Success through “kaizen” and “5 S’s”





“Shimamura Gofukuten” (a draper’s shop) was founded in Saitama Prefecture in 1953. Changing its name to “Shimamura Co., Ltd.” in 1972, it established an efficient inventory management system based on the cutting-edge computer technology at the time. It later structured a unique purchasing, distribution and employment system. Today the company boasts annual sales next only to the industry leader, Uniqlo Co., Ltd. It runs 1,931 shops, including those in foreign countries such as China and Taiwan. Hakumon Herald interviewed Masato Nonaka, president of the company, who graduated from Chuo University’s Faculty of Law in 1984.



Way of thinking based on logical development




-Did you think that you would be a company president while you were a student?




Nonaka: No, not at all. Many people around me think I am a great person because I am a president. But I am just an average man. I was not particularly good at anything when I was a student. I was not an active student. But whenever I found something that interested me, I did it really hard to my satisfaction.


野中 そのようなことは全くありません。皆さんは、私が社長であるということだけで、いかにもすごい人間のように扱いますが、私は普通の人間です(笑い)。当時から何かに特別秀でていたわけでもありませんし、むしろ活発な学生ではありませんでした(笑い)。ただ、自分が興味をもったことは熱心に取り組み、満足行くまで突き詰めてはいました。


-We wouldn’t have guessed that. Did you find any of your experiences during the school days valuable?




Nonaka: Yes, that I devoted myself to study helped me a great deal. I realized that particularly when I assumed the presidency, a position to make decisions. I found my hard study at school quite helpful. Business basics require you to negotiate with your partners and persuade them with logic. In other words, you have to be well aware of logical development in terms of introduction, development, turn and conclusion. I learn such a way of thinking through my daily study and writing of papers.


野中 それはやはり学業に勤しんだ経験です。とくに社長という判断を下す立場になってからより強く思うようになりました。学業に勤しんだ経験はとても役立っています。ビジネスの基本は、論理的に矛盾のない理屈で相手先と交渉し、説得させることです。つまり、起承転結を意識した物の考え方が必要になってくるのです。私はこうした考え方を日々の勉強や論文の執筆などで身につけました。


-So, you are suggesting that students should study hard in the first place.




Nonaka: Well, study itself doesn’t have to be your prime objective. Doing part-time jobs and club activities are equally important. But you should try to acquire an almighty ability that can be useful in any society, for example, a capacity for endurance and a logical way of thinking. You should acquire an ability to form you own idea by drawing something essential from a vast volume of information. I think you can do that only through your study.


野中 勉強を目的にする必要はありません。バイトもサークル活動も同じく重要です。しかし、どの社会でも活かせるオールマイティーな能力、例えば忍耐力や論理的な思考力。膨大な情報の中からエッセンスを抽出して自分なりの考えを導く力は勉強をすることでしか得られないと思います。

-What do you think are the innate qualities that successful persons have in common?




Nonaka: Well, have you ever heard of the word “5 S’s”? It is one of the management principles in Toyota Motor Corp., reputed for its “kaizen”(improvement or enhancement) initiative. The 5 S’s stand for five Japanese words: seiri (sorting out), seiton (orderly disposition), seiso (cleaning up), seiketsu (cleanliness) and shitsuke (discipline). Our company has also led to the present state through a number of kaizen. I think that people who can routinely practice the 5 S’s will enjoy a good career.


野中 「5S」という言葉は知っていますか。「カイゼン」(kaizen)で有名なあのトヨタの経営理念の1つで、「整理・整頓・清掃・清潔・躾」の頭文字をとったものです。我が社も数多くの「改善」を通して今に至っています。やはり、私はこの5Sをきちんと実行できる人が良いキャリアを歩んでいくと思います。Next page...