Japanese Human Resource Management: From Being a Miracle to Needing One?

  • Markus Pudelko


One major characteristic of the Japanese business model is the importance attached to human resources, and accordingly to human resource management (HRM). An indication of the weight given to the latter is the prominent position occupied by the HR department (Rehfeld, 1995). The head of HR is often, after the president, the second most important manager in a Japanese company (Thurow, 1993). It is therefore not surprising that HRM has been identified by many authors as one of the main factors in the astonishing achievements of Japanese companies in the world markets (Inohara, 1990), particularly during the heydays Japanese success story in the 1980s and early 1990s. During that time Japanese HRM practices were widely studied in the West to discover what might be learned from them (see for example Dore, 1973, 1987, 2000, 2002; Vogel, 1979; Ouchi, 1981; Pascale and Athos, 1981; Kenney and Florida, 1988, 1993). Huczynski (1986) described the fascination with Japanese HRM in the West as a major management fad, and books suggesting what Western managers could adopt from Japanese practices joined the best-seller lists and gained almost cult status. Vogel’s Japan as Number One (1979), Ouchi’s Theory Z (1981) and Pascale and Athos’s The Art of Japanese Management (1981) are but three examples.


Japanese Management Japanese Firm Employment System Lifetime Employment Japanese Business 
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