January 28, 2016,17:25 +0900(JST) In-house Video for Promotion of Diversity

An in-house video aimed at promoting diversity, which I wrote about in this blog in November, has been completed. The video includes an anecdotal episode during my business assignment in the United States. Today, let me share the story with you.

* * * * *

In 1973, I was posted to Sumitomo Electric's subsidiary in Chicago. People may imagine that my life on an overseas business assignment in Chicago was brilliant. But what I did in the United States in those days was quite different from that image. The main job assigned to me was traveling around the region by car and visiting backstreet workshops and factories without appointments for direct sales of our products through on-the-spot demonstrations. The marketing method, which we called "caravan sales," did not produce the intended results, probably because in the early 1970s, Japanese products were known as low-priced goods of poor quality in the United States. Also, local people's anti-Japanese sentiment was still strong following World War II. Under these circumstances, it was very dificult for us to receive orders from local companies.

The city of Kenosha is located on the shore of Lake Michigan. Situated about one hour's drive from Chicago, the city hosted a business outlet of an American automaker, to which we promoted our products. No orders were received in the first year, however. The person in charge of procurement was a World War II veteran who had fought against Japan.

I did not give up. Instead, I kept visiting his office. Eventually, the buyer called me "Mike." One day, he told me he might have fought against my father. But he added, "You have nothing to do with World War II." Following this remark, orders from his company began to increase gradually.

One day, he told me that he would retire soon, and proposed drinking with me. At the bar, he asked me how old I was. I was 27 back then. He said, "Why don't you drink 27 glasses of gin and tonic?" I accepted his suggestion and emptied all the glasses. He said, "OK, come to my office at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning."

Next morning, I had a bad headache due to a hangover. But I managed to visit his office as I was told. What he did was to place an order worth $500 with our company as his last task before retirement. The order was not a big deal. However, I was moved by the way with which he showed his consideration toward me. What I felt at that time was that people are basically the same around the world, although language, culture or thinking is different.

* * * * *

Sumitomo Electric is staging a campaign to promote diversity. What the company aims to achieve through the campaign is to accept a set of different values, concepts and ideas, and unify them into the same purpose or the same goal for which all our employees should strive. If nothing is done about all these different values and ideas, it will just end up being chaotic. If they are integrated into a certain unified goal, however, they will become our strength. The true goal of our company is not achieving superficial diversity. What we should achieve lies ahead of that.

January 15, 2016,14:00 +0900(JST) The Result of Our Third New Year Ekiden Was...

This year on January 1 again, I was in Gunma to root for our athletics club competing in the New Year Ekiden, a long-distance relay road race. This was the third time our athletics club competed in the race. Unlike the past two years, this year was warm, though dry winds blew violently in the second half of the race, which seemed to create tough conditions for the runners.

  • Mr. Kumagai running strongly in the 5th leg

    Mr. Kumagai running strongly in the 5th leg

  • After the race with Mr. Fujiyama (right), our team's anchor

    After the race with Mr. Fujiyama (right), our team's anchor

Our team made a good start by finishing the first leg in fifth place. However, this might have put extra pressure on our subsequent runners. It seemed they were not able to demonstrate their usual performance. Once they began falling back, the distance between them and the front runners became wider and wider. Eventually, our team finished the race in 38th place, behind both our positions and times of the past two years.

Nevertheless, our team members never gave up and continued doing their best until the finish line. I feel that this was totally thanks to your warm support. Thank you all very much.

Although it is necessary to take the result seriously and analyze it calmly, we must not continue worrying about it forever. Since the current instruction framework for our athletics club will be changed this year, I hope that the club's athletes and instructors will utilize the vexing experience of this year's race for the future.

The Result of Our Third New Year Ekiden Was...

January 15, 2016,13:15 +0900(JST) Installation of redox flow battery system has been completed

Happy New Year!
How did you enjoy your holiday?
We would like to receive your continued support this year again.

We are pleased to announce that the installation of a redox flow battery system at Hokkaido Electric Power Co., Inc. (HEPCO)'s Minami-Hayakita Transformer Substation has been completed as scheduled. The system began operation on December 25.

To prepare for any potential problems, our staff members in charge of this project greeted the New Year at the substation. I just now received the report that the system is in operation without any problems, making me feel relieved.

We will work together with HEPCO by FY2018 on testing the system's performance as a buffer for adjusting the output fluctuation of wind and solar power, and on developing optimum control technology.

What's more, Nikkei Inc. has announced that our redox flow battery system will be given a Nikkei Award for Excellence in the 2015 Nikkei Superior Products and Services. Through demonstration experiments in Hokkaido, we would like to prove the potential of this safe and long-life battery system and its appropriateness for great power storage and output.

Building that houses our redox flow battery system

Building that houses our redox flow battery system

January 12, 2016,16:40 +0900(JST) Final Presentation Meeting of Executive Training Program (2)

The executive training program has been designed for executive officers, division managers, and those equivalent to them. When the program was first launched, all the participants were Japanese male staff members. Recently, however, this situation has been changing.

The participants in this fiscal year's training program included not only the overseas team that I introduced to you in my previous blog post, but also a next-generation team, consisting of male and female division managers, section managers, and those equivalent to them from a wide variety of countries. Based on the theme of improving organizational performance through diversity of personnel, this multinational team researched the actual conditions within and outside the Sumitomo Electric Group, and presented suggestions looking toward the future.

Final Presentation Meeting of Executive Training Program (2)

Promote diversity of personnel - this is one of the priority themes that I always tell staff members to work on throughout the group. However, according to the fact-finding research by the next-generation team, this theme has unfortunately not yet permeated fully throughout the group. To solve this problem, the team presented a number of suggestions, such as the top management of each division should describe what they see as the ideal situation for the division, and that middle management should aim at better communication with their subordinates. When you read these suggestions in writing, you may feel that it is natural that the management should do such things. However, the fact that we are still in a phase where suggestions for such very fundamental matters are provided has made me keenly aware of the difficulty in changing the organizational culture of the group.

Since ancient times, the interaction of different cultures has been followed by the creation of a prosperous new culture. This applies to business. The realization of diversity of personnel, as well as the understanding and use of such diverse talents (i.e. inclusion), will be followed by a generation of innovation. Will the Sumitomo Electric Group be able to remain globally competitive? It totally depends on how soon we can achieve organizational inclusion. How serious we are about this issue is now being put to the test.

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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