Most of us are familiar with or have heard of the Toyota Production System and Lean Management Principles regarding Japanese management practices, but that's usually as far as it goes.
However, I learned from the late Norman Bodek, Founder of Productivity, Inc, and publisher of hundreds of books on Japanese management, that there are many other Japanese masters and philosophies.
One of the most impressive masters that Norman Bodek introduced me to was the work of Dr. Kazuo Inamori, Founder of Kyocera. I was so impressed by the work of Dr. Inamori I asked Norman if he could lead me to any companies that had adopted his principles.
That request led me to Nem Bajra, CEO of Calsoft Systems, Inc. In this article, I've captured what I believe are the 13 most essential and intriguing insights from my interview with him.
I believe you will find these insights provide an excellent introduction to Dr. Inamori's business philosophies and principles. Learn more at the Official Website of Kazuo Inamori here.
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13 Forward Thinking Insights
- We Have to Start With Our Basic Goodness and Inherent Wisdom as Human Beings
- Companies Without Well-Defined Principles Operate Based on Transactions
- Once We Have Adopted Certain Principles, Then We Need a Way to Practice Them
- Best Practices May Be Useful for Specific Companies
- Amoeba Management Allows People to See the Impact They Are Making, So They Become Fully Engaged
- If the Employee Asks the Boss, Then the Success Rate Goes to About 90%
- I Believe People Want to Express Their Good True Nature
- The Main Thing People Lack Is That They Are Not Aware of Their Life Purpose
- What Do You Need to Learn, and How Can We Help You?
- How Can I Create Value for the Company and Our Customers?
- Is My Intention Pure?
- We Have Management Principles, and Our Purpose Is to Practice Those Principles From Our Hearts
- Kindness and Compassion Are the Essences of Work
Question 1: How can we create workplaces where every voice matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?FORWARD-THINKING INSIGHT #1:
We Have to Start With Our Basic Goodness and Inherent Wisdom as Human Beings
Then based on our inherent wisdom, we have to introduce principles that are designed to bring out our basic goodness. Our principles help us create a workplace where we can all express ourselves. We have to introduce principles that are designed to bring out our basic goodness.FORWARD-THINKING INSIGHT #2:
Companies Without Well-Defined Principles Operate Based on Transactions
They make a specific product or provide a service, and in return, they get a certain amount of money. In that kind of company, they think of employees in the same way. The business hires employees for their labor and skill only. They think of business in terms of transactions. This distinction is the primary difference between what I learned from Dr. Inamori’s Kyocera philosophy which is principle-based versus what you will find in most business books.
When a business is transaction-based, there is always them and us. There are business owners, management, employees, and customers. There is still a big gap between them and us. And as long as the difference is there, nobody’s happy.FORWARD-THINKING INSIGHT #3:
Once We Have Adopted Certain Principles, Then We Need a Way to Practice Them
By practice, I mean that we don’t just understand them intellectually, but we follow them in our everyday work. When we practice principles from our hearts, then certain natural wisdom appears. Many people call that culture. Each company develops its own culture. It’s kind of a process and the way they do business. It’s also the way we behave among ourselves and how we treat customers. So this becomes natural wisdom that arises in the culture and becomes the way we do business.FORWARD-THINKING INSIGHT #4:
Best Practices May Be Useful for Specific Companies
Many companies and management consultants try to introduce best practices. Best practices may be useful for specific companies, but it doesn’t mean they’re suitable for our own company. Our needs and capabilities might be different. When we’re focused on our principles, we discover what matters most to us. We always remind ourselves of these principles, and then we practice them every day. Then out of that focus, we naturally see how we should do our work and treat each other.
Question 2: What does it take to get an employee’s full attention and best performance?FORWARD-THINKING INSIGHT #5:
Amoeba Management Allows People to See the Impact They Are Making, So They Become Fully Engaged
At Kyocera, Dr. Inamori introduced a concept called Amoeba Management. Amoeba Management is simply a small business unit. A business unit was defined by General Motors a long time ago. But an Amoeba business unit is different in the sense that it can be very small — even as few as two employees. This unit manages itself like a small business, where employees define their product, set their price, and manage their own accounting.FORWARD-THINKING INSIGHT #6:
If the Employee Asks the Boss, Then the Success Rate Goes to About 90%
One way I heard this is if a boss tells his employee to do something, and the employee does it just because the boss told him to do it, the success rate is about 25%. If the employee enjoys what the boss asks, and the employee accepts and believes it’s essential, the success rate goes up to about 55%. But if the employee asks the boss, “Boss, will you please allow me to do this? Then the success rate goes to about 90%. An Amoeba works like that. We don’t have to do anything special. The employees come up with their ideas, and they design the product. They know the market, and we provide all the logistics, funding, and training. We give them training on leadership. An amoeba always has a leader. It doesn’t matter if there are only two or three members. There is still a leader.
Question 3: What do people really lack and long for at work?FORWARD-THINKING INSIGHT #7:
I Believe People Want to Express Their Good True Nature
Very often, when people go to the workplace, they are not allowed to be themselves. They are required to play specific roles. For example, they have to do things in a certain way, and that’s all. Or they have to reduce costs, and that’s all. They comply and do the work because they have to earn their livelihood.
But most workplaces don’t allow an employee to become a wholesome person. They are just using their time, skills, and knowledge. When they first get their job, they are very happy. They take pride in having a job with a big company, good income, and an excellent opportunity for promotion. But once they start working, they somehow feel something is lacking, and that means that they are not able to be themselves.FORWARD-THINKING INSIGHT #8:
The Main Thing People Lack Is That They Are Not Aware of Their Life Purpose
Most employees really don’t know what they want when they join our company either. They only know that what they want is a good job. They want to succeed. They want to make money. They want to do exciting work. That’s all they know because that’s what they have heard.
What Dr. Inamori said on this is that it’s not only the company’s responsibility to have its vision and mission clarified, but each individual should identify his or her own life purpose as well. Most people are not aware of their life purpose and inner voice. And so to me, that’s what they lack most.
It’s not that they don’t have an inner voice; it’s because they don’t pay attention to it. They are not aware of their life purpose. They only chase success, money, and position. Eventually, the more they succeed, the more miserable they become.
Question 4: What is the most important question leaders should ask employees?FORWARD-THINKING INSIGHT #9:
What Do You Need to Learn, and How Can We Help You?
At Calsoft, we help employees identify their life purpose by assisting them in defining what they want to do. For example, they may say, “I want to be a senior consultant.” Maybe they don’t know their life purpose itself, but at least at this time, they know that they want to be a senior consultant. So then we ask them. “Okay, if you wish to be successful as a consultant, what does it take for you to get there?” Then we specifically ask them, “What skills do you need to master?” in three categories: People, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship.
Question 5: What is the most important question employees should ask leaders?FORWARD-THINKING INSIGHT #10:
How Can I Create Value for the Company and Our Customers?
Most employees know the technology or type of project they’d like to work on, but they don’t necessarily know how they can contribute to the company effectively. It’s just not enough. Each employee should learn how to create value. Value aligned with economic as well as non-economic value. For example, how else can they contribute to the company's vision, mission, or culture?
Question 6: What’s the most important question we can ask ourselves?FORWARD-THINKING INSIGHT #11:
Is My Intention Pure?
This is something I learned from Dr. Inamori. I should be asking myself, “Is my intention pure? Is my intention noble?” As the president or a senior executive with a lot of experience, I may become arrogant due to my title or expertise.
I always have to keep my intention pure and straightforward. Whatever my intention may be, it has to do something good for others. I think good and do good. So I have to keep asking that question every day.
Question 7: How has Dr. Inamori's philosophy impacted you and your company?FORWARD-THINKING INSIGHT #12:
We Have Management Principles, and Our Purpose Is to Practice Those Principles From Our Hearts
Since I started to practice the Inamori philosophy almost 14 years ago, my everyday work life has been very meaningful. I take joy in working very closely with my employees. Each day I listen to their challenges and concerns.
Before I learned the Inamori philosophy, employee problems used to bother me. I’m trying to run my company and employees are coming to me telling me they are sick, have to visit their family, etc. It used to frustrate me. But now I feel, “Wow, I can do something for them.” If they are sick, I tell them to take care of themselves first. If your family needs help, take care of your family first because I trust them. When we take care of each other, that person takes care of me. We have management principles, and our purpose is to practice those principles from our hearts. Sometimes I forget those principles too, and then the employees remind me. It makes me so proud of them.
Question #8: If there's one idea you'd like readers to walk away believing, what would it be?FORWARD-THINKING INSIGHT #13:
Kindness and Compassion Are the Essences of Work
Kindness and compassion are the essences of work. We may use the latest technologies and management practices, but if we don’t have compassion for each other, it has no value. So-called compassion, kindness, or love is our true nature. They should be the basis of our work.
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