In the case study regarding Chiba International:

1. What are the major themes?

2. Can Japanese management practices work in the United States without adaptation? What cultural values are relevant?

3. How might Ken and John adapt Chiba's California practices to their situation? What problems could they run into (cultural and otherwise)?

4. What aspects of the Japanese approach used by Chiba are the most interesting or unusual to you? Why?

Expert Answers

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The Chiba International case study was meant to showcase issues facing Western and Japanese business managers in areas such as corporate culture, business philosophies and management techniques.

1. Major themes include the application of Japanese management styles in Western cultures—value congruence (the level at which someone's work behavior is consistent with their own self-image), the open sharing of information, a sincere sales force, pay grades based solely on objective employee evaluations—and whether such cultural influences result in higher productivity and commitment. Cultural differences such as masculinity versus femininity, individualism versus collectivism, long-term orientation, and power distance (the extent to which the unequal distribution of power is accepted among the members of that society) were also considered.

2. The study indicated that Japanese managers have a high degree of loyalty to their companies and often integrate their work and personal lives, which is rooted in their culture. Conversely, US managers were more apt to put their own personal happiness and that of their families before their companies. To reconcile these two attitudes, the study seemed to suggest that US managers must adapt to Japanese practices, because these sets of values are otherwise incompatible.

3. Ken and John were two different business managers with different attitudes toward themes like individualism, collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, and long- versus short-term orientation. To adapt their practices, they would have to be careful to avoid stereotypes, slowly provide the company philosophy to all employees over time, select workers collectively, and engage in open communication by implementing all of Chiba's abstract ideas. They were also encouraged to learn mental maps that would increase their effectiveness in dealing with other cultures. Problems could vary, from forcing American employees to accept foreign ways of thinking to creating a sense of confusion through the collective hiring process.

4. Interesting and unusual approaches to the Japanese model include the collective interview model, the reliance on job offerings to internal employees, an egalitarian attitude toward pay grades (including a refusal to pay commissions that could result in unequal pay), a no lay-off commitment, daily general meetings involving the entire workforce, and eschewing profit motive (at least on its face) all contradict in many ways the standard American model. While it is intended to build a strong sense of community, it may also make the business less competitive in the marketplace by reducing profits and disincentivizing more talented employees.

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Major Themes of the Case Study

This case study examines the practices of Chiba, a Japanese company that has largely succeeded in implementing and integrating its corporate philosophy with its American workforce. Chiba's primary corporate philosophy is one of honesty towards its customers and responsibility towards its employees. While Chiba employees from Japan work longer hours than their American counterparts, the corporate culture is strong enough that employees feel invested in the company and work more on their own volition.

Japanese Management Practices in the United States

When discussing whether the Japanese management practices used by Chiba could work in the United States without adaptation, given the case study, you should consider the cultural values and differences at play. In Japan, the corporate culture is one of mutual cooperation. As the Chiba executive explains in the case study, Americans have a more individualistic approach. While Chiba has had success in integrating its philosophies with its American workforce, the process has not been without challenges. The company has not adapted its philosophy or practices, but it has made their adoption by American workers voluntary. For example, workers are not required to sit in on most morning meetings or calisthenics sessions, but over time, they have come to recognize these as important aspects of the company's culture.

Adapting Chiba's Practices

John and Ken could adapt Chiba's practices to their corporate culture by taking a flexible approach to developing and implementing their corporate philosophy. Like Chiba, they would benefit from slowly acclimating employees to the Japanese business philosophy and allowing them to participate on a voluntary basis. Over time, their efforts to educate their workforce should be effective in convincing their workers of the importance of the new policies and procedures, such as workplace cooperation, extended hours of operation, and honesty among the sales force. In the beginning, John and Ken may have difficulty convincing their American employees to sit in on non-mandatory meetings, but over time the benefits of these practices should become obvious and encourage them to join in.

Intriguing Elements of the Chiba Approach to Business

There are many interesting aspects of Chiba's approach to corporate culture, including their employee review system and their approach to authority. While Americans are used to identifying those who hold the most power in a given company, there is a more equitable division of power among Chiba's upper-level management. You could also discuss the fact that Chiba offers its managerial employees competitive but not particularly high salaries. Despite this, its employees remain dedicated due to the strong corporate culture and the fact that they are encouraged to be honest with customers.

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