SHIFT. Inside Nissan's historical revival
by Carlos Ghosn and Philippe Riès
review by Riccardo Paterni
Nissan's cars show the "fun to drive" and dependability of Japanese
engineering and are ALSO great to look at? This book tells about the secrets
behind Nissan's revival as a brand and as a company. It comes out this is a
great example of real value added reached by taking advantage of globalization
and intercultural cooperation smartly managed; this way the "tricks"
behind success are much more simple and straightforward than expected.
It is a story of success (recently reaffirmed by actual global sales data presented just a few weeks ago) brought forward with vision, determination and hard day-to-day work mixed with a key ingredient all companies nowadays should factor in: learning how to value and benefit from multicultural diversity and multicultural experiences.
real world citizen with a global perspective and a local focus...
original French title of the book is “Citoyen du monde” (citizen of the
world). It is a title that properly frames the private and mostly the
professional life of Carlos Ghosn today CEO of NISSAN and CEO of RENAULT (the
French car company that developed a very successful strategic and operational
Alliance with Nissan in 1999; the Alliance has been lead by Ghosn himself). Born
in Brasil from Lebanese parents, raised in France, Degree in Engineering, fast
and results oriented career as manager of companies and plants in need of a fast
turnaround (first while working for Michelin than for Renault) in countries such
as France, Brasil, the USA and Japan. What strikes most about Ghosn’s
successful managerial style is that it has demonstrated to be effective among
very different companies, different countries and different socio-cultural
perspectives and work practices.
his career, Ghosn has always been able to keep a global perspective while
totally focusing on the unique local characteristics he has to work with. The
book is enjoyable also because it shows that Ghosn’s management style has
developed step-by-step guided by experience, by wins and failures and, most of
all, guided by the perspective that you never, ever stop learning from everybody:
the worker in the shop floor as well as the top rated engineer. Ghosn shows that
the key secret to effectively produce results is to be able to develop a vision
(and make sure that people understand it and act upon it with you) while keeping
your feet on the ground on the actual problems and opportunities you find
yourself facing along your path.
There are some “rules of thumb” that facilitate this process across cultures and global market trends. Ghosn while writing about his professional experiences, and mostly about the remarkable turnaround at Nissan that he has lead, articulates them in his narrative and I am going to summarize them briefly.
“rules of thumb” of modern multicultural and multinational effective
management always starts
then it evolves benefiting from theory and reflection; never the other way
management is based upon the ability to
listen, to understand and empathize
with the people that actually do the front
work: local workers, sales people, customer service representatives; they are
the ones that have the knowledge at the basis of effective decisions and choices.
management is based upon mutual
among people on a personal and professional level; when mutual respect is not
present among people cooperating on a project the venture is bound either to
fail or to slow its progress.
management ensures to “open
and removes barriers between departments: the success of an organization depends
upon the actual integration of all of its parts; this is the only way to make
all of the organizational knowledge flow and focus on the needs and wants of
clients and markets.
management is based upon the affirmation that there are no
relevant to the dogmas of tradition: tradition is useful and its roots are
insightful, at the same time it can never get in the way of real progress.
management is based upon being
in words and acts and ensure that a concrete and practical mindset spreads
within the organization: you cannot go far if you cannot count on your commitments and
the commitments of your colleagues.
management is based upon defining and effectively communicating quantifiable
that can be clearly understood at all levels of the organization.
management is based upon the affirmation that there is difference
between determination and inflexibility:
you can be determined on your objectives but you can be flexible in the way you
reach them (Ghosn points out several times within the narrative that you cannot
force people to change; change is a process that it has to come natural and flow
once new objectives and goals are clearly defined and shared).
management learns to understand and appreciate the value
created by a multicultural
respect for different perspectives and views while focusing on the target
markets needs: Nissan design has improved thanks to the active cooperation with
French professionals at Renault; while Renault quality and engineering has
improved thanks to the rigorous focus of Japanese engineers.
management ensures that all of the previous factors integrate and become results
oriented by outlining and shaping an inspiring yet reachable vision
of the future.
more than hard work with an open mind...
style has been proven to be effective on a global scale: managing to help people
to use at best their local perspectives while finding ways to integrate with
different ones and benefiting from global dynamics and trends. This is the
multicultural perspective and practice that makes this book so unique and
relevant for today’s “global managers and leaders”: bringing people to
learn how to benefit from their differences while integrating and reconciling
them. Conceptual straightforwardness and simplicity is the strenght of this
management style. A style that may not be easy to
apply, at the same time (as Ghosn points out several times) it is just through
nothing more than hard work and openness in our minds that we can practice it.
Should we try?…why not?!
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