The research for this project began in 1989 when Clair Brown, Michael Reich, and David Stern joined forces at the University of California, Berkeley, to study the changes in employment systems that were occurring on the shop floor in large companies in the United States, largely in response to the highly regarded and efficient Japanese production system. After spending three years in field work in American companies, we were approached by Yoshi Nakata and his colleagues at Doshisha University, who had been engaged in studying the employment system in large Japanese companies and asked us to join them in undertaking comparative field work together. This provided the American authors, who did not know Japanese, with the unique opportunity to conduct field work and data collection in Japan. In this way, the research project expanded to become a more interesting comparative analysis.
After our first trip to Japan, we realized that a firm's employment system in either country could not be studied in isolation from national economic institutions since the two are inexorably intertwined. Once again we expanded the scope of the project by persuading our Berkeley colleague Lloyd Ulman to analyze Japanese wage-setting institutions in a comparative context.
We owe a special debt of gratitude to David Stern. His ideas and knowledge of the importance of work-based learning taught us at the start to examine how firm- based training operates in both the United States and Japan. David was an energetic organizer of many of our site visits and an insightful partner in the surveys, the field work, and the development of our conceptual framework. He was co-