In general, Japanese companies don’t define job descriptions clearly. This often makes a mismatch surrounding new graduates and lets them quit their companies. For example, a new graduate, whose major is software engineering, especially GPU computing, had gotten a job in a famous IT company in Japan. But, his responsibility was to maintain a main frame written in COBOL. He could not put up with such a job and quit his company. If his company explained the job description at the interview, he didn’t join the company. You can read many stories like this in Japanese blog, Twitter and so on.
Many Japanese companies show unclear job description like the following;
- Strong passion.
- A positive attitude.
- Take responsibility for everything.
- Work as a member of us.
- Curve out the future.
In fact, Japanese game developers are the same. I’ve talked about this with the top executives of some companies. Their thought is the next.
“If the company defines the job descriptions clearly, it makes the employees lack flexibility. They do only what is written in the description. Defining nothing makes the employees flexible. A game development is complex and sometimes in difficult troubles, but if we keep the employee flexible, they volunteer to solve the trouble.”
“Defining nothing make employees flexible”… It doesn’t make a sense for me, but I’ve heard the phrase from over 10 people. Perhaps it is Japanese common understanding and old Japanese virtue. However, I can’t believe the virtue is still alive. I’m sure defining nothing makes some employees irresponsible. I know there are some flexible employees, but they work instead of irresponsible employees. For example;
- Requirements for game designers aren’t defined, so many designers can’t write script code and operate level design tools. Some of them think their specialty is speaking ideas and criticize other ideas. Well, does who write game script code and operate level design tools? It’s an engineer or a 3D artist!
- UI/UX designer is not defined in many companies. This causes the same problem as above. Today, UI/UX is designed on tools like Flash. Some designers can use the tools to implement their UI/UX ideas, but others can’t. To make up for this shortage, some engineers have to act as Flash operator. Some 2D artists really don’t think operating the tools to design is not their responsibility.
- In the above example, you can replace any words with other jobs’. (e.g. Animator is not defined, so engineers have to create Animation State Machine data and maintain it…)
- Some companies don’t define which job should manage the development process. So nobody learn about it and nobody do that. Some people (e.g. engineers) volunteer a process manager with working overtime, or an amateur manages a process and compel overwork. But, their salary won’t be raised. I said the companies don’t define a process manager. It means that the companies don’t define its worth.
It’s chaos… I think there are two big problems.
One of them is low productivity. The development style like the above is not acceptable to rapid iterative development. In the style, the relationship of plural employees are required in an iteration. It’s really slow and a cause of working overtime. If an employee acquires the appropriate skills and knowledge, he/she can go over an iteration himself/herself, but he/she isn’t motivated and don’t know what skill he/she should learn.
It’s second problem: No information about a job means no motivation and no direction to acquire new skills. Whether a employee learn something depends on his/her personal motivation.
For example, let me say that you thought a procedural technology was very important. You had paid for Houdini yourself, had been learning for a long time in your private time and finally acquired it. I think you’re an amazing developer, but officially just a hobbyist who likes Houdini. The company might not applaud you and raise your salary.
In another case, a 2D/UI artist started to learn Maya. She thought she should have had to acquire something new skill, but Maya was not appropriate. Because the company needed more UX designers. If she wanted to learn 3D, it was no problem, but she didn’t. However, there was no direction. So anybody can’t recommend that she started something else.
I wrote about unclear job descriptions in Japanese game developers. I think it’s a fatal problem. Some people think that a life time employment system in Japan makes them write unclear job descriptions. But, I don’t think so. It’s just corner-cutting. The developers can add more details to job descriptions. It isn’t difficult, I believe.