By Louis Altazan
Published: December 13, 2008
Updated: December 13, 2008
I think it is no accident that Deming management helped raise Japan from the ashes of WWII and never really took hold in the West. Cultural differences were certainly a factor. Japanese society has long ago realized cooperation is their best way getting ahead. Western society tends to almost exclusively reward individual effort.

This flows through to business management. In Japan the CEO is more likely to be seen as the leader of a team that they are a part of. The team members tend to trust, respect and look to the leader for guidance. There is far less fear that the CEO will sacrifice employee best interest for their own. Japanese leaders are likely to realize doing so would be undermining their own success.

Western leaders are more likely to be seen as something totally separate from workers. The all-knowing boss, who sits at the top and issues directives to non-thinking hands. Employees tend to see the relationship as more of an "us verses them" arrangement. For one side to win the other must loose.

This tends to propagate powerful unions, where employees try to gain some measure of control. For instance, while it is believed the CEO of GM made over 14 times the amount of the CEO of Toyota, the response to sagging GM sales was to lay off workers and close plants. Unfortunately, union leadership is very much a carbon copy of industrial leadership. They also tend to "kill the goose that lays the golden eggs."

With little cooperation, an adversarial relationship between management and workers all that is needed to insure failure is a short-term mentality. This too tends to be somewhat cultural. While Japanese leaders tend to focus on the long-term aim of the company, Western management tends to be obsessed with quick fixes.

Even governments in the West are so inclined. The collapse of industrial giants is not seen as a symptom of a much larger problem to be worked on. Instead, money is thrown at the symptom, much like the proverbial drunken sailor.

This simply creates even larger problems, none of which or directly addressed. For example, out of control health care cost is crippling Western industry. Rather than trying to learn why cost are so rampantly out of control, government simply creates ever larger [more expensive] schemes to fund it, allowing the cost to continue to escalate.

This is not intended as a "whoa is me" piece, only an observation of current situations. Change a few words and this applies directly to small business management. Dr. Deming predicted the condition of Western management today in the early 1980's. Is Western management any more likely to listen today?

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