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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

OCTOBER 8, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 40

M A N A G E R S   A T   W A R

HAYAKAWA SHIGEZO, MISUMI CORP.:
At first he wondered if he'd survive Japan Inc.'s harsh new world. Now Hayakawa says, 'I'm kind of proud of myself'

Ohmori Satoru for Asiaweek
Money, Money, Money
By SUVENDRINI KAKUCHI Tokyo

In the old days, climbing the corporate ladder at Misumi Corp. worked like this. "The boss more or less decided who to promote or not," says company veteran Hayakawa Shigezo. "And employees had to be really nice to him to keep their jobs." Not anymore. Nowadays, executives at the Tokyo distributor of machine parts, select 24 team leaders each March and must justify their decisions to the entire staff. The team leaders present their goals for the next fiscal year. Then employees write down which leader they want to work for; team leaders do the same for the employees. Whoever doesn't make the grade must leave the company.

    MANAGERS AT WAR
Employees First Lance Gokongwei, Cebu Pacific

Gambling with the Truth Sanan Angubolkul, Srithai Superware

A Scion Ditches the Past Cho Jung Ho, Hanjin Securities

Daughter Knows Best Adrienne Ma, Joyce Boutique

When Creditors Scream Rini Suwandi, Astra International

Money, Money, Money Hayakawa Shigezo, Misumi Corp.

Welcome to the harsh new world of Japan Inc. When Misumi introduced the new system in 1994, Hayakawa was terrified. He was "shaking like a jelly" the first time he stood up to deliver a speech to his team. "Iwondered if Icould survive in the new system," he recalls. "But now I am still here. Iam kind of proud of myself. This is the sixth time Ihave been selected a team leader." In fact, Hayakawa is now in charge of devising a new management philosophy. He has a team of three: himself, a Misumi staffer and one person recruited from a consulting company.

The team's big focus is on cutting personnel costs. The easy way, of course, is to lay off people. But Hayakawa, an avid reader of U.S. management books, understands that boosting productivity is the real answer to long-term savings. "I must not concentrate on firing people," he says, "but rather get the best out of the employee." At the same time, he acknowledges that he would rather hire young blood than work with existing older staff "who are stuck in the old Japanese way of doing things and basically resent change." He encourages his team to think independently and set their own goals. "It is okay for employees to play around for four months," he says, "if they finish their project early."

The downside is that the pressure on the employees has gone through the roof. "We have to be constantly on the alert and thinking about profits," says Hayakawa, 50. "It's money, money, money all the time. Of course there is no guarantee at all. Icould be fired anytime because I have made no profits." As it is, Hayakawa's team members once lost their bonus because they hadn't made any money. "It hit me hard," he says. "Our team members consoled each other and talked forever about how to improve."

NEXT: Employees First



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