What can we learn from the Japanese

From thought Leader Curtis Carlson

See the text below.  This is a remarkable book.  Only a Japanese could write those words but, as is typical, they have great meaning.  No wonder the head of Toyota is having everyone read it.  

I always thought that our employees at SRI were the most important.  In a very real way I loved them.  I had enormous respect for them and they inspired me every day.   Management’s major responsibility is to grow the company and make sure that no one is unfairly threatened by the company’s poor performance.  I didn’t always succeeded and it broke my heart every time I failed.   If we helped our staff to do the right things I also knew that they would put our customers first.  Paradoxical for some I know — but true.  I wanted them to do important things that would give their professional life meaning — a powerful form of “happiness” for technical professionals.  I also wanted to make sure they had essential value-creation skills so that they could be successful and control their careers, not someone else.  I was sure that if we helped them do these two things SRI would do well.  

From the book.
“My sole focus in managing the company has been to ensure that it endures, because I believe a company’ s greatest virtue is endurance. To be perfectly honest, for the first 20 years, I had no spare time to think about such things. I was simply desperate to survive and keep the company going. I think it was about 25 years after joining the company, when the pressure finally began to ease a bit, that I started thinking about why companies exist and what corporate growth really means. The conclusion I reached after pondering such questions for years is that a good company exists to make its employees happy, thereby contributing to its local community and society at large. I realized that endurance was the most important part of making this happen, because if the company fails to endure, the happiness of its employees will come to an abrupt end. 

Seek Not to Be a Successful Company, But a Good Company 
Having decided that a company exists to make its employees happy and that a company’ s greatest virtue is endurance, I began to entertain doubts about the conventional wisdom of what defines successful management. Doctrines emphasizing sales above all, the expansion of profits, or market capitalization seem all too often to come at the expense of employee happiness. It is impossible to manage a company whose sales do not grow, and in the absence of profits, a company’ s very survival may be in doubt. Yet, once you make increased sales and profits your sole objective, employee happiness becomes secondary. In short, you start to think about how profits could be effectively raised by reducing labor costs and welfare expenditures, or by cutting back on activities that give back to the community and support culture and the arts. This seems completely backward to me. Management is all about finding a balance between the company’ s numbers and the happiness of its employees. “

Hiroshi Tsukakoshi;  Hart Larrabee. Tree-Ring Management (JAPAN LIBRARY).  Kindle Edition. 

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