Handbook of Research on Management Ideas and Panaceas
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Handbook of Research on Management Ideas and Panaceas

Adaptation and Context

Edited by Anders Örtenblad

Over time management ideas and panaceas have been presented alternately as quick fix cures for all corporate ills and the emperor’s new clothes, beset by flaws and problems. This Handbook provides a different approach, suggesting that management ideas and panaceas should not be either adopted or rejected outright, but gives guidance in the art of assessing and applying management ideas and panaceas to various situations and contexts.
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Chapter 6: The curious case of Japanese management: a nation as a panacea

Paul Lillrank


In the late 1980s Japanese management turned into a panacea. Japanese manufacturers made deep inroads in export markets of several high-visibility products, such as automobiles. The successes required explanations, which were presented primarily by foreign observers. The case was made in a wide variety of terms ranging from national culture and industrial policies to work practices and quality circles. As the Japanese bubble economy crashed and the 1990s turned into a lost decade that still continues, several of the issues that were used to explain success now explained failure. The Japanese case is a reminder that the success of a nation is not equal to the success of a few leading industries and that managerial action seldom is powerful enough to overrule macroeconomic and demographic trends.

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