I never met Mr. Ito personally, but I did work in the company at the time. Things were not bad, but profitability was getting out of hand. In case you are wondering about the photograph, that is me on the far right. I was the staff development manager. The only person who was legitimately in the picture is the man on the far left. The man in blue. You have to look carefully because you might miss him. You be forgiven is you think we were the fire brigade with our bright new overalls. However, our duty had nothing to do with fire. Our job was to sweep and clean the factory!
Rational thinking corporate executives do not sweep and clean factory floors. They sit in offices and make phone calls. The only reason we found ourselves in this bright red position because Mr. Ito asked one question – What is our business? Apparently “tires” was the correct answer. He then said, “shouldn’t we be paying more attention to where those tires are coming from?”. Apparently the correct answer to the second question was the red brigade in that picture. In between those two questions the life of the entire management team changed forever. Led by Mr. Ito we all trooped to the factory.
Our job was to clean the machine that produces the value. It was to look after the goose that lays the golden eggs. Our roles changed from papers, printers and setting prices to helping the people who produce the gold do the best they could. What happened next was amazing. The workers in the mine began to smile. They felt appreciated. We got to know them and they got to talk to us. We became a factory and in a few months production surpassed the limitations of the engineering department specifications. I do not know why it happened. But just for the record let’s call it Ito Leadership!