How Kazuo Inamori revived Japan Airlines

January 12, 2013

Kazuo Inamori

NOTE TO SUBSCRIBERS: THIS IS AN UPDATABLE POST

When Japan Airlines nearly went bust three years ago they called for an eighty year old who had no experience of running an airline. He is now hailed for his results and for his manner of delivering them

Kazuo Inamori had already earned great respect in Japan for his entrepreneurial and leadership skills. These were demonstrated three decades ago when he founded the DDI Corporation (now KDDI), which become a leading telecommunication services provider in Japan. Two decades earlier in 1959 he had created Kyocera, now a multinational electronics and ceramics business.

Read the rest of this entry »


BAE and EADS in merger talks as Woodford site closes

September 13, 2012

by Tudor Rickards

As someone living close to Woodford aerodrome, the proposed merger of BAE and EADS [announced September 13th, 2012] had more than professional interest for me.

Last rites

Each morning, I drive or walk past the little airfield at Woodford in Cheshire, where BAE systems has conducted part of its aerospace business for many years. From time to time, sleek military aircraft would swoop past above. Transporters, each carrying one wing for the mighty Airbus, would trundle down Woodford Road, which had its plastic road furniture regularly removed and then replaced to permit easier access to the site. Each year, a flying show featuring Britain’s most loved aircraft blocked the roads around the village.

Now, only glimpses are to be seen of the last rites. Construction has been replaced by dismantling of aircraft such as the Nimrod shown in the image above.

Planning permission

Woodford aerodrome is now waiting for planning permission before conversion to new build which would produce private housing and mark the end of such commercial activities. While BAE systems faces the most serious job-losses, the site occupies a slice of aeronautic history going back to 1910. Local residents are still involved in community discussions.

Creating a global giant

At a strategic level, the merger between the two organisations has considerable face appeal. Woodford is probably of little significance in the wider scheme of things.

Dealbook, a New York Times publication, reported the news that the merger of the two biggest European aerospace and defence companies would create a global giant with a combined market value of nearly $50 billion.

“On the face of it this will create one of the largest aerospace and defense organizations on the planet,” said Guy Anderson, a senior defense industry analyst with IHS Jane’s in London, who added that the combination would “change the European defense market beyond recognition.”

Shares of BAE Systems rose 10.8 per cent by the end of trading in London on Wednesday [12th September 2012], while shares of EADS were down 5.6 per cent.

BAE and EADS (for European Aeronautic Defense and Space) have a history of collaboration. They are partners on a number of projects, including the Eurofighter jet. BAE also held a direct interest in the Airbus consortium for many years before selling it back to EADS in 2006.

The deal could give the two companies more lobbying muscle to compete with Boeing and other American military companies. BAE already has a strong presence in the United States, but EADS has had only limited success with American military contracts. Last year, the company lost a coveted $35 billion Air Force contract for aerial refuelling tankers to Boeing.

Regulatory Hurdles

Any deal would face its share of regulatory hurdles. The European Commission would have to approve the merger. The American government might also weigh in on the transaction. BAE’s Sanders unit could especially face scrutiny.

Leadership issues

The merger will bring with it some complex leadership issues. EADS over the years has been involved in many tortuous strategic decisions as the competing pressures from French and German stakeholders played out. Government involvement will now be compounded by British political interests.

Leaders We Deserve will be among the millions of interested parties watching the situation as it develops. Maybe, just maybe, for local residents and BAE employees there is renewed hope for a sensational last-minute change of plans for the Woodford site.


McDonald’s tests PayPal’s mobile payments system

August 21, 2012

McDonald’s is partnering PayPal in a trial in France, with plans to roll-out the innovation within two years

According to Reuters, McDonald’s is testing a mobile payments service featuring PayPal at thirty of its restaurants in France. The report has a McDonald’s spokeswoman confirming the France tests, and saying that a PayPal demonstration at a conference was part of a booth that features “technology coming within the next 24 months or so.”

PayPal is racing against start-up organisation Square Inc and other technology companies to become the mobile payments service of choice as consumers increasingly use smart phones to make purchases in shops, restaurants and other retail locations.

Square Inc struck what could be its most important partnership to date last week when it teamed up with Starbucks Corp, the world’s largest coffee chain.

PayPal, [owned by eBay Inc] has signed up more than 15 retailers, including Home Depot and Office Depot, but adding a partner the size of McDonald’s, with over 30,000 restaurants, would be a big win.

The Apotheosis of Apps

Increasingly, Smart phones are looking as one of the most powerful drivers of innovation of the decade. In terms of impact, the iconification of Apps may one day be seen of itself as a major innovation, while smart-phones will be considered a game-changing alpha innovation for the way business is transacted globally


Riots at Maruti Suzuki halts production

August 17, 2012

Industrialisation has a bloody history of battles between workers and owners. Are the riots in an India car plant a re-run of industrial history?

At least 90 people have been arrested after violent clashes between workers and managers at a Maruti Suzuki factory near the Indian capital, Delhi. A senior factory official died and more than 85 were injured, including two Japanese nationals in the riot. Maruti, India’s biggest car maker, has halted production at the factory.

The blame game

Managers and workers blame each other for starting the clashes, which follow months of troubled labour relations. The violence at the vast factory in Haryana state is believed to have erupted after an altercation between a factory worker and a supervisor.

Workers reportedly ransacked offices and set fires at the height of the violence. It escalated when they tried to take disciplinary action against the employee as other workers protested and blocked all exit gates, preventing senior executives and managers from leaving the factory. The union denied responsibility for the violence and told local media that it was triggered by “objectionable remarks” made by the supervisor.

Leniency a reason for the riots?

The Times of india suggested leniency towards Union bosses was ‘reason for rift among staff’

it appears now that the management of the auto giant may have made a major miscalculation in handling a labour incident only weeks before violence broke out in the factory. [Union leaders were treated in a more lenient way than workers after aggression towards a supervisor].

Meanwhile, the plant remains closed. The company maintains that it is giving high priority to employee safety and is considering several initiatives to scale up safety in the Manesar plant. “In this direction, the company is exploring the best safety measures in terms of equipment, personnel and on ground training for the employees,” the company said in a statement.

The act of unprovoked violence [on July 18th 2012, but July 21st according to some news reports] started without any specific industrial relations issue.

A backdrop of financial losses

The story occurred against a backdrop of losses attributed to increased royalties to Suzuki.

The main reason for the fall was a rise in royalty payments to Japan’s Suzuki, which holds a large stake in Maruti. Analysts said the increase would also affect the carmaker’s future earnings.one observing: “Raw material costs have been easing but the effect of higher royalty payments will be there in the next few quarters”.

Outside of the increased payments to Suzuki, Maruti performed well during the quarter, “The sudden change in royalty charge overshadows an otherwise strong operating performance,” said Chirag Shah at Emkay Global Financial Services.

A similar pattern of violence

Reuters reported [6th August 2012] that other foreign owned car makers such as Hyundai, and Honda have also experienced troubles at their plants in recent years.

“This is definitely sending a wrong message. Investors will be reluctant,” P. Balendran, vice-president at General Motors’ Indian unit, said of the Manesar violence. “The need of the hour is flexible labour reforms. In 2012 you cannot afford to have a rule which is applicable … from 1956.”

A bone of contention

India’s labour laws, some dating to the 1920s, make it difficult for large companies to fire permanent workers, forcing companies to hire large numbers of contractors – a bone of contention with many unions.

“We knew that something of this sort might happen sooner or later,” said Balendran. “It happened to Suzuki today, tomorrow it could happen to us.”

Latest news

Regardless of the reported stringency of India’s labour laws, the company plans to make 500 employees redundant and will re-open the plant shortly [August 21st 2012]. The challenges to leadership are likely to continue.


Sweet and Sour? Anthony Ward shakes up the Cocoa Bean Market

August 2, 2010



Written and Analysed by Susan Moger

When asked the greatest challenge a politician can face, Harold Macmillan replied “Events, dear boy, events”. This is a comment with which senior leadership teams in the confectionery sector in Europe will no doubt identify, on learning the recent news of a raid on the world’s supply of cocoa beans.

It is unlikely that they would have anticipated the effects of the activities of Anthony Ward, a commodity trader specialising in cocoa, whose hedge fund Amajaro has bought £650m ($992m) worth of cocoa beans, 7% of the world’s supply [July 16th, 2010].

According to The Telegraph: Anthony Ward, 50, bought 241,000 tons of cocoa beans and now owns enough to manufacture 5.3 billion quarter-pound chocolate bars. Mr Ward, who is worth around £36 million, holds so much of the market he could force manufacturers to raise the price of Britain’s favourite chocolate bars. The former Chairman of the European Cocoa Association has amassed up to 15 per cent of the word’s cocoa stocks in the last ten years. The cocoa beans from his latest trade are expected to be kept in warehouses in The Netherlands, Hamburg, London, Liverpool or Humberside and are the equivalent of the entire supply of the commodity in Europe.

Ward’s acquisition may have the effect of increasing cocoa prices substantially. The next African cocoa harvest is not due until later September and October this year, and many firms are looking to source supplies for the manufacturing run leading up to the lucrative Christmas and New Year markets.

With a West European Confectionery market worth Euros 44.6 billion in 2008, and a very complex relationship with retailers in terms of products already developed and pre-sold, leadership teams face a tricky balance between delivery of products and the protection of their margins during one of the key demand and profitability-raising periods of the year.

One industrialist who is a former advisor to the UK government on restrictive practices did not feel the issue should focus on what Ward had done, commenting “I think it is too easy to blame an individual for taking advantage of a market opportunity. If he didn’t, wouldn’t someone else have done so? It’s necessary to look at the whole system, and what could and should be done about it.”

Ward’s activities have led some to dub him ‘Chocfinger’ (Financial Times, July 24th p.11) and they have invested the possibly rather prosaic world of confectionery manufacture with a new drama and intrigue. His activities certainly show all those involved in any leadership activity in any sector that external events can have an impact which isn’t anticipated and which can’t necessarily be ameliorated. Taleb called such events Black Swans in his book of the same name.

It remains to be seen whether the confectionery manufacturers’ dealings in sweet commodities will turn sour this Christmas.

Students of Leadership

What lessons might be learned from this story? What can be learned from earlier attempts to corner a market? Are there governance and ethical considerations to be taken into account? What does the story tell us about entrepreneurship?

Image

Courtesy of the Amajaro Board. Image downlaoded from the corporate website [Anthony Ward is 2nd from the right].


Toyota, Duty and Destiny

February 21, 2010

The successive bad-news stories at the start of 2010 for Toyota illustrate the effect of cultural factors on leadership and organizational behaviours. An understanding of dynastic history will help assess future prospects for the company

In considering the prospects for Toyota, I found myself reflecting on the nature of dynastic rule. Japan itself is still an example of a dynasty-based culture. The Japanese Dynasty is believed to be the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world, with a bloodline stretching back nearly three millennia (660 BC – present day). The Emperor (天皇) symbolises a unity of the state with the Japanese people, and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family, and also the highest authority of its Shinto religion.

It has more recently become accepted to use the term dynasty to refer to family-owned businesses, where we also find transmission of authority and control handed down from generation to generation. Metaphors can be useful for imaginative purposes, but can also be misleading. Nevertheless, it is perhaps worth reflecting on dynastic leadership, and its implications for Toyota.

The Dynastic Principle

Western thought about dynastic power has been greatly influenced by the German social theorist Max Weber. One of his many significant contributions was his work on the nature of ancient and modern social structures. He proposed that traditional societies maintained stability by the society’s acceptance of the legitimacy of their ruler, and the power this permitted in the interests of the State.

Weber went on to suggest that overthrow of a society’s structure and traditions came about through charismatic opposition to them. For Weber, newer religious forms (aligned to state power) often were accompanied by charismatic leaders. He further argued that new form of control suited to modern industrial societies functioned through the power backed up by the legal authority expressed through rules and regulations. His terminology of bureaucratic control is still in common use. That’s how business students used to be taught about Weber’s theories.

Dynasties ancient and modern

The connections between the foundation of sociological thought, and today’s structuring of global organizations, are also being studied by researchers into institutional forms. A promising new area of work is into varieties of capitalism (VoC). The potential significance of this research can hardly be over-emphasized. It offers insights regarding the competitiveness of industrial firms globally, as much as insights into the diverse attempts to ‘civilize capitalism’ (as one researcher puts it).

Toyota, Ford, and other modern dynasties

Toyota may be seen as a modern institutional form, retaining dynastic power internally. The company was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937 as a spinoff from his father’s company Toyota Industries, and today’s President is Akio Toyoda.

It would be a great over-simplification to assume that such a family-based structure inhibits change and adjustment. Nevertheless, its response to its recent manufacturing and strategy problems appears consistent with a tendency to avoid radical actions which appear as threats to core cultural values.

Generalisations can be dangerous. In America, the history of the mighty Ford motor empire also shows the dynastic principle at work. From the days of Henry Ford until recently, power resided with the founding family, with current Executive chairman William C Ford the fifth generation (by my counting) of the family on board. Interestingly, Ford also came near to ruin with a safety crisis associated with the Ford Pinto in the 1970s. Ford survived that crisis, but has arguably been relatively slow to deal with competitive pressures. In the UK, its acquisition of the much-loved (but eventually cash-strapped) Jaguar mark was reversed by its sale to Tata, another globalising dynasty.

Born or Made Leaders?

Associated with dynastic structure of institutions or cultures, is the question raised of the fitness to lead. Are descendents of a founding entrepreneur especially equipped to lead into the future ? The evidence is less than clear-cut. At very least, the all-powerful leader acting ‘to the manner born’ is vulnerable to events that threaten the continuity of any organisation. Hereditary rulers of States and leaders of organizations exercise power mediated through advisors. At times the advisors contribute to forces which bring about the demise of the figurehead, in the wider interests of the Institution.

Toyota into the future

Jim Taggart, who writes on leadership issues, points to the manufacturing issues facing Toyota. He also cites a press story criticising Toyota’s risk-management approach . To understand Toyota’s present crisis, wider factors also need to be taken into account. Toyota-bashing in the US, as pointed out, is taking place with regard for socio-economic and political vested interests. Students of leadership will find much to consider in this, and in the ‘born or made’ dilemma of leadership.


Global Events and Hand-clapping

January 8, 2010

What’s a nursery-rhyme got to do with global events? Plenty. This little song has received nearly 20,000,000 hits on its YouTube platform. And that’s a pretty global event, and some exposure

How did I become one of the 20 million consumers of the YouTube video? Through that phenomenon of discovery by surfing around. In other words mostly by accident while looking for something else. One day we will have a better idea of how images and words impel people to ‘pass it on’. At the moment it passes for a mysterious force known as viral marketing, which operates thanks to the Internet