William Ouchi, Temp staffing and Yoshiko Shinohara

William Ouchi, a management graduate from Stanford University is well known for his Theory Z. He felt that life time employment given by Japanese companies to its workers encouraged them to become loyal to organisation and come thereby resulted in high level of quality and productivity. This book was written during 80s when Japanese economy was booming.

William’s book Theory Z become best seller and Theory Z was included in syllabus of management schools all over the world.

While William was praising Japanese concept of lifetime employment in US, in Japan a lady  had come up with idea of supplying temp staff to Japanese companies. Supplying temp staff in country that took pride in lifetime employment was nothing short of blasphemy.

“Lifetime employment was the norm in Japan, and temping by private companies was banned, so I was often summoned by the Ministry of Labor.”

Yoshiko Shinohara in HBR

The lady, Yoshiko Shinohara, unlike Ouchi was not even a college graduate. She got her first job in 1953, at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., she later went to Australia in 1971 and joined a local marketing firm as a secretary. She moved back to Japan and started a staffing agency called TempStaff. TempStaff was started in her one bedroom flat in Tokyo with desk and telephone.

“The first several years were really hard…Everything was definitely tough back then. I didn’t know what to do.”

Yoshiko Shinohara in The Japan Times

She first started by supplying typists and secretaries who were fluent in English to Japanese and foreign companies. At that time activity of supplying temp staff was not considered legal, Yoshiko could have landed in jail. But she along with other temp staffing agencies lobbied hard and law allowing temp staffing was passed.

“I used to say to myself: “I wonder what it’s like in jail. How big are the rooms? Is there a toilet or a window?””

Yoshiko Shinohara in HBR

Initially her organisation has only women staff, but she found that women were risk averse, they were more interested in operations than seeking business. So, she took next revolutionary step, she started hiring men, and this improved sales.

So in 1988, I said, “How about if we put some men in here?” The managers said, “No, thank you, we don’t need any of those creatures.” But we did need them. A branch happened to hire a man as a part-timer, and wow, did sales increase! That was the turning point.

Yoshiko Shinohara in HBR

After 90s Japanese economy started stagnating, this was good news for TempStaff. Their business grew and company continues to grow. Today Yoshiko is a billionaire.

Yoshiko does not hesitate to take bold decisions, she left her husband because she didn’t see any future with him.


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