On This PageVol. 29, No. 2

Public policy and downsizing decisions
Last Updated: 05/09/05
It may be easy to forget now, but in the 1980s, there was an intense fascination in the U.S. with Japanese management systems, especially with employee management. The combination of lifetime employment, internal advancement, and related practices produced a high commitment system in Japan that was the envy of U.S. employers and the topic of endless seminars offering advice to firms in the U.S. A popular joke at the time described how three businessmen, one French, one American, and one Japanese, had been convicted of something especially bad and were being granted their last request before being executed. The French businessman asked to hear the French national anthem. He heard it and was taken out and shot. Then the Japanese businessman was asked what he wanted. “I’d like to hear one more time a lecture about the superiority of the Japanese management system.” Then the American jumped up and said, “Wait. Shoot me first.”