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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Perspectives on corporate reorganisationAn analysis of change in the Japanese life insurance, retail and pharmaceutical sectors

2. April 2001 / 18.30

Jocelyn Probert, University of Cambridge

This presentation will focus on organisational changes taking place in mature Japanese industries that until recently have been little exposed to competition or international market forces. Rapidly changing domestic market dynamics since the end of the bubble era have forced leading pharmaceutical companies to develop an international presence, life insurers to compete in a less regulated environment, and superstore retailers to find new ways of attracting price-conscious, discriminating customers.

How do individual firms respond to the multiple pressures of the new environment? Do they behave in the same way? I find evidence that a reassessment of the management practices commonly associated with Japanese business has led firms to respond in more individual fashion during the 1990s. We are seeing a growing diversity in the pace and nature of approach to corporate reorganisation within sectors and across sectors in such fundamental areas as strategic orientation, the structure of the firm, governance and human resource management.

My choice of sectors is a deliberate attempt to avoid the familiar focus on major manufacturing firms, and will, I hope, shed some light on how mainly white-collar, service-oriented firms are managing the process of change. The presentation will draw on the empirical results of my PhD fieldwork conducted in twelve firms (four in each sector) in Tokyo and Osaka during 1999-2000.

Jocelyn Probert is currently on leave of absence from the INSEAD Euro-Asia Centre in Fontainebleau to write her PhD at the Judge Institute of Management Studies, University of Cambridge. She worked in investment banking in London and Tokyo as a Japanese equities analyst before moving to France in 1990 to join the research staff of the Euro-Asia Centre. During her time there she wrote widely on aspects of management in Asia, European direct investment in Asia and East Asian direct investment in Europe, and produced numerous case studies for MBA and executive education use. Her tentative PhD thesis title is ‚Managing the Process of Change: The Case of Japan‘.