The Ghosn Revolution comes to York Management School
Masters Masterclass by Mr Takeshi Isayama, Former Vice Chairman of Nissan
On 25 February, The Centre for the Evolution of Global Business and Institutions (CEGBI) welcomed Mr Takeshi Isayama, for 30 years Director General of State in the Japanese Department for Trade and Industry, and between 2001 and 2007 Vice Chairman of Nissan Motor Co Ltd, who delivered a Masterclass on the Nissan Ghosn revolution, in which Mr Isayama was a key player. The turnaround of the Japanese automaker under CEO Carlos Ghosn has become a textbook staple, and a first-hand account of the company’s recovery provided an enthralling hour for an audience of students, researchers, and academic staff from The York Management School.
Of particular note was the wide range of issues touched on by Mr Isayama, highlighting the comprehensive thinking necessary for today’s top managers. He stressed the need for leadership, flexibility, innovation, attention to competitors, cultural sensitivity, cosmopolitan thinking and commitment to the technological change necessary to meet environmental threats including climate change. The Ghosn revolution extends far beyond vision and leadership, essential though these qualities are. It also requires teamwork and partnership, and an ability to embrace change. Mr Isayama spoke of the need to challenge and if necessary to reform established practices, referring explicitly to the Japanese keiretsu, vertical supply chains based on share ownership that may conflict with strategic priorities.
Another key theme in the talk was the importance of Cross Functional Teams (CFTs) whereby managers and staff share information and experience horizontally across different areas of business activity, avoiding the more classical and hierarchical single area responsibilities. The comprehensive nature of the Ghosn-inspired reforms had had a major impact across Japanese manufacturing beyond the Nissan brand. What is striking about the Nissan experience, and was underlined throughout Mr Isayama’s address, is that powerful and intelligent leadership can not only turnaround an ailing business, but can have profound cultural effects on a nation. Indeed yet another aspect of this Masterclass, and the title has never been more apposite, is the cultural significance of responsible management. Mr Isayama was accompanied on his visit to York by Dr Kazuyuki Marukawa, Senior VP of CSEM/HC Starck, a multinational metallurgy company based in Munich. He added some comments on the challenges of working in different cultures from the perspective of a Japanese national in Munich – where evidently his developing competence in German proves that in many international contexts fluency in English is insufficient. Perhaps there’s another lesson for some of our students: learn at least one other language to enhance your career opportunities.
This event was introduced by Simon Sweeney, Director of Postgraduate Programmes.
Thanks to Dr Yoo Jung Ha, Lecturer in International Business, and Professor Teresa Da Silva Lopes, Director of CEGBI, for arranging this Masterclass, and Jane Gulec and Helen Geddes for administrative support.