"Change Is Easy"

LIXIL’s Yosuke Yagi on getting global right

02/11/2015 Barcelona

Mr. Yosuke Yagi

LIXIL's Yosuke Yagi: Change depends on attittude / Photo: Quim Roser

How do you grow from national to global? To do so and achieve annual net sales of €12.5 billion is quite an achievement. For LIXIL’s Executive Officer and Executive VP in charge of HR and General Affairs, Yosuke Yagi “change” is “easy.” He shared his vision of how to go global with MBA students at IESE Barcelona in October.

Since joining LIXIL in 2012, he has been at the helm of an international and global revolution and has seen the company transform from a Japanese national company into a worldwide operation.

From National Heavyweight to Global Leader

It’s an “ongoing process” that Yagi describes as metamorphosing “from a dinosaur to a phoenix.” In effect, the company has globalized itself by purchasing a range of foreign operations including American Standard Brands, Permasteelisa and GROHE.

The goal, for LIXIL, said Yagi, is to become “the world’s most valued, innovative and trusted living technology company by 2020.”

Positive Perspective for Success

Having set the bar so high, it perhaps seems surprising that Yagi describes the transformation as “easy.” Nonetheless, he sees it simply as a matter of attitude. “If you think change is going to be difficult – then it certainly will be,” he said.

Overturning opposition to change and the corporate norms of continuity, conformity and seniority are all part of LIXIL’s transformation strategy. The new international flavor of the company is exemplified in its new board, which contains members from outside Japan. A “far cry” from a few years ago, said Yagi.

Leveraging Diversity and Synergy

The new blood in the company has come from embracing outside expertise – mostly from its new acquisitions. Harnessing the diverse talents and skills across LIXIL has been key for its global success. And that includes leveraging leadership and an international outlook from new arrivals to the LIXIL fold, because, as Yagi says, “our biggest acquisitions already have a global outlook.”

Redressing the balance when it comes to diversity and women in leadership is also top of the agenda for Yagi. LIXIL is committed to increasing the number of women in management positions.

Complementary expertise shared across different functions within the company also makes for great synergies. Marrying GROHE’s flair for design with LIXIL’s expertise in technology and exacting quality standards, for example, has created potential for new product lines, Yagi said.

Making One LIXIL

The company may now be promoting diversity – but it also needs unity to flourish. The “One LIXIL” strategy is key to the successful integration of the distinctive companies acquired by LIXIL. And while there is great diversity across the organization’s 150 territories, the 80,000 LIXIL employees should coalesce around the same operational structures, code of conduct and values, said Yagi.

This boils down to employees “doing the right thing.” He also said that it means employees should feel encouraged to take the initiative where they can, and to play an active role in the company’s fortunes.

Training for Leadership

Another important aspect of the “One LIXIL” strategy is a global HR platform that, among other things, has been designed to promote leadership earlier on. This contrasts with Japanese corporate traditions, where seniority and time served often trumps young talent.

“When I worked at GE, we calculated that for every 1,000 employees, there was one great leader. That means that we have 80 great leaders at LIXIL whose talents we need to develop,” said Yagi.

Part of LIXIL’s commitment to this has been to partner with IESE to create a Custom Program “Global Executive Leadership Training: Leading the change, building our future.” Spanning three continents and three modules, the first module took place last week at IESE Barcelona.