Knowledge-Driven Work: Unexpected Lessons from Japanese and United States Work Practices

By Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld; Wen-Jeng Lin et al. | Go to book overview

1
Details Matter

This book began as a study of shop-floor work practices in Japanese- affiliated plants in North America. We were initially drawn to the study of these work practices for all the usual reasons, 1 including the importance of the global economy and the Japanese reputation for quality and productivity. Reports in the literature suggested that work practices in Japanese-affiliated factories would be very different and highly productive. These expectations began to shift even before our initial plant visits. Some managers said that we would be welcome to come study their factories but that we should know in advance that we wouldn't find a stereotypical Japanese workplace. As we visited the companies we saw that they indeed did not fit stereotypes. Instead, there was a much more complex and puzzling story that was unfolding.

It soon became evident that we would be writing an unconventional book on Japanese work practices. We found ourselves talking to North American workers and managers who were learning new practices and did so with a combination of pride and frustration as they integrated them into their own way of working. These practices could be found in parent facilities in Japan, but unique variations were occurring as they were adopted in the United States. We were fortunate in being able to talk with Japanese managers and engineers who had returned to Japan after assignments in the United States. These returnees went back to Japan full of new ideas and experiences. We now see that the flow of work practices from Japan to North America and from North America back to Japan is a single case of a much larger global process of work practice diffusion. 2

It is important to examine the diffusion of work practices for reasons that reach far beyond debates over the merits or limitations of Japa

-3-

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Knowledge-Driven Work: Unexpected Lessons from Japanese and United States Work Practices
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Editorial Board i
  • Editorial Board i
  • Japan Business and Economics Series ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Contents xvii
  • 1 - Details Matter 3
  • 2 - Initial Visits to Japanese Factories 18
  • 3 - Cross-Cultural Diffusion 36
  • 4 - Team-Based Work Systems 59
  • 5 - Employee Involvement and Kaizen 71
  • 6 - Constructing Employment Security 88
  • 7 - Human Resource Management and Knowledge-Driven Work Systems 109
  • 8 - Labor Relations 130
  • 9 - Implications 150
  • Notes 163
  • Index 179
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