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7.3 Studies on Management Philosophy in Japan

7.3.1 Studies During the Era of Rapid Economic Growth (mid-1950s to the mid-1970s)

According to Japanese business historian Tsunehiko Yui (1985), the pre-war studies of management philosophy were undertaken as part of economic history in Japan. After the war, and especially after 1964, when the Business History Society of Japan was established, business management historians became involved. Not only historians but also sociologists such as Hiroshi Hazama (1963) joined in the study of Japanese business philosophies. Industrial practitioners also wrote a significant number of books on this subject. Yui (1985) claims that more studies on this topic that can be reviewed had already appeared by the mid-1080s.

As noted earlier, industrialists were keenly aware of the importance of having a management philosophy by the mid-1950s, given the increasing social problems caused by corporations and the need to develop and contribute to the economic life of Japan. There was a sharp increase in the number of companies with mottos or creeds during the Showa era from 1955 to 1964 (Tamura 1965), when firms began publicly announcing that they were serving the general public.

The first book to include the term “management philosophy” in its title was published in 1956 by the president of a major bank who had traveled to the USA to research the bank industry (Kawakita 1956).

During this rapid growth era, the term “social responsibility” frequently appeared in books. Some authors discussed in detail why companies had to be keenly conscious of their social responsibility (see Nakanishi et al. 1965). Others discussed the plural meanings of “social responsibility” (Yamashiro 1969).

Thus, this era of rapid economic growth was not just one in which practitioners sought after business success as mere “economic animals”; a fair number of top managers also felt responsible for society in general. Management philosophies were both the accelerator and the brake for companies: their contents motivated workers to achieve business goals but only through the proper means.

By the 1980s, most management philosophy themes had been discussed, such as the history of Japanese management philosophy from the Edo era to the post-war era, comparative studies of Japanese and Western management philosophies, definitions of management philosophy and typologies, and the structures of management philosophies. After the 1980s, a new topic emerged how a philosophy or values can be shared by members of the company (see the list of selected books from the 1950s to the 2000s in Sumihara et al. 2008: 322–330). From the 1970s to the present, a series of dramatic events described in the next section influenced management policies and philosophies.

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