Today's Notables

Improving the Quality of Management

October 2005
Hisashi Furuichi
President and C.E.O.

We recently performed a self assessment according to the guidelines in Japan Quality Award . Out of a possible 1,000 points, we scored a paltry 206. Some people external to TK tried to console me, saying that probably our standards of measurement were too severe. However, it became very obvious from our score that we have many, many areas for growth and improvement.

For instance, one category, "Social Responsibility of Management" has a section "Responding to Community Needs." In light of our activities, we are still lacking in that area. About 20 years ago, my grandfather contributed to the development of a facility for the handicap in Osaka, as well as other numerous contributions here and there, but never have we clarified our direction when it comes to our contributions to the community.

We were also lacking in our follow-through according to the self-assessment. For instance, we have had a tendency to lean toward putting an organizational structure or holding meetings about issues but may not have the follow-through to solve the problem. When something happens, an issue is raised as a special project or problem that needs a countermeasure. We give it a name, select some team members and cheer them on thinking that at least since we've recognized it and put some human resources behind it, the problem will get solved. Naturally, if we appoint highly qualified and knowledgeable people to do the job, they will find a solution through trial and error. However, by depending on the individual capability too much, the overall outcome or results will be more or less tied to those capabilities. Furthermore, determining standards and the level of improvements become much more subjective and open to personal opinion.

In a company like ours with a long history, this type of inertia is a natural occurrence that after a while becomes second nature. It becomes a silent paradigm that colors the way we see things. However, inertia in a period of weakness, along with diffidence between departments or occupations ends up coming to the surface as problems for our customers. Before this happens, we need to actively share knowledge and successful models of thought. Then through meetings and setting up projects, we can decide what purpose needs fulfilling and goals need to be attained before we can determine what the measureables or milestones are in order to verify if we are headed in the right direction. In this process, it is very important to determine what administrative obstacles stand in the way of the process toward achieving those goals. Successful businesses follow processes to achieve results and just because we establish a goal does not mean we can run straight ahead disregarding the basic business processes and rules we've set in place. The key to success in all of this is motivation because the desire for accomplishment at an individual level can affect the results. Naturally, going upstream, it is the leadership of top management that must provide the environment for motivation.

There are two months remaining in the current mid-term Operations Plan. In the next plan, we will incorporate goals for improvement based on what we learned in the self assessment in keeping with our company vision while fostering an environment conducive to high motivation.

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