Up until now, Hitachi’s risk management team was mainly centered on the legal department – which I suspect is probably the case in most Japanese companies. Now Hitachi’s President Keiji Kojima has added the finance department to it, wanting the company to take a more proactive approach to global risks. The aim is to visualize risks – such as the impact of the economic slowdown in Europe due to the Ukraine crisis and soaring component costs due to inflation – and respond quickly.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, GlobalLogic was empowered to act quickly to evacuate 7,200 local employees in the country – and was told that they could put off contacting Japan HQ until later. By the end of April, remote working and overseas bases had been put in place and the operations were back up to 95% level.
Hitachi’s overseas business has expanded recently thanks to the acquisition of US company GlobalLogic and the power grids business of ABB, now Hitachi Energy.
Strengthening the risk management system is one response to this, along with introducing a global standard job description system to the Japanese organisation, aiming to have 30% women and 30% non-Japanese representation ont he board by 2030, aiming for zero carbon by 2050. Five out of the 9 external directors are non-Japanese.
Hitachi has learnt from past failures in overseas expansion, such as the Horizon Nuclear Power project in the UK, and the failure of a joint venture thermal power project in South Africa.
These changes have impacted the way the board operates. Now, when an executive officer reports that a plan has not been achieved, the non-Japanese directors respond “so?” – by which they mean, don’t just report the result, tell me what you are going to do next. A former external director of Hitachi, Harufumi Mochizuki comments in the Nikkei that “thanks to training by foreign directors, the executive officers have acquired a world class management style, and the ability to action, with a sense of speed.”
The next challenge for Hitachi will be to make the best use of the global human resources that it now has thanks to its acquisitions. Only three of Hitachi’s 34 executive officers are non-Japanese. The Nikkei comments that these changes are very much in line with the vision of Mr Nakanishi, the former President and Chairman who died in 2021, for an organisation with world class leaders who can respond quickly to global risks.
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