* This paper reports of a comparative study of American and
Japanese management styles in a conceptual framework consisting of six
managerial dimensions: supervisory style, decision making, communication
pattern, control mechanism, interdepartmental relationships, and
* The findings indicate that U.S. and Japanese management styles
differ significantly both in overall management styles and in each of
the six dimensions. They also show that managerial perception of
departmental (unit) effectiveness in each country differs significantly.
Additionally, the paper discusses the implications of research findings
for management theory and practice.
* This study of American and Japanese management styles has
identified the salient features of both systems. To understand and learn
from different management systems, its model offers an effective tool
for comparative studies; but for further research advances the present
model has to be expanded or alternative models have to be developed.
Comparative management has received a lot of attention over the
last two decades as global business has increased tremendously. Critics
have claimed that different management styles account for the level of
international competitiveness of firms (Cosier and Dalton 1986, Harber
and Samson 1989, Peters and Waterman 1982). Because of the success of
Japanese companies in world markets, researchers have paid a special
attention to the Japanese management style (Hatvany and Pucik 1981, Koya
and McMillan 1981). As a result, many scholars compared the Japanese
management system with the American and European systems (Buckley and
Mirza 1985, Ouchi 1981, Pascale and Athos 1981, Lincoln 1989).
In his popular book, Theory Z, Ouchi (1981) contrasts the principal
characteristics of American and Japanese management. He identifies seven
major characteristics of Japanese organizations: lifetime employment,
slow evaluation and promotion of employees, non-specialized career
paths, implicit control mechanism, collective decision making,
collective responsibility, and wholistic concern (building a complete
relationship between employer and employee, including concerning with
employee's non-work, personal and family, matters). He asserts that
these characteristics are not true of a typical American organization.
In his later book, The M-Form Society, Ouchi (1984) elaborates on
harmonious relationships in Japan among financial institutions,
industrial organizations, labor, and government to develop industrial
strategy. He argues that integrated planning at the societal level is
responsible for Japanese success. Although Ouchi's Theory Z has
become very popular, his research methodology has been criticized
because of his small sample size and limited interviews and
On the other hand, Pascale and Athos (1981) used the "seven
S" model developed by the McKinsey Co., including the following
seven components: superordinate goals, strategy, structure, systems
(administrative), staff (the concern for having the right kind of
people), skills (training and developing the people), and style (the
manner in which management handles subordinates, peers, and superiors).
They argue that Japanese companies are more effective because of their
integration of these seven components and their concern for staff,
skills, and, most importantly, style. They call these factors "soft
S's" which have to do with human element. Pascale and Athos
stress the importance of managing people as key resources and the
importance of superordinate goals, sense of spirit, or company
philosophy. They draw conclusions from a limited number of case studies
and their approach is less theoretical and more didactic (Schein 1981).
From a human resources perspective, Hatvany and Pucik (1981) offer
a model of Japanese management in which they define three interrelated
strategies: (a) to develop an internal labor market securing a labor
force of desired quality and to induce the employees to remain in the
firm; (b) to articulate company philosophy based on concern for employee
needs and cooperation and teamwork; and (c) to engage in intensive
socialization. The authors assert that these general strategies are
translated into specific management techniques including job rotation
and slow promotion; evaluation of attributes and behavior; emphasis on
work groups; open communication; consultative decision making; and
concern for employee. Although they do not contrast American and
Japanese managerial characteristics explicitly, they organizational
theories developed in the West in their analysis of Japanese attributes.
The authors also argue that the Japanese techniques can be adapted by
firms in other countries.
From an organizational learning perspective (the process of
handling information), Sullivan and Nonaka (1986) compare American and
Japanese senior managers. They claim that Japanese managers handle more
information and learn more about their organizations. "This greater
commitment to an organizational learning perspective may be an important
source of differences in the strategy-formulating behavior of Japanese
and American executives" (1986, p. 128).
Both Hatvany and Pucik and Sullivan and Nonaka have taken a
specific perspective to justify their models, which is a part of the
management process, but does not embrace the total functioning of a
The explanations given above imply that although the comparative
management studies on the U.S. and Japan are abundant, a great deal of
confusion or disagreement still exits on the nature and methodology of
these studies. Some scholars even have questioned the superiority of
Japanese system over American management (Sullivan 1983, Sethi et al.
1984). One major confusion stems from the lack of clearly defined
domains or properties of a management system to use as a basis of
comparison. A close review of various comparative studies suggests that
in order to have a sound comparison of management patterns of different
countries, fundamental dimensions of management systems should be
identified first and contrasted later. To compare management systems
across nations, a conceptual framework is needed.
Model for Management Style and Unit Effectiveness
The conceptual model of management style and unit effectiveness
shown in Figure 1 consists of six principal dimensions by which a
comparison of management systems can be made. These six dimensions are
as follows: (1) supervision style: managerial behavior related to the
subordinate's expectations that his effort would result in desired
rewards, (2) decision-making: the process in which decisions are made
within the unit and the extent to which employees contribute to or
participate to managerial decisions, (3) communication: information flow
within organizations and departments, and barriers to information flow,
(4) control: mechanism used to check operations conducted and results
achieved by the employees meeting the standards, (5) interdepartmental
relationships: interactions and deals with other units, and (6)
paternalistic orientation: supervisory concern for employees'
non-work related matters. We elaborate on each of these dimensions and
relate them to organization and management theory.
1. Supervisory style refers to the type of interactions between
supervisors and their subordinates. During the management process,
supervisors usually act different ways and use different styles to
relate to their subordinates. These different managerial and leadership
styles are well documented in the early and contemporary management
Among the pioneering theories, McGregor (1960) introduced Theory X
characterized by close supervision versus Theory Y representing
participative management style. In their contingency model of
leadership, Fiedler and Chemers (1974) distinguished task-motivated
versus relationship-motivated approaches. In his argument for different
patterns of management, Likert (1961) recognized four primary systems of
management: System 1, exploitive authoritative; System 2, benevolent
authoritative, System 3, consultative; and System 4, participative,
which he advocated highly.
Contemporary theories on management also concentrated heavily on
supervisory and leadership forms. House and Mitchell (1974) elaborated
on "pathgoal theory of leadership" in which a leader's
effectiveness is tied to his or her impact on subordinates'
motivation, ability perform effectively, and satisfaction. Furthermore,
Bass (1985) dichotomized leadership approaches as either transactional
or transformational. While the former follows path-goal theory quite
closely, the latter requires motivating employees to do more than they
originally expected to do.
2. Decision making refers to different approaches to across
organizations and countries (Pascale 1978). Major differences can be
observed in the areas as follows: long-range vs. short-range
orientations (Ouchi 1981), emphasizing on results vs. processes, and
using authoritarian vs. democratic approaches (Likert 1961). The
literature on the Japanese decision making has consistently underlined
the "ringi" system, a consensus-oriented decision making
process (Pascale 1978, Rohlen 1974, Vogel 1979).
3. Communication pattern refers to the functions of organizational
communication, including providing informational input to decisions;
establishing tasks, duties, roles, responsibilities, and authority;
achieving cooperation, and guiding action toward goals; instructing,
developing, and changing; and providing feedback. Communication flow and
barriers to effective communication flow in an organization define a key
component of management (Lewis 1975). Pascale (1978) reports extensive
face-to-face communication in Japanese companies.
4. Control mechanism refers to comparison of standards with
outcomes. "Communication theory provides a basis for understanding
how organizational effectiveness is obtained. Effectiveness appears to
be a product of control processes that produce uniformity and coordinate
effort behind goals" (Miner 1982, pp. 81--82). Although control is
needed in organizations, strict control leads to structural patterns
such as centralization and a tall hierarchy. In comparing American and
Japanese management practices, Ouchi (1981) distinguishes between
explicit and implicit control. American management sets specific,
measurable performance targets, whereas Japanese managers rely on values
embodied in a philosophy of management, governing organizational and
individual behavior to accomplish objectives.
5. Interdepartmental relations describe the degree of interaction
among departments within an organization. Accomplishing departmental
objectives often requires various forms of inputs from others
departments. McCann and Galbraith (1981) portray this phenomenon as
"For example, a department depends on other departments for
resources, work, or information, and the other departments depend upon
that department for resources, work, or information. One's
understanding of that department is enriched from the knowledge of its
interactions with other departments" (p. 60).
Of course, the degree of interaction including necessary and
voluntary types varies from one situation to another.
6. Paternalistic orientation means managers' concern with
personal and family life of employees and providing social support for
them. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Japanese management
is its paternalistic nature. Ouchi (1981) calls it "wholistic
concern for employees" as defined above. In other words,
paternalistic orientation requires managers to assume social support
roles in addition to their work-related roles for their employees. This
particular dimension varies across nations; hence, it provides a useful
measure to make cross-cultural comparisons.
The explanations given above show why all six dimensions are
essential components of a management system. The model presented in this
paper uses these dimensions for a comparative analysis.
The final component of the model, unit effectiveness is determined
by management style as it represents the integrated functioning of the
six dimensions. Unlike previous studies on organizational effectiveness,
our model is concerned with departmental effectiveness for two simple
reasons. First, the cumulative effect of individual departmental
performance most likely influence overall organizational effectiveness.
Second, from a practical point of view, each manager would know the
operations of his or her department better than those of the total
Based on the above discussion and our conceptual model, three
hypotheses are constructed as follows:
H1: Management styles as defined by six managerial dimensions of
supervisory style, decision making, communication pattern, managerial
control, interdepartmental relations, and paternalistic orientation
differ significantly between the U.S. and Japan.
H2: The U.S. and Japanese managers consider each managerial
dimension differently and emphasize different sets of managerial
H3: American managerial perception of their unit effectiveness
differs significantly from those of Japanese managers.
Top and middle managers from American and Japanese manufacturing
firms participated in the survey. For the U.S. firms, a sample of 200
manufacturing firms was randomly chosen from Directories of
Manufacturers in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Three
questionnaires were mailed to each company. All firms are medium- and
large-sized companies employing more than 100 employees. Two hundred
twenty five responses were received from American managers (a 37.5%
response rate). For the Japanese, a sample of 70 companies was selected
randomly from Japan Company Handbook 1989. Four questionnaires were
mailed to each Japanese company. The sample companies are again medium-
and large-sized manufacturing firms. Sixty-five Japanese managers
responded the survey (23.2% response rate).
Profiles of the respondents are presented in Table 1. American
subjects averaged 45 years old and 16.5 years of education but had lower
position and shorter tenure than Japanese managers. Japanese subjects
averaged 42.5 years old and about 13 years of education.
[TABULAR DATA OMITTED]
Data were collected through a mail survey consisting of three
parts: Part I contained questions about the managers including age,
education field, years of education, position, position tenure, firm
tenure, and departmental membership.
Part II included questions regarding six dimensions of the models
introduced above. Each managerial dimension is measured by the
variables, as labeled in Appendix. The questions in Part I and II were
asked with a Likert-type scale ranging from 1 to 9.
Part III contained a single question on departmental (unit)
effectiveness. Unit effectiveness was measured in terms of managerial
perception of overall unit performance. Managers were asked to judge how
effective their units were in relative to all other units they have
known whether they supervised them or not.
The original English questionnaire was translated into Japanese by
one Japanese professor of management and one Japanese manager. Then, it
was translated back into English by a Japanese who did not have access
the original to compare and ensure the meaning of questionnaire items.
Procedure and Research Design
To measure managerial dimensions, variables representing each
managerial dimension as listed in Appendix were combined and their mean
values were taken into consideration. A multivariate analysis of
variance (MANOVA) model was used to test the effect of country of origin
on managers' views of the managerial dimensions. In the model, the
dependent variable is managerial dimensions consisting of supervision
style, decision making, communication pattern, control mechanism,
interdepartmental relations, and paternalistic orientation.
Managers' country of origin (U.S. or Japan) is used as the factor
variable. When there are p dependent variables, k parameters for each
dependent variable, and n observations, the general statistical model
Y = X[beta] + e Y is n x k, X is n x k, [beta] is k x p, and e is n
x p where
Y = dependent variable (managerial dimensions)
X = countries (the U.S. and Japan)
[beta] = model parameters
e = error term
In addition, a t-test was conducted to compare the managerial
perceptions of unit effectiveness in two countries.
The results of MANOVA as presented in Table 2 show that the
managerial styles in the U.S. and Japan differ significantly with F =
111.37 at p < 0.0001 as predicted in H1. Table 2 also indicates that
each managerial dimension differs significantly between the U.S. and
Japan. In other words, American managers view each managerial dimension
differently than do the Japanese.
Table 2. Summary of MANOVA for Managers' Views on
in USA and Japan
Moreover, American managers emphasize the managerial dimensions
consisting of supervisory style, decision making, and control mechanism;
whereas Japanese managers stress such managerial dimensions as
communication pattern, interdepartmental relations, and paternalistic
orientation as presented in Table 3 and Figure 2. These findings confirm
Table 3. Mean Responses and Standard Deviations of the USA and
Managers' Views on Managerial Dimensions
The results of the t-test with t = 3.03 at p < 0.0033 as shown
in Table 4 confirms the hypothesized relationship in H3. Table 4 also
indicates that Japanese managers consider their organizational units
more effective than American managers do. A greater standard deviation
of the American responses imply that their perceptions of unit
effectiveness vary more than those of Japanese managers.
Table 4. Comparison of American and Japanese Unit Effectiveness
Our model demonstrated that the managerial styles in the U.S. and
Japan are opposite to each other in all six managerial dimensions. It
also suggests that the differential application of managerial dimensions
can be offered as an explanation for differential unit effectiveness.
The empirical results of our model are consistent with earlier theories
and findings on the comparison of the U.S. and Japanese management
(Ouchi 1981, Pascale 1978, and Hatvany and Pucik 1981). The American
management pattern is mostly characterized by supervisory style
stressing more Theory X type, task-oriented, and transactional
leadership methods. In their decision making, American managers
emphasize concrete results rather than the process. Additionally, they
make decisions in a less participative fashion than do Japanese.
Individual responsibility and top-down decision making appear to be
common features of the american system. Furthermore, the U.S. management
favors a control mechanism based on close supervision and an explicit
formal control pattern.
On the other hand, one of the salient characteristics of Japanese
management is that communication in Japanese organizations appears to be
open and mostly face-to-face thereby minimizing barriers to effective
information flow. Moreover, interdepartmental interactions are intensive
in Japanese organizations. Japanese manager are attentive to
interdepartmental dependency and cooperation. Furthermore, paternalistic
orientation in Japan is well-instituted as managers are concerned for
the employees' non-work matters. Japanese managers also view their
units as more effective in comparison to American managers because
probably open communication and ringi system in Japan, in particular,
Any comparative management analysis like ours usually leads to the
question of how to transfer effective models and techniques from one
environment to another. Indeed, the Japanese successes in Western
markets have stimulated Western companies to examine and adopt Japanese
managerial practices. However, a debate on the transferability of the
Japanese management style to the Western countries still continues. Some
experts claim that Japanese techniques cannot be copied because they
depend on Japanese culture, while others believe that these techniques
can be transferred and those proponents even give some successful
examples (Johnson 1988). Although management is always culture-bound to
some extent, certain management practices are less culture-bound than
others. Thus, some techniques might be nurtured in different
environments as long as they are applied properly. This argument
suggests that culture-bound techniques are not transferable unless a
conductive cultural environment is created. For example, the Japanese
ringi system and paternalistic orientation would probably not work at a
typical U.S. company where values of individualism and privacy prevail.
On the other hand, some management practices as less culture-bound can
be transplanted in another country. Practical examples of such
successful transplantations are quality circles and just-in-time
management adopted from Japan by American and European companies. These
techniques characterize the decision making and probably
interdepartmental relations dimensions respectively in our model.
Our findings suggest that to modify the American managerial system,
not transplantations but major transformations should be made in the
areas of supervisory/leadership style, decision making, and control
mechanism. Indeed, all three components are interrelated but for the
purpose of better illustration, we will elaborate separately on each.
Supervisory/leadership style needs to be transformed from an
authoritarian approach to a democratic one. Failure of American
corporations to reflect the overwhelming democratic values in American
society is a paradox. Some frustrations among American employees at
workplace probably stem from this paradox. Hence, managers are highly
recommended to adopt transformational leadership virtues (Bass 1985,
Tichy and Ulrich 1984).
In decision making, American managers need to consider both
decision results and process. Effective decisions will more likely be
made in a process that is, if not participative at least consultative
(Likert 1961). Such a process requires that managers should not
"... decide until others who will be affected have had sufficient
time to offer their views, feel they have been fairly heard, and are
willing to support the decision even though they may not feel it's
the best one" (Rohlen 1974, p. 308). A movement toward employee
involvement and participation in management decision making will foster
employee commitment and morale as well as unit performance (Hatvany and
In the control process, it is important to diagnose the various
causes of unacceptable deviations and then to take the corrective
action. U.S. managers should allow their subordinates to identify the
causes of the problem and apply corrective actions themselves because
those people carry out the tasks. When employees suspect or are aware
that something is wrong with their performance, they should be able to
take necessary steps to search for and to fix the problem. We do not
think an implicit control mechanism is suitable for American employees
who request clearly defined goals and standards. Hence, an effective
control technique for American organizations might entail incorporation
of employee involvement with explicit control. This is why probably
Management by Objectives (Drucker 1954, Carroll and Tosi 1973) and
goal-setting techniques (Locke and Latham 1984) have reached some
success in the U.S.
In all three managerial processes described above, the key to the
success seems to be the management style encouraging employee
involvement. Two major means of achieving employee involvement are open
communication and paternalistic orientation. Open communication unlike a
paternalistic approach is less culture-bound and can be easily employed
by the U.S. organizations. Even a paternalistic approach, if modified to
accommodate American cultural values, can be used by American managers
to enhance employee commitment and involvement. Paternalism in the
American sense implies more concern for employees' welfare and
While Western companies are adopting some Japanese managerial
techniques, Japanese organizations are undergoing some changes because
of the development of high technologies and internationalization (Misawa
1987). For example, Mroczkowski and Hanaoka (1989) assert that
"as they gradually redesigned the employment and reward system
firms, Japanese managers are trying to maintain the advantages of
harmony, employee loyalty, and cooperation while eliminating the
employment hypertrophy and enhancing flexibility by shifting more
risk to a greater proportion of workers" (p. 39). Exposure of
Japanese corporations to Western culture and managerial practices will
entail several changes in their management approaches. Such changes will
probably manifest themselves in the areas of supervisory style, decision
making, and paternalistic orientation. Specific examples of these
changes may include introduction of individualism and merit system and
loosening life-time employment.
Such exchanges of managerial practices between nations do not mean
that differences in management styles will disappear one day. As long as
we have different cultures, management systems as a by-product of
culture will manifest unique characteristics in given country.
Therefore, we need further studies to examine similarities and
differences in managerial styles across nations. Nath (1988) cites five
convincing reasons for studying comparative management: living in an
interdependent world, its universal nature, sharpening our
understanding, widening the knowledge base, and appreciating our own
culture and environment. However, we need sound models and methodologies
to distinguish characteristics of different systems and displaying
similarities and differences among them.
This paper reviews the literature comparing U.S. and Japanese
management systems and identifies the underlying theoretical dimensions
in organization and management literature for a conceptual model for
comparative analysis. Then it provides a model of management styles and
unit effectiveness. The model consists of six managerial dimensions,
namely, supervisory style, decision making, communication pattern,
control mechanism, interdepartmental relations, and paternalistic
orientation. It also proposes that overall management style determines
organizational or unit effectiveness.
The results of an empirical test of the model show that American
management style is different from the Japanese. The variability between
two countries lies among the all six managerial dimensions as well.
While American managers emphasize supervisory style, decision making,
and control mechanism, the Japanese are more concerned with
communication process, interdepartmental relations, and paternalistic
Our study of American and Japanese management styles has identified
the salient features of both systems, our conceptual model offers an
effective tool for comparative studies, but advances in the present
model or development of alternative models is needed for further
Supervisory Style: Amount of discretion given to subordinates
Degree of delegation of authority to employees Soliciting for worker
inputs Freedom of employees to schedule their own work Democratic
supervision Only supervisor handling work problems Decisions and work
problems delayed in supervisor's absence Supervisory back-up for
his/her employees Supervisor's sacrifice for his/her employees
Amount of direction given from top Close supervision
Decision Making: Soliciting for workers' inputs Tackling
unusual work problems Trying innovative methods and products Number of
suggestions from the unit members Wasting time and effort by incorrect
estimates Accepting unpopular projects Initiating improvements Decision
delegation to the lowest level Consensus decision making Employee
participation in decision making Amount of supervisory direction
Individual decision making Employee freedom to select their own course
Communication Pattern: Supervisory awareness of unit performance
meeting standards Free flow of information Supervisors awareness of
things happening within unit Complains reaching top management Employee
unawareness of changes in policies and directives Communication are
Control Mechanism: Managers being on top everything Emphasizing on
production as a goal Freedom of workers to schedule their own activities
Democratic supervision Relying the unit without checking Following-ups
and checking in goal realization Close supervision
Interdepartmental Relations: Providing assistance to other units
for favors Making trades and deals with other units Bargaining with
other units Frictions with other units Coordination with other units
Criticized by other units for being uncooperative Getting into conflict
with other units
Paternalistic Orientation: Involving in family matters of employees
Helping employees with non-work related matters
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Source F Ratio D.F. p
Countries 111.37 6,283 0.0001
Analysis of Individual Variables
Source F Ratio D.F. p [R.sup.2]
Supervision style 169.15 1,288 0.0001 0.370
Decision making 53.08 1,288 0.0001 0.156
Communication pattern 348.11 1,288 0.0001 0.547
Interdepartmental relations 119.71 1,288 0.0001 0.293
Paternalistic orientation 37.84 1,288 0.0001 0.116
Control mechanism 35.83 1,288 0.0001 0.110
Dimensions USA Japan
Mean (S.D.) (Mean S.D.)
1. Supervision style 5.823 (0.661) 4.603 (0.684)
2. Decision making 5.628 (0.703) 4.948 (0.500)
3. Communication pattern 4.824 (0.843) 7.380 (1.330)
4. Interdepartmental relations 4.500 (1.000) 6.035 (0.969)
5. Paternalistic orientation 4.080 (1.640) 5.400 (1.050)
6. Control mechanism 5.533 (0.677) 4.961 (0.687)
Mean S.D. Mean S.D. t p
Unit effectiveness 6.09 2.06 6.92 1.38 3.03 0.033