The process of decision making can be referred to as the cognitive mental processes over certain issues regarding the subject matter that result in the appropriate selection of the right course of action among various given alternative scenarios. The end result of any decision making is the selection of a final choice among other several options. Decision making is a vital step and activity in the running of a company (Hoch & Kunreuther, 2004, p 17). Companies face the need to make certain decisions daily. The nature of these decisions is the final and vital determinant whether the firms succeed or fail in the long and short run. Therefore, companies take the responsibility of ensuring that they work in line with the best decision making processes to ensure they succeed. With these in mind therefore, different companies will tend to adopt different decision making processes and strategies in relation to the nature of the firms, or their normal policies and programs (Bell & Raifa, 1988, p 6). The Japanese companies are an example of companies that use very different decision making strategies as compared to other countries, especially those in the West. The Japanese decision making strategies are unique in their setting and composition. These modes of decision making have been successfully applied in the past; they still continue to be evident in the current era.
Decision Making in Japanese Organizations
One of the processes of decision making in the Japanese companies is referred to as ringi. This term is Japanese for group decision making. Its literal meaning is “circulate a proposal, discuss, and decide (Nishiyama, 2000, p 43). It is a process that collectively aims at not only the agreement of most of the featured participants in the meeting but also the mitigation and resolution of the minority objections. This is the most common mode of decision making process in Japan today. The ringi process begins with kiansha, usually a lower or middle ranked manager in the company. This person is put in charge of drafting a ringisho also known as a proposal. The drafting of the proposal is preceded by various activities such as informal discussions with key executives, supervisors, and managers.
Once the ringi proposal has been drafted completely, the initiator circulates it to every manager and executive. The reason for this is to try and get an approval from the concerned individuals. The circulation is executed in reverse hierarchical order in relation to position held in the company (Nishiyama, 2000, p 44). The document is then handed on to the president for final approval.
Another method of reaching decisions in Japanese companies is known as kaigi which is basically meeting. However, the conduction of these meetings is different to the ones experienced in the Western organizations. The meetings emphasize on the policy of harmony within all the individuals that are involved. The tendency of the members in the meeting to settle any differences informally beforehand is usually practiced. The purpose of this undertaking is to avoid any situations of open confrontations in the meeting. Further, this process effectively helps in avoiding the scenario or situation in which one individual wins over the other publicly, when the latter had revealed their position and stand over a given matter (Vogel, 1975, p 118). This is because the person who loses his position is labeled a loser by the rest. However, the Japanese organizational solidarity does not entertain these procedures that create winners and losers. This form of decision making enables the company in question to arrive at the best deal. This is because the minds of various individuals who evidently share the same interest with the larger company have been involved. The fact that a diversity of ideas and thinking is involved in this process makes the whole concept and mode of decision making by the Japanese companies very powerful. However, these modes of decision making also have various weaknesses. The Japanese mode of decision making is very slow. This is because almost all the individuals in the company are given a chance to input their opinions, and consequently, their opinions are weighed. The fact that some irrelevant ideas will feature in the process cannot be overlooked. Therefore, with a larger number of employees, companies may end up loosing their precious time when dealing with such kind of unproductive ideas.
The Japanese forms of company decision making are definitely different from those of other countries. Comparing these forms and trends of decision making with others countries can bring out the difference and uniqueness of this process, in relation to the Japanese company scenario. A western country such as the United States can be used in making these comparisons with the Japanese case. The United States is a major country in the west in terms of economic capabilities. Therefore, it serves as a good example when it comes to the comparison.
The decision making process in the United States companies is a complete opposite of the case in the Japanese system. Group consensus is hardly a consideration in the context of the United States. The norm of individualism and independence is far the most practiced form of behavior. Further, the United States company context will not enable the minor individuals in the company to make or influence any of the overall and big company decisions. In the United States, the responsibility to make big decisions is vested in individual persons, who further, have the power to make final decisions, decide and further advice the individuals in the company (Taplin, 1995, p 52). Though formal meetings are mostly the avenues for the reaching and making of various important decisions, the informal settings are also commonly used here. The top managers can simply make decisions over lunch hour discussions or during excursions at the golf course (Taplin, 1995, p 52).
The Japanese companies should make the effort of ensuring they learn the other systems of decision makings used by other firms in other parts of the world. This is because the Japanese have a tendency of following past practices and diligently and faithfully following and upholding their culture. However, it is important that these aspects, in relation to economic situations, be carefully looked at by the Japanese companies. Further, the Western nations should also carefully consider their approach towards decision making processes, notwithstanding the fact that they may be effective in their current application.
The companies in Japan are evidently unique. Since the decision making processes discussed have been successively used in the past regime, the assumption that they impact positively in the various business processes of the companies involved can be made. This statement is in line with the fact that the Japan is one of the biggest economies today after United States and China. Therefore, it can be conclusively stated that the Japanese mode of decision makings in the companies are not only unique in their setting, but also very effective in their subsequent application.
Hoch, S.J., & Kunreuther, H.C. (2004). Wharton on Making Decisions. New York, NY: Wiley.
Bell, E.D., & Raiffa, H. ( 1988). Decision Making. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Nishiyama, K. (2000). Doing Business with Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
Taplin, R. (1995). Decision Making and Japan. London: Routledge.
Vogel, E.F. (1975). Modern Japanese Organization and Decision Making. California, CA: University of California Press.