Friday, 15 April 2011

From a small pine tree to global Corporation -Komatsu

In Japanese Komatsu means small pine tree. In English we have an expression “from little acorns great oak trees grow.” Komatsu are a big ‘corporate’ oak tree in anyone’s language. Young boys might like to play with Tonka toys but when one encounters the real business of Crawler Excavators, Wheeler excavators, Crawler dozers, Dump tracks, Backhoe loaders, Mobile crushers, recyclers, wheel loaders, motor graders, skid steer loaders, etc these are the real toys for boys! The Komatsu product range is one of the largest in the world

This week ,I've been working out in Vilvoorde near Brussels with my colleague Simon Broom running a Management Strategy Workshop with managers at Komatsu the Japanese truck manufacturer. I had a fantastic group of managers from Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Bosnia and the Ukraine. It was an event filled experience not only on the business front but also on the personal front. We celebrated one delegate's birthday ( Richard from Ghana) and another (Wonder) entering into the world of fatherhood.

Our programme covered discussions on defining what the role of a manager is today and what are the challenges both at the local, national and global levels. Models of the machines that Komatsu manufacture, service and support. At the global level the resilience of Komatsu's headquarters despite the huge challenges that the earthquake and tsunami that the home country has suffered was impressive. Komatsu's Management Principles include: Quality and Reliability  The essence of Komatsu's management is to maximize its "Corporate Value" through the pursuit of "Quality and Reliability."

They believe in the notion that "Corporate Value" represents the total sum of trust the general society and our stakeholders place in Komatsu.In order to gain more trust, Komatsu Group companies take into consideration Komatsu's Corporate Social Responsibility ("CSR") and strive toward mature corporate governance and high "Manufacturing Competitiveness".

Their pursuit of "Quality and Reliability" is naturally applicable to their products and services to ensure that they are highly valued by our customers. However, its successful application further encompasses such aspects as organizational structure, business operations, employees and Komatsu's management in general.

They issue their managers with guidelines which indicate what they should do for the purpose of enhancing "Quality and Reliability." These guidelines are not only for management but also for each and every employee of Komatsu Group companies in performing their respective jobs on a day-to-day basis:

It is worth looking at these priciples as best practice from a global player.

a. To always think about the needs of customers and to strive to provide products, services and systems that are environment-friendly, safe and innovative;

b. To always pursue self-initiated innovation of technology and management;

c. To promote consolidated management from the global perspective;

d. To contribute to the welfare of the local community as a good corporate citizen; and

e. To provide employees with opportunities for self-initiated innovation and achievements. Komatsu clearly work on solutions rather than being part of a problem! Although there are certain influences that managers cannot directly effect there are certain actions mangers can take to bring them teams close to corporate objectives nevertheless.

One area that was a challenge for all on the course was that of time management. The demands on Komatsu managers are many and various.

The key elements we identified included Selection, Organisation, Direction, Motivation, Correction, Controlling, Assisting, Developing, Decision making, Change management, Inspiration, Retention of Staff and where necessary Dismissal. The communication channels that today's manger can employ are in four areas

1.Written communication via email

2. Reading

3. Listening

and 4. Speaking
There was a feeling among the group that more time needed be spent by getting out of the office chair and engaging with their team member face to face a little more. It was felt that MBWA ( Management by Walking About) - popular some 30 years ago, is due for a return .

No doubt the world's Business Schools are re-inventing that "particular wheel" with some fancy new title - suggestions please. The group also discussed and debated at some length about the various different styles of authority that can be employed for different circumstances. e.g. Structural, Moral, Charismatic and Wisdom ( 'Sapiential') and " Give them a damned good listening to!" The groups worked on a stretching case study that required them to to produce a product and market plan.

They had to decide and justify their decision with respect to analysing data on a sales team both in terms of past and future potential in view of the change in market and product mix described in the case.

They had to draw out conclusion about the type and amount of activities the sales team and individuals contributed to the overall performance. Although the case was not specific to Komatsu's segment the group pulled out many parallels that the various units were currently experiencing. Of course just "telling" a team will not be enough to make it happen.

So we refreshed our knowledge methods of monitoring, analysing and planning in terms of the team's activity, direction and ability. Activity was measured by quantity and frequency Aim / Direction was measured by the right products, to the right customers and the right contact. (Robert from Kenya presenting his team's approach to 'pipeline' forecasting. Ability in terms of knowledge and skills. ) Forecasting and Pipeline.

We reviewed how forecasting and 'pipelines'. We considered particular products and service offered by Komatsu and broken each down into steps of decision and and information capture into a 'staircase' approach. A further development of this approach was to give a rating / percentage likelihood of each step It was felt that this would be a useful tool for working with their team members to keep them on track and on target.

For Komatsu many of the projects and sales have extended time lines from first interest to Revenue earned. We then did some refreshment work on Team motivation considering models such as Maslow Hierarchy of needs and how best to apply it in the field. We then moved onto the topic of PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT.

We looked at how competency matrices can help the manager manager their people and their talents this was linked back to our 3As model ( Aim, Ability and Activity) to best effect. We then rounded off the programme with working or the giving of feedback and coaching skills. We refreshed our skills on focusing on behaviour and behaviour change consider the pros and cons of subjective and objective feedback. We looked at the DESC model Describing the behaviour to be coached ( corrected) Explaining and Expressing the effects of the behaviour Specifying what was required and commensurate changes and remedies Consequences of changing / or not changing and how to explain them We put this all together into a series of short role plays of challenging situations where today's manager need to coach and give feedback to their staff.

Listening was particularly stressed by many as a skill to constantly work on. We worked on formulating accurate yearly forecasts and approaches to 'pipeline management'. It was not all work though. We had a great evening dinner at Ristorante -I Latini, place Sainte-Catherine , 1000 Bruxelles .

My "Royal" Bream fish was delicious www.

Related link Komatsu 2012


  1. This is really a good experience for Managers

  2. company is one of the reputable and well-known used cars exporting company in automotive world.
    SBT Japan

  3. This is very interesting.
    In my company's case, I also achieved some kind of success, as we're about to go international. With the help coming from my erp system, dynamics 365 enterprise and my wonderfull staff, we've achieved something I could never even dream of.