The author is one of a group of Japanese management scholars developing a frame of reference strikingly different from that of American scholars writing about business administration. Here Professor Nonaka introduces the concept of compressive management, which recognizes a key role for middle managers in information development. “The essential logic of compressive management is that top management creates a vision or dream, and middle management creates and implements concrete concepts to solve and transcend the contradictions arising from gaps between what exists at the moment and what management hopes to create.” The development of the Honda “City” is used to illustrate “middle-up-down” management. In their wish to develop an entirely new car, Honda’s top managers gave a group of young designers that task — with virtually no direction. The designers first attempted to modify an existing model but were eventually forced into questioning and transcending universal assumptions about automobile design.
1. I. Nonaka, Corporate Evolution (in Japanese) (Tokyo: Nikkei Shimbunsha, 1985).
2. M. Polanyi, Tacit Dimension (New York: Doubleday, 1966).
3. I. Janis, Victims of Group Think (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972).
4. T. Kagono, I. Nonaka, K. Sakakibara, and A. Okumura, Strategic vs. Evolutionary Management: A U.S.-Japan Comparison of Strategy and Organization (Amsterdam: North Holland, 1985).
5. I. Nonaka, “Creating Organizational Order out of Chaos: Self-Renewal in Japanese Firms,” California Management Review, forthcoming.
6. H. Takeuchi and I. Nonaka, “The New New Product Development Game,” Harvard Business Review, January–February 1986.
7. K. Imai, I. Nonaka, and H. Takeuchi, “Managing the New Product Development Process: How Japanese Companies Learn and Unlearn,” in K. B. Clark, R. H. Hayes, and C. Lorenz eds., The Uneasy Alliance (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1985).
The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Professor D. Eleanor Westney of M.IT. and of Professor Hirotaka Takeuchi and Tsuyoshi Numagami of Hitotsubashi University.