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2021 – a year of major transformation for Panasonic

This year is one of transformation for Panasonic Corporation–commencing with a change of leadership in April 2021, and culminating with the transition to a holding company in April 2022.

After guiding Panasonic’s return to profitability and positioning the group for sustainable growth under a new business model, Kazuhiro Tsuga stepped down as CEO on April 1. His successor is Yuki Kusumi, who has an R&D background and led Panasonic’s television, white goods and automotive component businesses. 

Kusumi says he will dedicate himself to working with each of Panasonic’s businesses to improve and strengthen its competitiveness: “A structure that fails to reflect actual business conditions has its limits. The fundamental goal of the Group-wide reorganization is to promote fully autonomous management. This means that each business will be able to set its own rules and platforms based on actual business and market conditions.”

He distilled the key takeaway of his career: “I’ve worked for a variety of businesses–from audio visual equipment, consumer electronics and bicycles to automotive batteries and devices. From that experience, I learned a powerful lesson: if you can’t compete, your business will die. Our industry sectors may have growth potential, but unless we can compete, we’re not going to be the choice of customers or society.”

Under the new structure as a holding company, clearly defined responsibilities and faster decision-making will, says Panasonic in an official statement, allow the global organisation to more flexibly adjust to changing business environments and emerging opportunities.

Yuki Kusumi entered Panasonic Corporation in 1989 following graduation from Kyoto University Graduate School’s Faculty of Engineering. He was involved in the research and development of software technology, contributing to the launch of digital broadcasting, before starting a two-year term as the head of Panasonic’s European R&D Center in London (UK) in 2002. After positions of responsibility at Panasonic AVC Networks, Inc. and Appliances Company, he joined the Automotive & Industrial Systems Company in 2018. He was named CEO of the newly established Automotive Company in April 2019, and highlights of his tenure include initiating an automotive battery joint venture with Toyota Motor Company. As leader of the Automotive Company, Kusumi focused on adapting the experience and know-how of Panasonic’s consumer electronics to offer innovative technologies and solutions for changing lifestyles, reduced driver load and environmentally friendly vehicles.

In the current mid-term strategy (2019-2022), Panasonic’s vision for 2030 is to break away from low-margin businesses and position the company for future growth in higher-margin sectors. Despite the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Panasonic continues to make progress toward this goal. When the current mid-term strategy wraps up in March 2022, focus will shift to refining the competitiveness of each individual business under the new holding company structure.

“Why do we have to change the shape of the Group to become more competitive? The reason is clear if we revisit our Founder’s management philosophy. Under the Basic Management Objective, we have devoted ourselves to ‘progress and development of society’ and ‘enhancing quality of life throughout the world.’ Regardless of the changes taking place in society–and they are significant–this mission remains our ultimate purpose. Competition is the key to realizing our contribution to society. We must be unrivalled in our work, must offer good value to earn the trust of customers, and must ceaselessly sharpen our businesses.”

In a video message to employees on April 1, Kusumi said: “As CEO, I will commit myself to removing constraints on your efforts to be competitive. When it comes to accelerating business development, you will have my maximum support.”

One constraint is open communication. A key goal for Kusumi is to promote a corporate culture that allows anyone to speak their mind. As a first step, he has asked his colleagues to refer to each other by name (“Kusumi-san”) rather than title (“CEO Kusumi”) and to avoid the overly polite Japanese typically used by staff when addressing higher-ups.

“I understand that referring to someone by their title–Director or General Manager–can be a sign of respect, but some (probably most) people don’t necessarily like this custom. I think it also makes people overly conscious of an individual’s rank and that becomes a barrier to open communication.”

I am truly proud of Panasonic, the company founded by Konosuke Matsushita

said Kusumi.

“I’d like to return to the founder’s philosophy and make the company a place where everyone can gather with pride and turn their dreams into reality.”

Matsushita, the legendary founder of Panasonic, based on his belief that the key to good management is people, pursued management aimed at contributing to the development of society and the well-being of people around the world through the electronics business. His business philosophy consists of fundamental principles: “A company is a public entity of society,” “Customer comes first,” and “Start anew every day.”

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