“Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster.” – Dr. Geert Hofstede (Beyond your Borders).
The movie Gung Ho (a Chinese expression for “work together”), demonstrates a cross-cultural relationship between the Americans and the Japanese working together towards achieving the goal of reviving an American car manufacturing plant (Assan Motors) (Definition of Gung Ho).
However, conflict arises due to the tremendously different cultures and work ethics of the two groups. In the beginning of the movie, Oishi Kazihiro is in a training camp for failing executives. He has been a failure in his business career thus far because he is too lenient on his workers. He is tagged with countless banners and it is screaming particular phrases repetitively.
This shows the dedication and rigorous conformity required in the Japanese work culture and the often extreme methods used to achieve satisfactory work demeanor. When Michael Keaton meets with the Japanese board of directors, there are several cultural differences he encounters. The first is during the presentation he blatantly asks “do you guys speak English?” to which one of the Japanese businessmen belligerently replies “yes.” Later during the presentation, Mr. Keaton takes a more relaxed demeanor, making politically incorrect remarks and profanities, to which the Japanese business men do not laugh or even adjust their rigid manner. Finally at the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Keaton asks if anyone has any questions and seeing it rude to ask questions, the Japanese business men all remain silent. Mr. Keaton went to Japan because local auto plant in Hadleyville, Pennsylvania, which supplied most of the town’s jobs, has been closed for nine months.
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As the former foreman for the plant, Mr. Keaton goes to Tokyo to try to convince the Assan Motors Corporation to reopen the plant and produce their automobiles there. The closure of North American plants to outsource for cheaper or better quality automobile production is a common recurrence throughout North American. During the first day of work, the Japanese executives wish to begin the day with calisthenics, to which the Americans also find comical and refuse to perform. When Mr. Keaton goes to meet with the Japan executives, they all give them a business card, a customary action during a Japanese business meeting, to which Mr. Keaton mocks. Japanese executives eat their lunches with chopsticks and bathe together in the river near the factory which the American works find both absurd and mock as well. Finally one of the Japanese overseers refuses to allow one of the American employees to take a newspaper into the bathroom to read; which is a norm in American culture.
The Japanese introduce job rotation so that every man is capable of performing every job. As oppose to the previous American methodology of allowing each employee to specialize in a specific job on the production line, the Japanese demand that each man can perform any job with quality and effectiveness. In Japanese factories, all employees are able to do so, and this is expected of the American employees. There are many scenes in the movie that show the individual and collective business culture differences between Japan and American. The most impressive ones involve focus on the family. From the Japanese perspective, Kenji’s wife ask him to assemble the bicycle which is a birthday gift for his son, but he refuses because he’s busy doing work and by doing so, has clearly chosen to put Assan Motors before his son’s happiness. As a result, his wife becomes mad at him and shouts “why American men can have time for their children!”
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It clearly shows that Japanese are so collective that they will even sacrifice their family for the interest of the company. While the Americans who show more individual seldom or won’t do that. Quality is extremely important to the Japanese executives. From the moment they arrive in the American plant, they pride themselves on the superiority of their automobiles in comparison to American automobiles. In order to achieve this, they hold to the employees to seemingly impossible standards of efficiency and quality.
They are constantly critiquing the employee’s work on the car demanding that their methods of productions be adapted in the plant. Oishi Kazihiro explains to Mr. Keaton several times the pride that Japanese workers take in their work and the extent they are willing to go to in order to get their work done; staying after hours with no pay to complete their work. Also the incredible amount of shame they experience if their company does poorly. The Japanese refuse to even produce cars of subpar standards and when the CEO arrives, he refuses to count any cars with minor imperfections.
Beyond your borders: Overcoming cultural differences that so often cause
conflict. Retrieved on November 17, 2013, from http://globaleduc.wordpress.com/2011/07/19/beyond-your-borders-overcoming-cultural-differences-that-so-often-cause-conflict/ Definition for Gung Ho. Retrieved on November 17, 2013, from http://www.definitions.net/definition/gung%20ho
Gung Ho. Retrieved on November 16, 2013, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cj1p- loLdWI
Gung Ho Movie Analysis. Retrieved on November 16, 2013, from http://schoolworkhelper.net/gung-ho-movie-analysis/