Japanese Firms in Transition: Responding to the Globalization Challenge: Volume 17


Table of contents

(15 chapters)


Pages V-VII
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Pages XI-XV
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Struggling economies provide an interesting venue for international management researchers to build and test theory. Struggling economies are characterized by conflict and confrontation between established forces trying to impose conformity and emerging forces seeking variety. Economies once healthy, but in sustained recession, are also fertile sites for exploring the conflict between problem-solving based on traditionally, but no longer, successful strategies and new solutions brought in from outside. Struggling economies also present opportunities for examining the interaction between people and structures, where established relationships are open to question. This volume explores change in one struggling economy – Japan. In doing so, it seeks to draw from the experience of Japanese companies in extending international management theory beyond the boundaries of that one country.

Japanese organizations have been forced to re-evaluate their management systems in light of recent economic and competitive pressures. Much can be learned about the adjustments of the Japanese management mindset, and a more competitive Japan may emerge as a result of successful adaptation. This study makes a longitudinal examination of the dynamic nature of management practices and thinking in the Japanese banking industry. Pressures on key industries in Japan during this time, e.g. the financial sector, provide insight into how adaptable Japanese institutions might be. The study finds important areas of meaningful change, supporting a crossvergence approach.

This paper questions the issue of the dynamics of corporate governance in Japan using a conceptual framework adapted from North’s theory of institutional change. National systems of corporate governance can indeed be considered a particular case of institutions. We thus suggest transposing North’s propositions about institutional change to national systems of corporate governance. As an illustration for our propositions, we choose to use a case study: the so-called Sogo crisis. The Sogo group is a Japanese chain of department stores, which has encountered financial problems in the late 1990s. The handling of those difficulties by the firm’s main stakeholders highlights both the recent changes in the Japanese system of corporate governance and the resistance opposed to them.

Japan has been conceived of as being a “developmental state.” However, given that Japan has, since 1992, been contending with a post-bubble “crisis period,” it is important to examine whether or not the resultant deregulation has altered the government-industry nexus. This paper focuses on amakudari, a core administrative guidance medium, within four core industries to measure the extent and direction of regulatory change. The findings show that amakudari networks have weakened, with corporations only employing bureaucrats deemed as being useful, supporting the hypothesis that there has been a “paradigm shift” from a “developmental state” to a “resource dependence” view.

This analysis of the Japanese textile sector illustrates how intra-industry cleavages are becoming an integral feature of Japanese trade policymaking. In the past, a pattern of cross-sectoral variation in trade policy could be observed, as the government protected declining industries at home and sought to open foreign markets for the competitive export sector. The internationalization of Japanese firms, however, has radically affected the articulation of corporate trade policy preferences. There is an ongoing breakdown in solidarity among industry members based on their degree of multinationality and/or their reverse importing strategies. These clashes put contradictory pressures on the Japanese government, making it more difficult to predict the course of trade liberalization in Japan.

This paper examines the evolution of debt and equity ties among keiretsu firms between the early 1990s and the later part of the decade. During this time frame, the stable shareholding relations characteristic of the Japanese inter-corporate network faced significant pressures from the opening of the Japanese equity market and globalization of financial markets. We investigate whether the traditional “stakeholder model” of the Japanese firm is threatened by North American “shareholder” models. Using multiple measures of keiretsu ties, our analysis suggests this is not the case. Overall, we provide evidence of strengthening ties, although in the case of equity, there has been an evolution away from institutional investors.

Recently, Japanese commercial banks have experienced increased merger and acquisition (M&A) activity. M&As allow rapid downsizing and increased scale economies, while avoiding massive layoffs. Faced with the pressures of globalization and a difficult domestic economic environment, some Japanese banks appear to have shifted their operational focus from developing growth-enabling core competencies to reducing organizational costs. Keiretsu relationships are changing accordingly, with individual groups adapting in different ways. Most Japanese banks experienced extensive M&A activity at earlier points in their corporate histories. The recent flurry of M&As in the banking sector is nothing new, but rather a resurgence of past practices.

The analysis of manufacturer-supplier relationships in Japan has contributed significantly to the advancement of interorganizational theory. It has yielded broad evidence that long-term collaborative partnerships enable firms to exploit the incentive benefits of market-based exchange while reaping the learning and coordination benefits of internalization within a corporate hierarchy. In this paper, we go beyond the issues of trust and cooperation that have occupied much prior theory and research on supplier relations in considering another dimension along which collaborative agreements may be arrayed. We build on transaction and network theories, respectively, to propose two types of long-term collaborative ties: dyadic or bilateral governance and network embeddedness. A comparative analysis of collaborative relationships in product and process development between two Japanese TV manufacturing companies and their suppliers provides empirical evidence for the distinctive effect of network ties over dyadic relationships for collaborative knowledge-sharing.

Our understanding of Japanese supply relationships comes primarily from studying the automobile industry. This paper identifies three elements of the automobile industry that, although generally assumed to be widespread, are largely absent in the notebook computer industry, leading to a different pattern of supply relationships: a sizable pool of external suppliers; the feasibility of shukko and cross-shareholding to strengthen supply relationships; and the adequacy of these means to manage external supply relationships. This finding debunks the myth of a monolithic model of “Japanese-style” supply relationships and illustrates the importance of idiosyncratic elements of an industry’s environment on its supply relationships.

Drawing on empirical data from two studies of 119 Japanese affiliates located in the United States and Europe, this chapter focuses on three fundamental questions: (1) What organizational factors influence performance of the overseas affiliates of Japanese MNCs? (2) What impact does expatriate staffing have on the affiliate’s performance? (3) What factors influence expatriate staffing patterns in Japanese MNCs? The empirical results lend support to the hypothesis that MNCs characterized by global integration and local responsiveness will outperform less transnational competitors, although there are significant differences between the American and European subsamples on the impact of expatriate presence on affiliate performance. In addition, there is no support for the life-cycle prediction that age or parent company experience influences expatriate staffing levels or for the resource dependence prediction that integration with the parent influences expatriate presence. These results and their implications are discussed.

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Until around 1980, Japanese companies occupied a predominant position in Asia. Their Asian operations are managed by Japanese persons and in the Japanese language. This Japanese-style international management is well suited to transfer technology and know-how from Japanese parent companies to their overseas subsidiaries. But, it does not provide opportunities to local managerial and professional employees to display their abilities and initiatives. Japanese companies also have problems in Japan. They invest more in foreign countries than in Japan, which results in the hollowing out at home. Japanese companies are managed by old men and thus lack a strong leadership. Japanese multinationals are facing a challenging task of management innovation both at home and abroad.

This paper explores the empirical relationships between the global orientation of the top management team, geocentrism of the staffing and promotion system, and boundary spanning structures and processes with the individual outcome variables of employee commitment to, and excitement about, their job and organization in ten units of two highly diversified high-technology Japanese multinational corporations. The results from the study show that employee perceptions of the top management team’s global orientation, geocentrism, and boundary spanning structures and processes influence individual attitudes of employees in Japanese MNCs. The implications of these results for further research and managerial practice are discussed.

This study examines the determinants of performance of foreign manufacturing subsidiaries in Japan. The study finds that a foreign parent’s size, the subsidiary’s age, and a complicated distribution system influence a subsidiary’s performance. There was little significant change in these determinants over a 20-year period. However, for subsidiaries that survived over the observation period of this study, some determinants changed. We also found that by forming joint ventures with Japanese firms, foreign firms can overcome the obstacle of distribution and circumvent the disadvantage of inexperience. Moreover, the mitigating effects of joint ventures vary, depending on the type of Japanese partner.

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Advances in International Management
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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