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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Jörg Raupach-Sumiya

(Researchers, July 1, 1999 - December 31, 2000)

– Strategic management / organizational theory

Besides various managerial innovations, the intensive research on the Japanese enterprise system brought to light specific, institutional characteristics of the Japanese company model and its governance system which have shaped the behavior of Japanese managers and the strategic directions and competitive conduct of Japanese companies. Examples to be named are peculiarities of the labor and capital markets, the main bank system, company grouping and networks or the supplier system. Since the beginning of the 1990s Japanese companies are facing substantial needs for restructuring and strategic reorientation caused by the long recession, the crisis of the financial system and deregulation on the one side, as well as by self-inflicted problems such as overinvestment, surging personnel and administrative costs or unrelated/conglomerate diversification. Considering the dimensions and the macro-economic impact of these problems it seems to be justified to draw parallels to the crisis of the US corporate sector in the 1980s. Within this context 3 issues seem to be of particular interest: First, what kind of strategies for adaption and restructuring are being adopted and how are they facilitated considering the above mentioned institutional framework of the Japanese enterprise and governance system ? Secondly, to what extent are the institutional foundations of the Japanese enterprise and governance system itself subject to change and, thereby, giving access to instruments for restructuring which so far were hard to adopt such as leveraged buy-outs, mergers and takeovers ?  Thirdly, is their a tendency towards convergence of corporate systems ?

– Small- and medium-sized enterprices

The corporate sector of Japan is dominated by many small and medium enterprises (SME). Small- and medium-sized manufacturers of industrial inputs and services have contributed largely to the competitiveness of Japans industrial sector. On the other hand, the dominance of SME in the service sector is often considered to be an indication for inefficient, overregulated and protected sectors. The economic weight of SME in Japan and their recent developments pose a set of interesting and diverse questions. Of prime concern is the basic question of how to maintain entrepreneurial independence and competitiveness in the light of deregulation, growing international competition and regional division of labor. It is of decisive importance for SME to nuture capabilities for independent innovation and product development, to assure access to qualified human resources in management and R+D, as well as to promote internationalization of procurement, production and sales functions. Furthermore, it is of special, macro-economic importance to address the question of necessary changes in the institutional environment in order to foster start-ups and new ventures and to assure management succession in SME. Politics and industry place a high emphasis on sustaining and fostering dynamic, risk-taking entrepreneurship characteristic for SME and have realized the essential role of SME to revitalize the Japanese economy, to assure global competitiveness and innovation strength and to promote structural change. The agenda for action places particular importance on the creation of flexible and liquid financial markets for venture capital, on the deregulation of future growth sectors, on the establishment of an open infrastructure for R+D and on the reform of labor markets for increased mobility.