28 Sep 2018
Pushing Progress at Panasonic
Yasuyuki Higuchi shakes up a century-old corporate cultureTopics:
Yasuyuki Higuchi (MBA 1991) (photo by Akio Kon/Bloomberg)
When he was fresh out of engineering school in 1980, Yasuyuki Higuchi (MBA 1991) got a job at Panasonic. He left just as the consumer electronics boom reached its peak, and while he spent the next two and a half decades at HBS, BCG, Apple, and Microsoft, Panasonic fell into steep decline. Now Higuchi is back, leading the connected solutions business, and Panasonic is pursuing a new path: one that focuses on corporate customers, instead of consumer products. As part of the transformation, Bloomberg reports, Higuchi is tasked with reconfiguring company culture:
During his first week back at Panasonic, Higuchi got a culture shock of his own. At an internal meeting, he took a random chair, only to be informed politely that seats had been assigned in advance. He told his staff to never again waste time on things like that. “There was so much of this kind of inward-facing, pointless work going on,” Higuchi said in an interview.
Higuchi instituted some changes right away. He moved the division’s headquarters from Osaka to Tokyo, for example, to be more central to the company’s corporate customers. He opened the workspace up to a more flexible arrangement, to minimize the “desk barricades” that isolate internal departments from one another.
Otherwise, Higuchi is also focused on finding synergies within the connected solutions unit, a wide-ranging set of businesses that includes everything from welding machines to surveillance systems. “This know-how of making complicated mechanical things operate smoothly is still alive in Japan and it’s in Panasonic’s DNA,” Higuchi told Bloomberg.
Class of MBA 1991, Section H