Organizational Approach to
Maximize Human Potential
Each year since 1987, Japan Management
Association (JMA) has taken
up the important management issues of
the day, explored into the background,
and proposed to the industrial world the
direction in which we should head or
measures that it could adopt.
This proposal activity is not intended
to provide answers to each particular
issue. Its focus is rather on offering
topics to stimulate in-depth discussions.
It is our hope that our proposals will
serve as a spur to lively discussions at
each company, thereby contributing to
the development of new conceptions
and improvement of corporate
Proposals to Japanese companies
In the 20th century when mass production and industrialization
were the norm, companies produced wealth by enhancing productivity, and
Japan enjoyed material prosperity.
However, now in the 21st century, when society is saturated with material goods,
it seems that Japan has lost the compass to show the direction in which the
country should go.
These days, "happiness" and "spiritual richness" of people have become
important keywords than ever. In order to remain essential for society, it is
important for every company to focus on
bringing happiness to their employees,
and to draw enthusiasm and creativity
out of each employee and to leverage
strength as a collective to provide
society with useful products and services.
Based on this awareness, and in the
recognition of the need to fulfill human
and organizational potential for the realization of companies' sustainable
growth, JMA has since 2008 been researching the style of corporate
management that best meets this need.
In this research, "potential" is defined as the "undemonstrated part of inherent ability.
" Potential is not a special ability
possessed by only the select few. When
each employee is highly motivated and
exercises their potential, it will create a
virtuous cycle within the company and
raise the vitality of the entire company.
In order for the Japanese companies to
recover their true vitality, JMA firmly
believes that the "joy of work" must be
realized as the engine for further growth.
In the course of their work, people
should feel the "joy of creating/joy of
thinking (self-determination)," the "joy
of growing (sense of achievement and
growth)," the "joy of solidarity
(relatedness)," and the "joy of making
others happy (competence)." When
these four types of joy cycle effectively,
people feel happy at work and become
highly motivated. This happiness and
motivation draws out the full potential
of both people and organization, and
gives rise to creative activities.
In other words, "management that
brings happiness to employees" is a
style of management that respects
employees and brings out the best
ability in each employee to reinforce the
strength of the group and to improve
corporate performance. This style of
management also allows both
individuals and organization to grow
together on an ongoing basis. To help
companies to realize this style of
management, we would like to make
three proposals as explained below.
Proposal I : Do not underestimate
the nature of humanbeings
Through its research, JMA has concluded - from the perspectives
of anthropology, neuroscience and psychology - that people have the
following four characteristics in their nature: "People are animals that WANT
to work," "People enjoy working
together," "People are emotionallydriven,"
and "People can change themselves." Corporate executives and
managers need to consider these
characteristics when managing their companies.
It is important now for us to rediscover
the merits of Japanese-style management,
which was developed in Japanese
culture and continuously refined by
creative innovation. One of the most
noteworthy merits of Japanese-style
management is its focus on developing
human resources and technology from a
long-term perspective, on the
assumption that the company continues
to exist perpetually. The practice of
long-term employment by Japanese
companies has, until today, assured the
retention of trained personnel, and
encouraged each employee to work
harder and to stay creative and
innovative. The wisdom and vitality of these employees was materialized as
excellent technologies, and Japanese
companies developed their business and
achieved growth based on this
This management style is connected to
the idea that the growth of the company
benefits its employees. By respecting
and valuing their employees, companies
can increase the employees' sense of
belonging and motivation, and create an
environment in which employees can
devote themselves to work with peace of
mind. As employees work hard in this
environment, companies can then
continuously deliver products and
services that add value to society, earn
profits that can be reinvested in the next
step for further growth, expand
business, and enrich the lives of all
employees equally. There is no doubt
that this kind of cycle once existed in
One of the most important roles of
corporate executives and managers is to
direct employees toward a common
objective, and set values that can be
shared by employees when working, so
that each employee can think and act by
themselves. The key to success for
executives lies in their ability to place
the right people in the right jobs based
on an accurate understanding of the
capabilities of each, and to be able to
motivate them to drive the company in
the right direction.
Proposal II : Create the company's distinctive
competence based on employees' voluntary commitment
Once this global recession is over,
one of the most crucial prerequisites for companies to ensure their
survival is the possession of distinctive competence - the ability to continuously
provide customer value in a way that differentiates the company from others.
Distinctive competence can be sourced from workers that are capable of
creating new differentiation and quality,
as well as management methods that can draw out their potential and encourage
them to be their best. The best rewards
that companies can provide to their employees are work or topics that
employees can believe to be truly significant. Companies can also provide
environment in which employees can take on challenges in their work
enthusiastically, and feel that they are achieving personal growth.
Everyone has a natural desire to contribute to the growth of their
company through hard work, and make their organization better. However, to
encourage employees to follow this natural desire and voluntarily commit
themselves to creative work, they need a workplace in which they can work with
joy. And to realize this kind of workplace, companies need to foster a
climate in which people can proactively delve into and pursue their assigned tasks. To this end, it is important for companies to remind themselves of their
mission and founder's spirit, and regularly ask themselves: "What is our raison d'ere?"
To prevent employees' bud of possibility from being nipped, and to make the most of the diversity of
employees, companies need to embrace even opposing inclinations of people.
Rather than spending a lot of time developing a tool for the strict
evaluation of their subordinates,
managers should make more efforts to hone their own ability to evaluate their
subordinates' growth and motivation. In addition, since a sense of achievement
and fulfillment can be derived only from work itself, it is important to reward
employees' achievements with more challenging work or greater responsibility.
Proposal III : Restore "Shigoto Shudan"
Shigoto shudan, means a group in which all employees have the voluntary motivation to create new
value, and make efforts within the scope of their capability to achieve a common
objective, so that they can continuously differentiate their company from its
competitors. The need for companies to turn into shigoto shudan, by allowing
employees to feel a sense of achievement and growth by working
together in the group and overcoming challenging issues, is mounting.
People's brains have a function to cognitively understand "triadic
relations" to make cooperative work possible. "Triadic" in this issue relates to
the act of a person trying to read another person's mind, when in trying to gain
understanding on some ambiguous
object sitting between them. However,
for this function to work there is a need to look into the other person's eyes and
recognize what the other person is looking at. This means that, if
communication with other people is conducted mainly through e-mail or
other text-based media in workplaces,
triadic relations cannot easily be established, thus hindering smooth
People grow in a group. By working together with a person who is a role
model, people can learn through actual
experience. Managers therefore first
need to create an environment that encourages their subordinates to grow.
Managers then must skillfully stimulate
their subordinates' desire to grow.
Giving praise is one of the most
effective ways to draw out the full potential of employees. Giving an
employee the task of teaching others is also an effective way to help the
employee become aware of their own capability, and motivate them to learn
more. Teaching and learning with each other in this way promotes mutual
Creating an environment in which
individualistic employees with sound and different ideas can fully achieve
their potential, while both competing against each other and working hard
together for a meaningful common objective - This kind of management
based on diversity will become a key to survival for companies in the future.