Managers in the Making: Careers, Development and Control in Corporate Britain and Japan


John Storey, Paul Edwards & Keith Sisson

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    Biographical Notes

    John Storey is Professor of Human Resource Management at The Open University Business School. He is editor of the Human Resource Management Journal.

    Paul Edwards is Professor of Industrial Relations and Deputy Director of the Industrial Relations Research Unit, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick. He is the editor of Work, Employment and Society.

    Keith Sisson is Professor of Industrial Relations, Warwick Business School, and Director of the Industrial Relations Research Unit, University of Warwick. He is the editor of Personnel Management (first edition 1989, second edition 1994).


    The analysis presented in this book results from a detailed and systematic comparative study of British and Japanese managers and the way they are ‘made’. The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) over a three-year period. The fieldwork was conducted in Britain and Japan.

    The study was one of the lead projects in the ESRC's Competitiveness of British Industry Initiative. This initiative was launched in order to encourage a coordinated assault on the underlying sources of competitive success in economic enterprises. A team of scholars (at that time all located at the University of Warwick) was awarded a grant to undertake comparative case studies in Britain and Japan. The aim was to understand, describe, and evaluate the dynamics at play in the way managers were made in these countries.

    The Warwick team included Keith Sisson, Paul Edwards, John Storey, Ian Gow and Lola Okazaki-Ward. The last two subsequently relocated to the University of Stirling. Ian Gow was a member of the group which produced the ‘Handy report’ published in 1987 under the title The Making of Managers (Handy, 1987). His long-standing and in-depth knowledge of Japan gave a sound foundation for the study reported here. Lola Okazaki-Ward was born in Japan and had previous experience working for a Japanese company in Europe. Her facility with the Japanese language enabled in-depth interviews to be conducted with all levels of management in Japan. It also allowed other methods of data collection including, for example, the translation of company documentation into English. Both Ian Gow and Lola Okazaki-Ward made invaluable contributions to the success of the ESRC research project.

    We also acknowledge the help given by the many managers and other officials in both Britain and Japan. In Britain, managers at Lucas, National Westminster Bank, British Telecom and Tesco were generous with their time and helpful with accounts of their experiences. In Japan, managers at Sumitomo, Mitsui Trust and Banking, NTT and Jusco were genial and cooperative. They submitted themselves to a style of questioning which went well beyond the norm in Western studies of Japan. Our special thanks also go to Dr Miyai, President of the Japan Productivity Centre; to the Japan Management Association; to Professor Koichi Ito of Chiba University; and to Mr Yasuo Tanaka, Managing Director and Main Board Member of Sumitomo Electrical Industries.

    With the combined efforts of the five members of the research team, and the generous help of the many practitioners who contributed enthusiastically, it became possible to construct a detailed picture of managers and management development in the two countries.

    KeithSisson March 1997
  • Appendix A: Sample and Methods


    Our questionnaire and interview survey was directed at ‘middle managers’. As is well known, this is a notoriously difficult group to define. Indeed, even the definition of ‘manager’ and ‘management’ has provoked lengthy and often inconclusive debate (see Grint, 1995). As noted in an earlier study, there is little point in ‘trying to define the undefinable’; it is preferable to identify ‘an important role in the social division of labour and [investigate] its occupants’ (Edwards, 1987: 7). In the present case, we focused as far as possible on managers responsible for distinct operating units such as a bank branch or a major retail store. We also included managers in head office functions such as planning and purchasing. The rule of thumb was that they should be on grades equivalent to those of managers running operating units. The goal was to obtain a group of experienced and knowledgeable managers who were well above the ranks of junior management and who might be expected to provide the top managers of the future.

    The samples were selected in cooperation with each company. We cannot claim, therefore, to have strictly random samples. But we used similar methods in all eight firms, and obtained a sample which covered a range of positions from the very senior to rather lower levels. We categorized managers into three levels, and carried out tests using the main dependent variables of interest. There were no notable differences, which suggests two things. First, we can speak of managers as a group. Second, differences in the structure of the sample between firms do not seem to have vitiated the results.

    There is one particular feature of the sampling that must be underlined. In the case of Jusco, the majority of the sample was drawn from managers who were attending or had recently attended a high-level training course. This fact may inflate reported levels of training in this one firm. It may also be thought that this group will be in some way special, perhaps in having a favourable attitude generally towards the company. As our results show, however, in many respects they were more discontented than managers in the other companies, so that we do not think that this particular source of the sample biased the results.

    We aimed to include at least 25 managers from each company for the self-completion questionnaire. Because of the strong cooperation with the companies, we had no refusals to participate, which adds considerably to the weight we can place on the replies. The target was achieved or exceeded in all cases, as shown in Table A.1.

    Table A.1 Number of questionnaire returns, by company

    The questionnaire itself is reproduced in Appendix B. It was designed in Britain for the Japanese sample, and translated by members of the research team, whose knowledge of the Japanese language and business context ensured that questions were meaningful as well as comparable with those used in Britain. Many of the questions about careers were drawn from previous surveys, or sought factual information, or both. We can thus treat them as reasonably reliable and valid instruments. Our project-specific questions were interrogated in various ways. First, as described below, we used reliability tests when we combined answers to form a scale. Second, we considered the replies in the light of knowledge about the British and Japanese contexts. Third, we used interview material to explore the meaning underlying the replies. As our discussion in the text shows, for example in relation to career planning and training indicates, we did not treat replies at face value and instead explored their underlying significance.

    Interviews were carried out with all the 132 British managers and around half their Japanese counterparts. They were structured around questionnaire replies, and were used primarily to explore themes in detail but were also useful in sorting out any ambiguities or uncertainties about the questionnaire itself. Their purpose was to allow managers to enlarge on themes of particular interest, and they were thus loosely structured. Interviews generally lasted at least an hour, and often longer.

    Statistical Methods

    Where replies, for example on evaluation methods, were combined into one index we use reliability tests. These tests measure whether the separate components are correlated with each other and thus whether they form one ‘reliable’ scale. They also provide a test of additivity, that is, whether the (arbitrary) scoring schemes in fact allow scores to be added together. It may be, for example, that a scale of 1 to 5 does not work. The implication is that the distance between 1 and 2 (‘strongly agree’ and ‘agree’) is the same as that between 4 and 5 (‘disagree’ and ‘strongly disagree’). Taking the example of evaluation scores in Chapter 7, the reliability coefficient alpha was 0.81 and no problems of additivity were detected. In one other case, there were problems of additivity, as explained at the relevant points of the text.

    Loglinear techniques were used to assess patterns of replies in situations where we wished to explore whether a ‘country’ or a ‘sector’ effect was present, or whether there was an interaction between the two. Loglinear models take a familiar contingency table and test how far various models can reproduce the figures in the table. In the present case, we have three variables: a dependent variable, sector (with one category for each of the four sectors) and country (Britain or Japan). The most complex, or ‘saturated’, model allows for each variable to be associated with each of the others and for an interaction between all three. An interaction effect means that the strength of the relationship between any two variables depends on the level of the third. By definition a saturated model fits the data exactly. The interesting question is whether the data can be represented by simpler models. There are two key criteria in testing for this. First, the goodness of ft is measured by the likelihood ratio, G2. Its significance is tested by the chi-square statistic. A saturated model has a G2 of zero and a chi-square statistic of 1.0. Other models can be tested against this benchmark, with a low G2 and a high chi-square being the criteria; a chi-square of 0.05 is conventionally seen as the lowest acceptable level. Second, the difference between the actual value of an observation and the value expected from the model is assessed. The ‘standardized residuals’ for each cell should be no larger than 1.96 or smaller than −1.96.

    In addition to knowing whether a model is significant, in the sense of coming close to the data in a way that is unlikely to have arisen by chance, it is important to consider its strength; a relationship can be significant but very weak. The strength of a model may be assessed by comparing its G2 with that of the simplest model. This simplest model is the ‘grand mean’ model which assumes that all cell frequencies are identical. In the present case, we can write S for sector, C for country and V for substantive variable of interest. Consider the example of closeness of evaluation (see Chapter 7). The interaction of all three in the saturated model is represented as [V, S, C). A model in which V and S were associated but which included only the main effects of C is written [V, S], C. A test of no association between any of the variables is V, S, C; and so on. The results in Table A.2 may be noted:

    Table A.2 Loglinear results for closeness of evaluation

    Model 5 fits the data very well, with a G2 barely higher than that of the model including an association between V and C. The worst standardized residual was −1.14. We can therefore conclude that there was a significant relationship between sector and closeness of evaluation; that there was no country effect; and that the relationship was also strong as indicated by the reduction in G2 as compared with that of the grand mean model.

    Analysis of variance may be used where the dependent variable is continuous. As with loglinear methods, it conveniently tests for interactions between variables. We used the technique to examine variations in scores on our measure of attitudes to evaluation. The substantive results are detailed in Chapter 7.

    Appendix B: Questionnaire

    University of Warwick Management Development Project: Self-completion Questionnaire

    Strictly Confidential

    Name…………… Male/FemaleAge: under 30
    60 or over
    Company ……………
    Your work location ……………

    Present Job

    • Current job title……………
    • Current job responsibilities (main 2)
    • How long in present post? (number of years) ……………….
    • How long with present organization? (number of years)……….


    • At what age was your first managerial appointment? (please tick appropriate answer)

      under 25 years old 26–29 30–35 36–40 over 40

    • At what age did you take up your first full-time job?

      under 18 years old 18–20 21–25 over 25 years old

    • Was it in this organization?
      • yes, but in different division or company
      • yes, and in same division or company
      • no

      (If yes go to question 11, if no continue.)

    • In how many previous organizations have you worked full-time? (excluding student vacation work)

      1–2 3–5 more than 5

    • In what industries or sectors were these previous organizations? (Tick the relevant ones below.)
      • primary
      • manufacturing
      • construction
      • public utilities
      • transport & communication
      • retail & distribution
      • public administration & defence
      • finance
      • other (please specify) ……………………
    • In which functions had you worked before entering this organization?

      (Tick the relevant ones below.)

      • finance
      • sales, marketing
      • personnel
      • planning
      • production
      • administration
      • maintenance
      • R&D
      • purchasing
      • management trainee
      • systems, computing
      • quality assurance
      • other (please specify) …………………
    • Approximately how many previous different posts did you hold before entering this organization (i.e. total number of different job positions in previous organizations)?
      • 1–3
      • 4–9
      • 10 or more
    • When you joined this firm did you take up your present post?
      • yes (2) no

      (If yes go to question 14, if no continue.)

    • In which functions have you worked in this organization? (Please tick the relevant ones below.)
      • finance
      • sales, marketing
      • personnel
      • planning
      • production
      • administration
      • maintenance
      • R&D
      • purchasing
      • management trainee
      • systems, computing
      • quality assurance
      • other (please specify) …………………
    • Approximately how many separate posts have you held in this company?
      • 1–3
      • 4–6
      • 7 or more
    • Have you worked in other divisions?

      (1) yes (2) no

    • If yes, how many?

      (1) 1–2 (2) 3 or more

    • Has your career with this company always been at this location or in other parts of the organization as well?

      (1) always here (2) other locations

      (If others as well continue, if always here go to question 23.)

    • At how many other locations have you worked?

      (1) 1–2 (2) 3 or more

    • Apart from the take-up of your first appointment have you ever moved house to pursue a job move?

      (1) yes (2) no

    • If yes, how many times have you moved for this reason?
    • If yes, in which geographical regions and countries have you been in full-time employment? (Tick as appropriate.)
      • North East (including Yorkshire & Humberside)
      • North West
      • Midlands
      • East Anglia
      • London & South East
      • South & South West
      • Wales
      • Scotland
      • Other country (please specify) …………….
    • Have you worked at HQ?

      (1) yes, in past (2) yes, currently (3) no

      (If yes, continue, if no go to question 23.)

    • Did this involve a change of job function?

      (1) yes (2) no

    Company Procedures

    • How were you recruited?
      • answered advertisement
      • joined from school
      • graduate milkround
      • via a careers office
      • direct approach from the company
      • indirect approach from the company via executive search
      • unsolicited application
      • other………………
    • What was the method of selection?
      • one interview
      • two or more interviews
      • assessment centre activity
      • written tests
      • other (please specify) ……………
    • Thinking of your present post, how certain are you of the priority objectives set by the organization? (Select from the statements below the one which best approximates your view.)
      • key objectives are clearly specified in writing
      • key objectives are usually not written but I have no difficulty in knowing what they are
      • objectives are written but they form only a broad guide
      • objectives are not written and there is some uncertainty about key objectives from time to time
      • other (please specify) …………
    • Would you say that your performance is:

      In a formal wayInformally
      (1) closely evaluated
      (2) broadly evaluated
      (3) occasionally evaluated
      (4) not evaluated
      (5) don't know

    • (If evaluated to any degree) How is the evaluation done? (Tick all relevant answers.)
      • by means of an annual appraisal procedure
      • by an appraisal procedure more than once a year
      • by comparing results of my unit with predefined targets
      • by comparing certain indices of my performance with targets
      • other (please specify)…………
      • don't know
    • What is your opinion about the system used to evaluate your performance? (To answer: for each of the concepts a to f listed below, mark one of the 5 appropriate gradations. For example, if you consider the evaluation system to be marginally more fair than unfair you would put a tick on the second line under column 2.)

      • efficient………………………inefficient
      • fair………………………….unfair
      • effective………………………ineffective
      • outdated……………………modern
      • sophisticated…………………crude
      • accurate………………………inaccurate
      • other appropriate dimension?

    Reward System

    • Which of the following describes the way I which you are remunerated? (Tick as many as are applicable.)
      • annual award
      • annual award tied to profitability of whole company
      • annual award tied to profitability of my unit
      • annual award tied to some other performance measure
      • company discretion
      • individual negotiation
      • outcome of appraisal affects pay
      • bonuses are an important component
      • other (specify) …………………………
    • What is your opinion about the way managers in this company are remunerated?
      • helps to motivate agree/disagree
      • is unfair agree/disagree
      • is inefficient agree/disagree
      • needs reform agree/disagree
    • Do you own shares in the company?

      (1) yes (2) no

      (If yes continue, if no go to question 34.)

    • Have you purchased them under a company scheme offering special terms to employees?

      (1) yes (2) no

    • To what extent do you regard your share holding as a factor affecting the way you perform?
      • very much
      • a little
      • not at all
      • not sure
    • Which of the following considerations would you say motivates you in your work?

    Career Paths

    • Are there generally recognizable career paths in this organization?
      • yes, clearly recognizable
      • yes, but only broadly recognizable
      • not really, though intermittent traces exist
      • no recognizable paths
      • other…………………………………
    • Is there any system of career planning?
      • yes
      • no
      • don't know
    • If yes to above, how well do you think it works?
      • very well
      • quite well
      • not very well
      • very satisfactorily

    Management Training and Development

    • Which of the activities on the following list is currently used in this organization to develop managers? Which have you personally experienced?

    • How would you evaluate each of these methods for you personally and for other managers?

    • Who do you think is mainly responsible for management development and who do you think should be responsible? (Rank order the main 3.)

    • To what extent, in practice, does the average manager at your level take an active interest in developing the people who report to them?
      • to a very great extent (is on par with other top priorities)
      • to a moderate extent
      • to a small extent
      • under pressure of everyday reality it tends to be neglected
    • Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    • What do you regard as the most influential factors which helped you personally to grow as a manager? (Rank the main 3 from the list.)
      • education
      • family influences
      • a role model in this organization
      • a role model in another organization
      • certain training programmes
      • private study
      • a mentor/coach
      • wide experience of life
      • wide experience of challenging assignments
      • self-development techniques
      • nothing specific, it just happened
      • early exposure to responsible position
      • other (please specify) …………………
    • Looking at the list again which are the two least important factors?

    Trends and Changes

    • Against each of the following please say whether you think the tendency in this organization is towards an increase or decrease.

    • From the list below please indicate your own two most important future training needs and then the two most generally needed by most other managers in this organization.

    • Is direct negotiating experience with trade union representatives considered important for managers here?

      (1) very important (2) quite important (3) not at all

    • Has an immediate member of your family also occupied a managerial position?

      (1) yes (2) no

    • How would you locate your father's occupation within the following standard classifications:
      • professional
      • managerial
      • intermediate (supervisory; routine non-manual)
      • skilled manual
      • semi-skilled manual
      • unskilled manual
      • other ……………………
    • To what level of academic qualification were you educated?
      • Below ‘O’ level
      • ‘O’ levels
      • ‘A’ levels
      • degree
      • post-graduate
      • professional
      • diploma
      • other ……………………………………
    • Do you speak a foreign language?
      • Yes, fluently
      • Yes, with difficulty
      • No
    • If yes, tick which of the following languages you speak:
      • French
      • German
      • Spanish
      • Italian
      • Other (please state)…………………
    • Do you have any direct experience of foreign business?
      • yes, have worked overseas for more than 1 month
      • yes, make occasional overseas trips on business
      • yes, conduct foreign business from UK
      • no experience of foreign business
    • How many training days a year do you personally experience? (Use annual average over past 2 years.)
      • less than one
      • 1–5
      • 6–10
      • 11–15
      • 16 and over

    Thank you for taking time to complete this questionnaire. The answers will be treated confidentially. Aggregate scores will be used to trace patterns and to make comparisons with managers in other companies in Britain and Japan. If you have other comments to make please use the space on the back of this form or use an additional sheet.


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