August 26, 2008,09:18 +0900(JST) Sumitomo Electric Group Global Award Ceremony (2)

Today I’d like to write more about the three activity case reports I mentioned briefly in the previous entry about the Sumitomo Electric Group Global Award Ceremony. Each of the three reports was very well presented, and I was quite impressed.

Among the three presenters, there was one about whom all the management raved unanimously, the employee from Huizhou, China, who presented a report on behalf of the Excellent Awardees. She spoke with such a self-composed attitude and confidence that it must have come from total mastery of the material. Her delivery and her voice, which carried throughout the hall, fascinated the entire audience of 600 some people.

PresentationI was told that she was only 17 years old and was already the group leader of an assembly line in a wiring harness manufacturing factory in Huizhou. Her presentation was excellent in content as well, including such “digressions” as advice she had received from people around her before her first trip to Japan, her personal impressions of Japan and her thanks to people concerned.

She was also very popular at the party that followed the Ceremony. She was talking with many people (including myself), enriching her stock of knowledge and expanding her network of friends. With such a proactive attitude, I am sure she will achieve more great things in the future.

「谢谢」「感谢」It has been almost 40 years since Sumitomo Electric started full-scale overseas development through conducting manufacturing and other business activities locally outside Japan. I think we can say that Sumitomo Electric has taken necessary measures in this area, predicting relatively early on what has developed into today’s globalization. As a result, the Sumitomo Electric Group’s presence outside Japan has expanded year after year; our non-Japanese affiliated companies, which number almost 200, now account for as much as 40% of the Group’s sales.

It gives me a great pleasure to see excellent personnel in our overseas companies, such as those at the Award Ceremony, doing great work in their respective workplaces across the world. At the same time, we should not overlook the great efforts that have gone into promoting the Group’s globalization through well-designed measures.

The Sumitomo Electric Group’s system for human resource development is expected to further improve in the future. I sincerely hope that many people with great potential, like the Chinese young awardee, will join the Group, systematically develop their abilities through work, and become reliable supporters of the Group and admirable models to people around them.

August 22, 2008,09:49 +0900(JST) Sumitomo Electric Group Global Award Ceremony (1)

On July 31, we held the Sumitomo Electric Group Global Award Ceremony, the most important and largest of the various ceremonies organized by the Sumitomo Electric Group.

Commemorative photo with awardeesThe event took place in the Main Hall of the Osaka International Convention Center (Grand Cube Osaka), with the impressive participation of over 600 people, including Sumitomo Electric management and Sumitomo Electric Group employees from around the world. I’d love to write that “the venue was packed to capacity,” but the Main Hall, being a huge convention facility accommodating over 2000 people, I should settle on saying that I am grateful to the participants for their conveniently concentrating on the first floor.

Award ceremonyThe Ceremony started with a speech by Mr. Hiroyuki Takenaka, Sumitomo Electric Managing Director and President of the Jury of the Awards, followed by the presentation of 87 awards, headed by four major awards: the Glorious Award, Excellent Award, Ingenious Dynamics Award and Glorious Excellent Award.

As I handed award certificates, plates and gifts to all the awardees, I said some words to them, in their languages whenever I could: “thank you,” “congratulations,” “arigato,” “omedeto” (Japanese), “xiexie,” “ganxie” (Chinese) … I saw many awardees’ faces light up immediately on hearing words in their mother tongue. Globalization is inevitable, and I think that such small gestures can make globalized encounters more pleasant; I hope to continue and extend this further.

After the award presentations and a photo session, three activity case reports were presented. Finally, I spoke on “VISION 2012,” the Sumitomo Electric Group’s new mid-term business plan, and the Ceremony was brought to a close.

As befit the venue, simultaneous interpretation was provided. The interpreters, who must be well-prepared, provided very smooth and fluent interpretations. Mr. F, the MC, also did an excellent job; we were all quite pleased with the progression of the event.

August 19, 2008,15:25 +0900(JST) How to avoid “the Big Business Disease”

The other day I met with a business manager, and what he told me about problems typically found in large-scale corporate management, particularly what he called “Big Business Disease,” made me reflect deeply.

Many managers are troubled with Big Business Disease symptoms that often manifest themselves in a sort of dogmatism that attaches the utmost importance to following rules and formalities above all else, thus hindering companies from flexibly adjusting to new changes and making progress. In such companies, reaching a consensus on a minor subject can take as long as 1 – 2 months!

I believe that Sumitomo Electric Group is not a Big Business Disease patient, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to watch out, knowing that our advances into new business areas and our efforts to realize greater safety and quality are still far from being fully satisfactory.

I myself have repeatedly spoken to the Sumitomo Electric Group people about the importance of faithfully sticking to the basics. I have also repeatedly said that, to make the basics visible to all, it is vital to standardize intangible intellectual assets that are present in your respective workplaces in various forms, and put them in written manuals as precisely as possible so that they will become tangible intellectual assets that can be shared and handed down to future generations. This is because it is an important way to improve the Group across the board and ensure our future development. I still believe in these ideas, and I do believe that we still have much to do, particularly in terms of safety and quality.

At the same time, we must be careful as we move forward. As we progress, we are bound to face situations where we realize that our system or rules are no longer valid for the changing reality, and that simply sticking to the existing rules does nothing but cause damage. In such situations, it is vital that we quickly sense the danger and change accordingly. To change what we consider the basics, however, initiators must be convincing, while others must understand the need for change, which must take place quickly and in accordance with certain procedures.

I believe that staying proactively aware of possible challenges in one’s own position and continuously trying to improve creates a sense of positive tension, which in turn develops one’s ability to discern situations in which organizational obstacles should be overcome in order to make necessary changes. As an organization grows, a certain seriously problematic atmosphere can settle in, leading the organization’s members to “play safe” and reject change. We must avoid becoming such an organization, and make sure that no “seeds” of Big Business Disease have been planted within each of our workplace. If any problems are detected, I intend to promptly take necessary measures.

There is no miracle cure for the Big Business Disease, but I believe that it can be avoided if management remains concerned with actual products in actual places, and particularly remains completely informed of what is happening “in the field.”

So this is what I expect from Sumitomo Electric Group leaders: to avoid the Big Business Disease, develop your ability to analyze the present situation through sound awareness of possible challenges, and know your workplace well so as to make this an open-minded and highly motivated organization.

August 7, 2008,08:58 +0900(JST) 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games will start soon. The 29th Games of the Olympiads are the first Summer Olympics in Asia since the Seoul Olympics in 1988. I feel the excitement in the air.

The opening ceremony will commence on Friday, August 8, at 8:08 p.m. It’s said that the choice of this schedule is because the number 8 is auspicious in Chinese culture. It’s also reported, on the other hand, that it is a compromise resulting from heated negotiations between the Chinese authorities, which wanted to hold the Games much later so as not to increase power demand for air conditioning and so on, and the IOC, which wanted to hold the Games between late July and early August, during the summer holidays in most countries, when more people would be enticed to watch the Games on TV. So it seems that the timing of the Games gives us a glimpse into the energy situation in China.

As compared to past Games, media coverage of the Beijing Games in its progression thus far has caused quite a commotion, focusing on such of China’s internal problems as human rights violation and air pollution, culminating in the obstruction and excessive protection of the Olympic Torch relays. There was even the possibility of a boycott.

Now that we know the Beijing Games will be held as scheduled, I sincerely hope that it will be a great international festival where athletes can demonstrate the very best of themselves in a safe and secure environment so that the efforts exerted thus far by the athletes and others concerned can be put to maximum effect.

Fortunately, after reportedly rushed preparation, the facilities are ready and seem to be well received: the main venue, Beijing National Stadium-also known as the Bird’s Nest-has been completed and is impressive, and athletes already settled in the Olympic Village appreciate the meals and other arrangements.

For us in Japan, which has only a one-hour time difference from Beijing, it will be possible to enjoy the Games real-time on TV. At the same time, many finals are scheduled in the morning, reportedly in response to strong request from the US.
I’m not sure if it’s for that reason or not, but video recorders, particularly Blu-ray HDD recorders, which provide quality high-definition images, are selling very well at the moment as many people wish to record and enjoy the Olympic Games for their own convenience. Since prospects for Japan’s domestic spending are uncertain right now, I hope that the Beijing Olympics will somehow help stimulate the Japanese economy.

I am of course very interested in how the Japanese team will fare in Beijing, and I hope that all Japanese athletes will do their best. Needless to say, I’m particularly interested in the Javelin Throw.
On this blog I wrote and raved about the Finnish javelin thrower Tero Pitkamaki, who won in the Track and Field World Championships in Osaka in 2007. From August 8 to 18, Pitkamaki is staying in Kagawa Prefecture, Japan, with some other Finnish athletes, to train while adjusting to local time before competing in Beijing. I am enthusiastically looking forward to his performances and Gold Medal.

SUMITOMO ELECTRIC President CEO Masayoshi Matsumoto

Born in 1944 in Hyogo Prefecture, Masayoshi Matsumoto joined Sumitomo Electric in 1967. After serving as General Manager of Chubu District Office, Managing Director and Senior Managing Director, he assumed office of President and CEO in June 2004.

His leisure activities include jogging, reading and art appreciation. Also a seasoned athlete, he played baseball in junior high school and practiced judo in senior high school. In university, he threw the javelin competitively and participated in all-Japan inter-university competitions.

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