.Leading and Communicating            Japanese leadership style employs coordination and cooperative interactions or what the westerners call the consensual decision making in which employees and managers are task-oriented and people-centered; however, it lacks individualism because Japanese leadership style is focused on team work and it does not play important role on individual needs and desires.Because of that philosophy, Japanese firms utilize a different communication pattern when leading their subordinates.

  Daniel Workman stated some of the characteristics of communication that are going on in a Japanese firm.  He says that within an organization, “continual interaction and exchange of information and influence” could be observed among people from different levels of organization.  On the other hand, he also mentioned that in case of project-oriented organization, two communication patterns could be used.  The first is that the flow of communication is downward wherein tasks are given and distributed from the boss down to the subordinates; this is according to him an ‘Authoritarian They X.  The second is the Parental Theory Y; this is a communal or shared flow of communication between the bosses and subordinates and not among the underlings.            The current system of communication in Japanese firms therefore provides opportunity for product and service improvement because everyone is focused on tasks and how to effectively accomplish the tasks.

Controlling (motivation and discipline) and culture attitude            Japanese firms regard teamwork as highly valuable to carry out its objective.  Likewise, controlling scheme as well as motivation resides within the team.  It is important to facilitate the group to cooperate and share their expertise among them by setting in necessary resources and expectation for the group to act on.            Since Japan has been a promoter of TQM (total quality management) and BPR (business process reengineering) strategies, Japanese companies have developed effective means to control the employees; that is to control them through motivation.  Sisaye mentioned some of the ways to motivate Japanese employees, such as “potency, social support, workload sharing, communication, and cooperation” (p.

161).  Controlling of output of the groups is maintained through granting team autonomy and makes them “control over the production decision process” (ibid).            The changes that took place in Japanese company have something to do with their principle of making everyone part and involve in the overall organizational goals.

  Thus, motivation is very significant in this sense through which employers have less direct supervision over individual; their control is on the team’s production output.  The culture that is developed is cooperation and unity.Stereotypes and culture clashes            Japan as a nation has its culture that affects the management that became a stereotype.  Sakai mentioned about “male dominance and female subservience in Japanese society” (p. 157) that reflects in the relationships among the employees.  This condition is evident among Japanese male bosses as indicative of power and superiority in an organization even with foreign staffs.

  Japanese women are seen as the powerless group among other group of employees in that firm.  They are not given promotion for the effort they do.            Gender stereotype is also observed among Japanese and British staff where Japanese bosses thought British men as equally as they are in which they do not consider them as their competitors (Sakai, p. 157).  On the other hand, British female are regarded as lazy and unreliable, which is an evident of Japanese’s gender clash culture.            Another stereotype is the Japanese avoidance of contact as a solution to “cultural misunderstanding” (Sakai, p. 205).

  Sakai argued that because of Japanese’s identity crisis, they have difficulty adjusting to another culture, but if they do so, they would feel inappropriate to live in their own country, as what happened to Mr. Ushio.  After living in Oxford for many years, he is to indifferent to British culture but refuses to return to Japan (p. 205-207).   This scenario indicates that culture differences results to cultural clashes between Japan and foreign culture.

Conclusion            Task environment in Japan is influenced by many factors particularly the emerging culture of competition as well as the philosophy that governs the many business organizations in Japan.  Primarily, these factors create a kind of management style that is Japanese in style and structure, which many big corporations adopt seemingly.            This management style creates changes in the perception of planning and decision-making, leading and communicating, controlling and culture attitude, and even in the development of some stereotypes in Japanese firms.            Task environment among Japanese firms are characterized by cooperation and interaction among members with emphasis on group, which is why promotion is not always applicable.  Employees and employers are motivated to become part in the improvement of product and service and not for individual professional growth.

ReferenceGray, W., Neth, H, & Schoelles, M. “The Functional Task Environment” in A.

Kramer, A. Kirlik& D. Wiegman (Eds.), Applied Attention.

New York, USA:  Oxford University Press. http://www.rpi.edu/~grayw/pubs/papers/2007/GNS-FTE/GNS07-FTE-OUP.

pdfHamada, T. American Enterprise in Japan. USA: SUNY Press, 1991.Taplin, R.

Decision-Making and Japan: A Study of Corporate Japanese Decision-Making and ItsRelevance to Western Companies. USA: Routledge, 1995.Sakai, J. The Clash of Economic Culture.

 USA: Transaction Publisher, 2004.Sisaye, S. The Ecology of Management Accounting and Control Systems: Implications forManaging Teams and Work Groups in Complex Organizations.

USA: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006.Workman, D. “Japanese Culture Leadership Style.” Suite 101.com.

April 9, 2008.http://international-trade-leaders.suite101.com/article.cfm/japanese_culture_leadership_style


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