CHAPTER 5Breaking the Iron Rice Bowl

Lifetime employment and seniority‐based promotion, bedrocks of the traditional system of employment in Japan, are also one of the greatest causes of refraction layers of mid‐level managers in companies. Any kind of overprotection of labor results in calcification. Among mid‐level managers, calcification manifests itself as inflexibility toward change and brittleness—exert pressure to change on a calcified layer of managers, and they crack apart and crumble. Overprotection of labor in Japan as anywhere else in the world hampers the performance of any business.

Guarantee of lifetime employment (shushin koyo sei) in a single company is hard to imagine for many people outside of Japan. What is even harder to imagine is wanting to be in the same company for life. I am not disparaging people who have had long, fruitful careers in a company by choice, and I know a number of such people who had been employed by Hewlett Packard, IBM, and many others. For most people outside of Japan, changing companies several times in one lifetime is the norm. In fact, many people change careers and industries several times during their working lives. I doubt many outside of Japan would relish the idea of being with one employer forever—people change and so do companies. Many people have experienced a time when working with an employer is no longer fulfilling, and are no longer happy doing so. This is neither their fault nor the employer's. People evolve and move ...

Get Rapid Organizational Change now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.