I proposed last August that “a charm offensive on the Nikkei group of publications might be advisable” to help new Takeda’s first ever non-Japanese President Christophe Weber gain support, and The Nikkei Business’s recent voluminous special features on Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ globalization in its online and print editions shows I was not the only one thinking this.
The Nikkei’s stance seems broadly favourable, and can be summed up as “this might happen to you too – so you might as well be positive about it”. There will be plenty more cases where a globalizing Japanese company realizes that to expand overseas, they will need executives who have produced results in doing business in other cultures, rather than executives who are well versed on the internal workings of the company but know nothing of the world outside, says the Nikkei.
The key point here is not just “overseas experience” but actually having produced results. And this is going to be a difficult requirement to fulfil for the current upcoming generation of Japanese executives in major Japanese corporations, many of whom, even if they have overseas experience, have mainly been in caretaker and liaison roles, rather than growing new businesses.
The special feature articles go into some interesting detail on the key personalities and what has actually happened at Takeda over the past few years. At the heart of it is Tachi Yamada, brought in by President Hasegawa in 2009 as a member of one of the executive committees and then to head up the R&D function. Tachi Yamada has dual US Japan citizenship and is a well known name in the pharmaceutical industry, latterly heading up the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He has also been a board member at GlaxoSmithKline, and it is his network that led Hasegawa to Weber and others.
Yamada saw the need to find new drugs as the Takeda pipeline was thin and many of its drugs were going off patent. So he completely overhauled the structure of the organisation and embarked on some acquisitions. Another key person brought in by Hasegawa was Paul Chapman, also ex GSK, who has taken Japanese citizenship (and has a Japanese wife) and changed his name to Tetsuyuki Maruyama.
Maruyama interviewed each of the Japanese executives asking them why they thought they were suited to the role. As a result of this, 35 younger researchers were promoted to management, including 10 women where previously there had been none. 60 managers left the research function including one of the founding Takeda family members. Of the 6 Drug Discovery Units, 5 are headed by non-Japanese.
Yamada will retire this year at the age of 70 and his successor as Chief Scientific and Medical Officer will also be a non-Japanese outsider – Andrew Plump from Sanofi. Of course, this is causing disquiet amongst the Japanese staff – “Japanese can’t get promoted, if more and more foreigners are appointed. And they are earning many times our salary. It seems like just being Japanese is a minus in Takeda now”.
To counter this, one of the Japanese executives, Shinji Honda, who had been seen as a candidate for next president instead of Weber is now heading up a global leader programme for Japanese employees. “I want them to experience overseas business 5 or 10 years earlier than I did”, says Honda, “then they can be the next leader or the next leader after that, to succeed Weber. This is my last big job.”
But as Akie Iriyama of Waseda Business School points out, another area that will need to be addressed is for non-Japanese to join the company at middle management or lower levels too, and to bring more of the employees of overseas acquisitions to come and work in Japan, otherwise there will be too big a gulf between the non-Japanese executives and other levels of the organisation.
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