Doing It Differently

After a short and optimistic endeavor we find a lot of business and industry begin to go haywire. And along with it, a lot of promising careers also start their journey down the drain of stagnancy. Why do such things happen? Actually both are inter-linked and to answer one, it’s necessary to answer both. Although some might say it’s a bit redundant now, it is still a good idea to ponder on the Japanese success stories of yore, and even if their story gathered prominence after the Second Great War, the roots of their success was established much earlier in their collective national psychology. A psychology based on ancient culture, beliefs and values going back millenniums.

While the modern management Gurus were starting to extol the virtues of globalization, free markets and things associated, such as rapid hiring and quicker firing, incentive and punishment based work system, specialization, etc…, the Japanese were emphasizing on subsidizing exports, limiting imports, life time employment, and so on. This business philosophy was in line with national and cultural philosophy of inward retrospection, and a culture that, among other things, held loyalty as being the ‘greatest virtue of all.’

Modern industry and business had substituted aptly for the Samurai way of life. To such a philosophy was added the techniques and analytical methods of the more outward looking west which resulted in a potent mixture that eventually challenged the world. Simply put, national identity as demonstrated by culture and beliefs were not sacrificed at the altar of modernism, and at the same time, they were not allowed to be hurdles in the way of modernism.

In countries such as Nepal entrepreneurs often rush headlong into the ways of modernism not caring much for national values and beliefs that are so deep rooted that there arise conflicts among business and people. Of course, in such inward looking societies, the conflicts remain more or less hidden, but are in fact reflected on performance. Very often we have masses of people putting in long hours in quite an unproductive fashion. This is usually the case because of feelings of insecurity compounded by the belief that pay is just not enough. Very often employees do more harm to their own careers by not putting in extra efforts to demonstrate abilities, and this is so because they are trapped in a vicious cycle. A cycle consisting of insecurity, inadequate pay, profit making struggles of organizations and short term benefits and goals of the same. This cycle can start anywhere, but stop nowhere.

Business houses can start the cycle by targeting goals that can be frustrating. Instead of having clear cut objectives of creating customers and building long term relationships with them, they invariably start off by making financial objectives. Instead of starting with budgets for training, servicing, improving and other such customer oriented objectives, they start off by making profit linked objectives. This is self defeating and this is where a leaf has to be taken from the Japanese success story. In spite of their chaotic state after the Great War, they did not fall into the temptation of quick profits. Instead of blindly aping current western business methods, they chose with care those things that were lacking in their own system and used the same in a synergistic way with what was the national philosophy as symbolized by the nature of the people.

Accordingly they started off by the creation of customers and this they followed up by establishment of long term relationships, in the process creating huge followings of satisfied customers, and of all nationalities. It was a difficult task, competition was stiff and they were a handicapped nation. But looking inwards, they found strength in their cultural belief of loyalty, hard work, discipline, and this they exploited early through means such as life time employment, wages in line with family cycle needs, and clear cut objectives which were customer linked, and with which, therefore, every employee could identify with and contribute productively. The Japanese also looked outwards at a market with a pressing need for customer satisfaction based mostly on service, reliability and quality. Therefore all strategy was geared towards creation of a solid service oriented and customer satisfying objective. Only after this did they start calculating on how much would be needed to cover the costs. In the process they came up with far better profit making goals.

Another way of starting the vicious cycle is due to management attitude, and this can have drastically adverse effects right down the ranks. Generally, what happens is that top management begins to look at the post as simply rank and privileges instead of increased functions and responsibilities. This is most obvious in government enterprises but is not totally unknown in others like family run business houses, or even in partnerships. It can also be that sometimes top management, propelled to the post not really due to ability, but more likely through other means such as contacts, seniority, system, etc…, can go too far by following only what the modern management experts are advocating, and by doing so, totally ignoring national and deep rooted values and beliefs.

All said and done, top management, while keeping objectives and goals of the company intact, must also try to synergize this with the traditional culture and beliefs as embodied in the nature of the people. In doing so, top management’s function then would be to direct the organization as a cohesive whole geared towards the creation and the establishment of long term relationships with customers. In this, all employees can play a role, and by doing so, can believe they are contributing towards the fulfillment of a common and worthy goal. In the process, gaining a certain amount of fulfillment for themselves too. In short, becoming more productive.

Doing It Differently

amar b shrestha

Joined December 2007

  • Artist
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