24.5 How “innovative” work practices are abandoned: A case of job involvement activities in Japan and France

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 10:12 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Shinichi OGAWA , Faculty of Business Administration, Yokohama National University, Yokohama, Japan
A growing literature has been paying attention to the impact of “innovative” work practices on productivity and work conditions. “Innovative” work practices are often regarded as opposite concepts to “modern” principles of work organization, and the former are considered to replace or compete with the latter, whether the impact is opportunistic or pessimistic. Some of the critics have been describing “modern” work practices, such as Taylorism and Fordism, as origins of alienation from work and narrowing down humans’ ability to work. “Innovative” work practices such as “Toyotism” and total quality management, the dissemination of which is stimulated by Japanese industrial competitiveness in the 1980s, was considered as a possible alternative to balance the productivity and quality of working life; on the other hand, some of the scholars criticized “innovative” practices for oppressing workers both physically and mentally. However, this line of literature tends to ignore the actual context of introduction and abandonment of the practices. This presentation aims to describe the rise and fall of an “innovative” practice, called “quality circles”. The quality circle is a job involvement activity originated in Japan, and was in vogue in the 1980s. Quality circles are tried to be transplanted outside of Japan, including non-Japanese enterprises. The presentation compares two societies, Japan and France. France is one of the societies that paid attention to quality circles in the 1980s. The enterprises that implemented quality circles decreased in both societies in the 1990s. Few of the French companies continue the activities, while some of the Japanese companies are still implementing them. The presentation describes the different process and examines the context that led to this difference.