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Japanese Work Customs (Prescott-Higgins)

Solution to a case study regarding international business (culture).
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  September 24, 2014 Department of Management Studies IIT Delhi INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS Assignment  –  4 (Japanese Work Customs) Case Summary:   Weaver Pharmaceutical, a leading pharma company in the US, seeing the increasing competition from Japan, established a jointly owned and operated manufacturing subsidiary with Yamazaki Pharmaceutical in 1954. The company conducted substantial R&D on its own and coordinated through a joint committee representing both Weaver and Yamazaki to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts. The Japanese operations was one of the most successful international ventures as far as Weaver Pharmaceutical was concerned. Weaver had a policy of moving personnel from one location to another for a period of three to five years. Mr. Leonard Prescott was sent to Japan as the General Manager. He had 25 years of international experience spread across Philippines, Mexico, India and home-office. Prescott had Mr. John Higgins as his executive assistant. Higgins was someone who had the opportunity to learn Japanese language and culture at a very early stage in his life. He had fallen in love with the Japanese so much that he married a Japanese woman and decided to settle in Japan for life. In short, Higgins had internalized the Japanese culture to such a degree that he had lost the US perspective. Prescott and Higgins soon entered into conflict over a new personnel policy, framed by Prescott that involved basing promotions on p erformance and superiors’ review rather than seniority. Prescott believed that there were dynamic changes occurring in traditional Japanese culture and traditions, and he felt that his company’s real contribution to Japanese society was in introducing new ideas and innovations. He also believed that the best international executive was one who retained belief in his home point of view while also understanding foreign attitudes. Higgins however objected to Prescott’s changes that were not consistent with Jap anese norms. Currently a conflict stands between Prescott and Higgins and there’s an imminent need for the senior management’s intervention. Questions 1. Higgins was polycentric by nature and therefore subscribed to Japanese norms and way of things. He believed that the personnel policy should be seniority based and not performance based. His decision making was influenced by the relationship he enjoyed with his colleagues. He had even arranged the wedding of some of his colleagues. Prescott, on the other hand was ethnocentric in nature. In his view, his company should contribute to Japanese society by bringing about changes, innovation and new ideas. He felt that it was alright to impose American personnel policies over the Japanese employees. 2. The main reason for the difference in attitude of Prescott and Higgins was that Higgins followed Japanese culture while Prescott followed American culture. This cultural influence led to the change in attitude towards professional and organizational policies between the two men.  September 24, 2014 Japanese culture is very relationship oriented. Japanese people respect seniority and age. Americans on the other hand are very direct in nature and are result or performance oriented. Higgins respected Japanese culture, married a Japanese lady, moved into a Japanese neighborhood, used public bath, was invited to weddings, neighborhood parties, and even Buddhist funerals. 3. Alternative 1  –  Counsel Mr. Prescott Mr. Prescott is making revolutionary changes which would not be taken well by the Japanese and therefore needs to be advised on the possible repercussions of his management style. He needs to be more considerate about the Japanese culture and norms. He should work with Higgins closely in understanding Japanese and formulate policies accordingly. Alternative 2  –  Counsel Mr. Higgins Higgins should be made to understand that he was sent to Japan to ensure that the subsidiary’s goals and objectives are aligned with the parent American organization. He should be more supportive of Mr. Prescott and help him bring about the intended changes. Recommendation: Currently there are no concerns as far as Weaver  –   Yamazaki’s performance is concerned. This means that there are no burning issues which call for such drastic changes as those of Presco tt’s. Therefore, it is important to advise Mr. Prescott to take Higgins on his side and work closely with him for the betterment of the organization.

October 23 2014

Jul 23, 2017
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