When you hear that I have worked in 8 different countries around the world with my family, you would think that I am born an international businessperson; which is not true. I only started using English in business when I left France to move abroad at the age of 25. I worked at the same company for 20 years and Takeda is my second company in my entire career. So in that sense I guess you could say I am like a regular Japanese businessperson.
What Makes a Company Truly Global?
Takeda has a long history, having been founded in 1781, just 5 years younger than the U.S.. However, it only became a truly global company after two big acquisitions of foreign firms in 2008 and 2011. What is interesting to me is that when I ask Japanese people who are not familiar with this industry what percentage of Takeda’s employees they think are located outside Japan, they will guess around 10%. They are very surprised when I tell them that more than 70% of Takeda’s employees work outside Japan.
Takeda is a well-respected Japanese company built on its own historical values. However, it has a large global presence and does business in more than 70 countries. From the standpoint of managing the organization, I would like to preserve Takeda values, while at the same time change what must be changed, in order to become a competitive global company. In other words, I want to preserve Takeda’s DNA while at the same time transform Takeda into a new company.
I Value Loyalty
Loyalty is one of the defining features of Japanese companies. This value system, in many Japanese companies, arises from working at one company for a long time. When I look at someone’s CV during the hiring process, I pay attention to how many times they have switched jobs in the past. In the U.S., people who have gained experience through working at a lot of companies tend to be valued more highly, but this is not so important to me.
If someone’s CV shows that they have changed jobs every few years, I ask them during the interview “Why did you quit that company?” or “Did something happen to cause you to leave?” in order to confirm that they are not changing jobs with passive reason like job hoppers. I worked for one company for 20 years before coming to Takeda. Therefore, I like this particular value of Takeda very much.
On the other hand, it is not enough to simply remain at one company for a long time. Loyalty to the company needs to be accompanied by openness to change and the ability to affect change. Simply working for a long time at the same company in a fixed employment system based on seniority, while avoiding change, isn't right. It is important to take advantage of the benefits that the long term employment system brings, but not suffer the potential side effects.
Energy and Talent Equal Success
I believe that one thing that Takeda needs to enhance is diversity specifically in Japan. I think that up until now many Japanese companies have been thought to be homogenous. Within Japan, when you look at different companies they have different corporate cultures. However, one of the common issues is gender equality – ensuring that women are given equally opportunity.
Another area that lacks diversity is age. People who are energetic and talented, and are serious about their careers need to be put in jobs that will satisfy them, regardless of their age or seniority. People's needs and career plans differ greatly; some people are keen to pursue fast and global career progression, but others are not interested in being active globally and have different goals for their careers. One of my main goals is to make Takeda a company where each person can find their own place at the company where they are comfortable and can shine.
The other area in which diversity is important is nationality and backgrounds. There are 8 different nationalities among the 14 members of the Takeda Executive Team in which each officer has global work experience. In the team, there are several Japanese and Americans, and also people from France, UK, Ireland, Canada, Brazil, and Germany. I think diversity to such extent is rare even among global pharmaceutical companies.
If you were to set goals that seem unattainable, it would be discouraging; no one would try to reach for them. I need to first define our starting point – Takeda’s current corporate culture, management methods, and so on – and then create a vision for progress.
I want to transform Takeda into a company that can compete on a global level while keeping Takeda's DNA. Next month, I would like to talk about my philosophy on leadership.