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Japanese Project Management Style – A Cue To Survive In Difficult Times

The economic powerhouse is renowned globally as a high-quality manufacturing and home to the world’s most iconic manufacturing companies.

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Japan sets a benchmark for resilience for any society. The country is an island surrounded by seas and oceans from all sides with an eco-system that sees earthquakes and tsunamis very frequently leading to a lot of disruptions regularly, yet it is one of the most powerful countries in the world today.

The economic powerhouse is renowned globally as a high-quality manufacturing and home to the world’s most iconic manufacturing companies. The 5.15 trillion Economy of Japan is one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world.

So, what is that makes the country great and what are the takeaways of Japanese Management Styles that can help companies counter business challenges like the one we are facing right now:

● Consent of all or Nemawashi

Japanese management takes consent from all members before arriving at a decision. This policy is applicable to a long-term running process. This process might a bit time taking because it follows the Bottom-up approach. This makes sure that the planning follows through the subordinates to the management. It helps to understand the perspective of all members and the consequences involved. Japanese management can make U-turn when it comes to decision making. They follow the plans which can boost efficiency as per the current scenario in the market. The decision can be related to investment or getting a confirmation of all on new strategies.

The members make a presentation and discuss it in small groups to take suggestions and observations. This helps to understand the requirement and doubts of each member involved in the process. It provides access to share ideas and discusses consequences without falling into a dilemma in later phases of the implementation process.

The aim of attaining consensus starts with ‘elaborating the question and analysing the situation’. The prime purpose is not to focus on getting the approval from the members quickly. The process is about to find out what the decision is about rather than arriving on a decision. Thereby, not forcing members to choose side due to majority or personal interest.

At Mitsubishi Electric India, for every big or small decision, we follow this approach. Example: -- Launch of a product by taking a 360-degree approach. An automobile device making company decided to launch ventilators during the time of COVID-19 to support the country. The company approached us with a concern to provide cost-effective solutions for automating the manual ventilator. We had less time in our hands to fulfil the requirement with efficiency. After understanding, the requirements in-depth and the issues faced by the hospitals. We suggested a Make in India product that is Graphic Operation Controller (GOC). The product helps to automate the manual ventilator and controls the pressure of the air pumped to the lungs. Providing an option to select 10% to 100% pressure operation and controlling the number of pumps by Stepper motor. Thus, saving the time and task of doctors of manually pumping the air as per patient requirements. Adding further, the doctors can easily monitor the Inspiration and Expiration ratio through a built-in graphic display.

● Enhancing Working Operations through Lean Management

Japanese management style lays emphasis on understanding the problem. It is a time taking process but through study, it helps to make decisions that set the growth for the future. The Japanese follow the 'Kaizen policy' which aims at improving the current process. The process can be about to gain cost efficiency or use manage the resources. The employees work together at all levels to achieve efficiency. It leads to improvements in the manufacturing process. The word ‘zen’ means to learn by doing the aspect of improving productivity. Japanese management also follows the PDCA or Deming circle. It focuses to PLAN, DO, CHECK, and ACT in all the work processes. It helps to improve efficiency at all levels and eliminates blame game.

At Mitsubishi Electric India, we pay more leverage to the workflow process. ‘Transparency’ is the main key. The approach starts with keeping all employees informed about the working process. We tend to plan in advance for the re-purposing and re-sizing of the non-critical assets. We always value stream by eliminating of Waste in the work process in terms of overproduction, reduce transportation /reduce defect / reduce inventory/reduce wait time, etc. We follow build in Quality, Perfection & Consistency in the work process from every individual involved in the work process. The work responsibilities are divided such that every employee feels a part of the organization. Thereby, surfacing out work issue & empower each other to deliver their best. Hence, it is a part of our everyday lives and we are able to survive sustainably in the pandemic situation because we always have lean stocks and the supply chain is very efficient which is very good to have a healthy cash flow.

● Stability, On-the-Job Training Employment Security

Japanese management believes in providing stability to the members and the company. If we take an example, Mitsubishi Electric has never been bankrupt in its 99 years of history. Japanese companies always seek members of positive attitudes and attributes. The Japanese management style also believes in providing ‘Shushin Koyo’. It means permanent employment or life-time employment. The company never asks its employees to leave. The exceptions can be there like a case of severe economic crisis or breach of ethics. Japanese companies tend to provide more meaning benefits and continuous training. It helps to keep them motivated and results in extreme specialization. The company also sends its employees for OJT programs to expand the horizons of working and learning in different cultures and traditions. Here, the employees act as support functions to the department assigned. They learn about the culture in detail and finally sharing a report of their learning with their colleagues. Such training tends to introduce members with colleagues over the world and impart knowledge sharing for brand awareness.

At Mitsubishi Electric India, Employee Attrition is very low because people are comfortable with the family culture of working. During the pandemic condition, we have managed to retain our workforce and the issue letter of intent to the new joiners. Implemented successful on-boarding through work from home. The company stands strong on work from policy while addressing the need of the hour about maintaining social distancing.

It is been said that failures are part and process of success. To be process-driven and achieve success one must face failures and learn from them. Japan has learned from the mistakes and survived strong. We can’t learn from other’s mistakes or failures, but we can learn from their success. In India, we can’t imitate their strong policies and day to day habits but practicing a few would help us in achieving growth and efficiency.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Mr. Rajeev Sharma

Chief Strategy Officer, Mitsubishi Electric India Pvt. Ltd.

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