Thursday, April 28, 2005

Management Accountability: Difference between Japanese and Singaporeans

One thing I admire about Japanese managers is their sense of responsibilty and ownership.

In yesterday’s report about the train accident in Osaka, we read that the top management of the Japanese railway company immediately submitted their resignations to bear responsibility for the tragedy. In today's BBC News website you can see a picture of the company chairman bowing and apologising to the public.

Some years ago, when a Japanese airliner crashed in Japan, the CEO of the airline also went to the crash site to apologise to the relatives of the casualties. It was reported that he received a mouthful from the grieving relatives.

Sad to say, we do not see this type of sense of responsibility and shame when things go wrong in Singapore. Consider the case of the national serviceman who was literally tortured to death during combat survival training in 2003, or the collision involving the RSS Courageous with the ANL Indonesia in 2003, or the Nicoll Highway collapse last year. In each case, did we see the top management apologize? Were they taken to task? Sadly, no. Only those directly involved were charged and punished.

On the other hand, whenever the top guns at these organizations, such as the ministers and deputy ministers, or permanent secretaries resign or retire, the newspapers will publish a long list of the achievements that took place during their term of office as if they were the ones who deserved all the credit.

And we wonder why Singaporean workers are so “disloyal”? And the HR managers accuse Singapore workers of changing jobs for just a few extra dollars.

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