Demographics of Japan
In the fall of 1962, Mr. Leonard Prescott, vice-president and general manager of the Weaver-Yamazaki Pharmaceutical Company Ltd. of Japan, was considering what action, if any, to take regarding his executive assistant, Mr. John Higgins.
In Mr. Prescott’s opinion, Mr. Higgins had been losing his effectiveness as one who was to represent the U.S. parent company because of his extraordinary identification with the Japanese culture.
The Weaver Pharmaceutical Company was one of the outstanding concerns in the drug field in the United States. As a result of extensive research it had developed many important drugs and its product lines were constantly improved, giving the company a strong competitive advantage. It also had extensive international operations throughout many parts of the world. Operations in Japan started in the early 1930’s, though they were limited to sales activities.
The Yamazaki Pharmaceutical House, a major producer of drugs and chemicals in Japan, was the franchise distributor for Weaver’s products in Japan. Export sales to Japan were resumed in 1948. Due to its product superiority and the inability of major Japanese pharmaceutical houses to compete effectively because of lack of recovery from war damage, the Weaver Company was able to capture a substantial share of the market for its product categories.
In order to prepare itself for increasingly keen competition from Japanese producers in the foreseeable future, the company decided to undertake local production of some of the product lines. From its many years of international experience, the company had learned that it could not hope to establish itself firmly in a foreign country until it began manufacturing locally. Consequently, in 1953 the company began its preliminary negotiations with the Yamazaki Company Ltd., which culminated in the establishment of a jointly owned and operated manufacturing subsidiary.
The company, known as the Weaver-Yamazaki Pharmaceutical Co, Ltd. of Japan, was officially organized in the summer of 1954. Initially, the new company only manufactured a limited line of products. However, through the combined effort of both parent companies, the subsidiary soon began to manufacture sufficiently broad lines of products to fill the general demands of the Japanese market. For the last several years, importation from the United States had been limited to highly specialized items.
The company did a substantial amount of research and development work on its own, though it was coordinated through a committee set up by the representatives or both parent companies to avoid unnecessary duplication or research effort The R&D group at the subsidiary had turned out a substantial number of new products, some of which were marketed successfully in the United States and elsewhere.
The management of the Weaver Company looked upon the Japanese operations as one of the most successful international ventures it had undertaken. It felt that the future prospect looked quite promising with steady improvement in the standard of living in Japan.
The subsidiary was headed by Mr. Shozo Suzuki, as president, and Mr. Leonard Prescott as executive vice-president. Since Mr. Suzuki was executive vice-president of the parent company and also was president of several other subsidiaries, his participation in the company was limited to determination of basic policies. Day-to-day operations were managed by Mr. Prescott as executive vice-president and general manager.
He had an American executive assistant, Mr. Higgins, and several Japanese directors who assisted him in various phases of the operations. Though several other Americans were assigned to the Japanese ventures, they were primarily concerned with research and development and held no overall management responsibilities. The Weaver Company had a policy of moving American personnel around from one foreign post to another with occasional tours of duty in the international division of the home office.
The period they spent in a country generally ranged from three to five years. Since there were only a limited number of Americans working in the international operations of the company, the personnel policy was rather flexible. For example, it frequently allowed a man to stay in the country for an indefinite period of time, if he desired to. As a result of this policy, there were, though few in number, those Americans who had stayed in one foreign post over 10 years.
The working relationship with the Japanese executives had been generally satisfactory, though there had been a number of minor irritations, which the companies believed were to be expected from any joint venture. The representatives of both parent companies were well aware or these pitfalls and tried to work out solutions to these problems amicably. Mr. Leonard Prescott arrived in Japan in 1960 to replace Mr. Richard Densely who had been in Japan since 1954. Mr. Prescott had been described as an “old hand” at international work, having spent most of his 25-year career with the company in its international work.
He had served in India, the Philippines and Mexico prior to coming to Japan. He had also spent several years in the international division of the company in New York. He was delighted with the challenge to expand further the Japanese operations. After two years of experience in Japan, he was pleased with the progress the company had made and felt a certain sense of accomplishment in developing a smooth functioning organization.
He became concerned, however with the notable changes in Mr. Higgins’ attitude and thinking. Mr. Higgins, in the opinion of Mr. Prescott, had absorbed and internalized the Japanese culture to such a point where he had lost the United States point of view and orientation. He had ‘”‘gone native,” so to speak, in Japan which resulted in a substantial loss of his administrative effectiveness as a bi-cultural and -lingual executive assistant Mr. Higgins was born in a small Midwestern town.
After completing his high school education there in 1950, he went on to attend a large state university nearby, where he planned to major in accounting. During his junior year at college, he was drafted into the Army. After his basic training, he was given an opportunity to attend the Army Language School for an intensive training in a foreign language, providing that he would extend his period of enlistment for another year.
Since he had taken much interest in foreign languages, primarily German and Spanish during his high school and college days, he decided to volunteer for this assignment, knowing that the Army would decide the language for him to study. He was enrolled in. a Japanese language section with several others.
After fifteen months of intensive training in the language, he was assigned as an interpreter and translator to the Intelligence Detachment in Tokyo. Shortly after he arrived in Tokyo, he was selected to do more intensive work with Japanese and he attended an advanced course emphasizing reading and writing.
By the time he completed the program, he was able to read news-papers and political and economic journals of a fairly sophisticated level. His assignment at the Intelligence unit consisted primarily of going over Japanese newspapers and periodicals and translating those parts which were of interest to the United States Army. While he was in Japan, he took evening courses in the Japanese language, literature and history at a well-known Japanese university in Tokyo.
At the same time, he acquired many Japanese friends whom he visited quite frequently in his off-duty time. He thoroughly fell in love with the Japanese culture and determined to return to live in Japan for some time. Immediately upon his release from the Armed Forces in 1957, he returned to college to resume his education. Though he had thought seriously about majoring in Japanese, upon close examination, he decided against it for several reasons.
First of all, he felt that majoring in the language would limit his career to teaching or to specialized forms of government service, neither of which he wanted. Secondly, this would mean many more years of intensive graduate study leading to a terminal degree. Finally, he was desirous of using the language as a means rather than as an end in itself. For these reasons, he decided to finish his college work in business management.
In 1958 he graduated from the university with honor and took a position as a management trainee with the International Division of the Weaver Pharmaceutical Company. The company had a policy of assigning new international trainees to domestic operations for a period of six months to get him acquainted with the overall company operations.
They then were given six months to one year training at the InternationalDivision of the company in New York prior to an assignment overseas. In the fall of 1959, Mr. Higgins, having successfully completed both of the training programs, was assigned to the Japanese operations as executive assistant to the general manager, Mr. Richard Densely.
He was pleased with his first overseas assignment. He was anxious to return to Japan not only because of his interest in the Japanese language and culture, but also for the opportunity to do something about improving the “Ugly American” image many Americans had created in Japan.
Because of his ability of the language and his intense interest in Japan he was able to assess the attitude toward the United States of far broader segments of the Japanese population than was possible for many. He noted that Americans had a tendency of imposing their value systems, ideals and thinking patterns upon the Japanese, because many of them were under the illusion that anything American was universally right and applicable.
They did not, in his opinion, show much desire to understand and appreciate the finer points of the Japanese culture. Generally their adaptations to the Japanese culture did not so beyond developing a taste for a few typical Japanese dishes or learning a few simple Japanese sentences. He had felt indignant on numerous occasions over the inconsiderate attitudes of many Americans he had observed in Japan and was determined to do something about it.
His responsibilities as executive assistant under Mr. Densely covered a wide scope of activities ranging from trouble shooting with major Japanese customers, attending trade meetings, negotiating with the government officials, conducting marketing research projects and helping out Mr. Densely in day-to-day administration of the firm. Mr. Densely was well pleased with Mr. Higgins’ performance and relied heavily upon his judgment because of his keen insight into Japan.
When Mr. Prescott took over the Japanese operations in 1960, he found Mr. Higgins’ assistance indispensable in many aspects of the operations. For the next two years, he depended much upon Mr. Higgins’ advice on many difficult and complex administrative and organizational problems. Mr. Prescott found him to be a capable administrative assistant and staff member.
However, Mr. Prescott began to note a gradual change in Mr. Higgins’ basic values and attitude. Mr. Higgins, in Mr. Prescott’s opinion, had become critical of the company’s policy in managing the Japanese operations and Prescott became increasingly apprehensive of his effectiveness as an executive assistant. He attributed this change to his complete emotional involvement with the Japanese culture, with a consequent loss of objectivity and identification with the U.S. point of view.