Slow Decision Making, But Quick Execution
It seems that in the final analysis the Japanese win, even though they may take
a long time to reach a decision. Once the decision is taken, they move decisively,
and thus complete projects far quicker than is usual in the West. Some years ago Britain
licensed paraxylene technology to the Japanese. Simultaneously an identical plant
was being built in the UK. After four months, with the ground already broken, and
the foundations going in, the British team were priding themselves in being well ahead,
while the Japanese were still debating design issues. But the Japanese completed their
plant seven months ahead and put it to work successfully immediately, whereas the
British plant suffered the usual teething troubles and only achieved design capacity
some three months after startup.
It seems that the Japanese plan while discussing and arriving at a consensus, created
the necessary commitments. When they actually start they then move with such speed,
concentration and understanding of each other's roles that they easily outdo the average
Western company. The Japanese value teamwork far more than individual achievement,
and this approach is very effective. The theory in the West is that top management
creates a vision or a dream, but in practice it is middle management that both creates
the concept and implements it.
9. Nonaka, I.,
Toward middle-up-down management - Acceleration in creativity, Sloan Management
Review, Vol. 29, Spring 1988, No. 3, pp. 9-18.