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Multiskilling, Delegation, and Continuous Process Improvement: A Comparative Analysis of U.S.-Japanese Work Organizations

  • Hodaka Morita

    (University of New South Wales and Cornell University)

This paper focuses on the following U.S.-Japanese differences in work organizations and labor market practices: in Japanese firms, (i) real decision-making authority is delegated more to lower hierarchical levels, (ii) employees are multiple-skilled, (iii) human capital accumulation is more firm-specific, (iv) labor turnover rate is lower, and (v) continuous process improvement is more prevalent. I present a model that addresses interconnections among three key features of work organizations (multiskilling, delegation, and continuous process improvement), and analyses ways in which they are related to labor market practices. It analyses strategic interactions among firms concerning their choices of the nature of work organizations, and shows that strategic complementarity due to labor market externality can yield the multiplicity of equilibria, which provides a systematic explanation for the U.S.-Japanese differences.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Labor and Demography with number 0207004.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: 10 Aug 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpla:0207004
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 35; figures: none
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  1. Richard C. Levin & Alvin K. Klevorick & Richard R. Nelson & Sidney G. Winter, 1987. "Appropriating the Returns from Industrial Research and Development," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 18(3), pages 783-832.
  2. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521571371 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Itoh, Hideshi, 1994. "Job design, delegation and cooperation: A principal-agent analysis," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(3-4), pages 691-700, April.
  4. Richard C. Levin & Alvin K. Klevorick & Richard R. Nelson & Sidney G. Winter, 1988. "Appropriating the Returns from Industrial R&D," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 862, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  5. Carmichael, H Lorne & MacLeod, W Bentley, 1993. "Multiskilling, Technical Change and the Japanese Firm," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(416), pages 142-60, January.
  6. Bulow, Jeremy I & Geanakoplos, John D & Klemperer, Paul D, 1985. "Multimarket Oligopoly: Strategic Substitutes and Complements," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(3), pages 488-511, June.
  7. Cooper, Russell & John, Andrew, 1988. "Coordinating Coordination Failures in Keynesian Models," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 103(3), pages 441-63, August.
  8. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "Rationalizability, Learning, and Equilibrium in Games with Strategic Complementarities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(6), pages 1255-77, November.
  9. Acemoglu, Daron & Pischke, Jörn-Steffen, 1996. "Why do Firms Train? Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 1460, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Itoh, Hideshi, 1992. "Cooperation in Hierarchical Organizations: An Incentive Perspective," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(2), pages 321-45, April.
  11. Greenwald, Bruce C, 1986. "Adverse Selection in the Labour Market," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(3), pages 325-47, July.
  12. Masahiko Aoki, 2013. "Horizontal vs. Vertical Information Structure of the Firm," Chapters, in: Comparative Institutional Analysis, chapter 5, pages 57-58 Edward Elgar.
  13. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Job Matching and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 972-90, October.
  14. Mansfield, Edwin, 1988. "Industrial R&D in Japan and the United States: A Comparative Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 223-28, May.
  15. Mincer, Jacob & Higuchi, Yoshio, 1988. "Wage structures and labor turnover in the United States and Japan," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 97-133, June.
  16. Chun Chang & Wang, Yijiang, 1995. "A framework for understanding differences in labor turnover and human capital investment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 91-105, September.
  17. Morita, Hodaka, 2001. "Choice of Technology and Labour Market Consequences: An Explanation of U.S.-Japanese Differences," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(468), pages 29-50, January.
  18. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521577724 is not listed on IDEAS
  19. Itoh, Hideshi, 1991. "Incentives to Help in Multi-agent Situations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(3), pages 611-36, May.
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