La principale caractéristique des entreprises modernes est le développement considérable, nécessaire à leur activité, des hiérarchies de gestion qui, dès leur apparition, ont fait l'objet de multiples analyses. M. Weber a indiqué que l'organisation bureaucratique « ne se rencontre pas seulement dans l'État et les administrations publiques, mais aussi dans l'administration capitaliste privée où elle est devenue le principe structurel des grandes entreprises ».
The Chandlerian model of hierarchy of compagnies describes structures which have the pretention of being rational and universal. However, this model does not adequately describe the modem Japanese firm. The latter is structurally different from the American firm. While American companies are founded upon functionally departmentalized structures Japanese firms are founded upon direct line structure. Rather than being, as in the United States, lower-level executives under the surveillance of the company heads and deprived of any initiative with regard to investment, in Japan, the directors of operational units are upper-level executives of the firm. Since they are responsible for production, these operational units are in direct contact with the decision-making centers of the compagny. This different distribution of company hierarchies is the product of the history of work relations themselves in Japan and the United States. In Japan, these hierarchical structures born into a context of lack of qualified labor, are the consequence of the interiorisation of the distribution of resources. They are the reflection of the emphasis in Japan placed upon the organisation of labor, upon the internal management of human resources linked to the importance within the company of the existence of an internai work market.