Company Leaders Honda and Fujisawa Retire; Kawashima Assumes Presidency / 1973

A Refreshing New Development: Two Retire, Their Gaze Fixed on Honda's Future

Company Leaders Honda and Fujisawa Retire; Kawashima Assumes Presidency / 1973

Training Young Executives, Fujisawa Style

The question had been present in Senior Managing Director Takeo Fujisawa's mind as far back as 1956, when Honda Motor had at last attained success with its motorcycle business. What was the optimal corporate structure, he wondered, that would allow the company to continue growing?

Training Young Executives, Fujisawa Style

The Big Boardroom: Imminent challenges and other issues were solved promptly through discussions such as these. Kiyoshi Kawashima is shown second from the left.

One idea was that the Research Division should be separate and independent from Honda Motor. That concept, though opposed initially, eventually came to reality with the establishment of Honda Motor R&D Co., Ltd., on July 1, 1960. However, it was not until considerable time had been spent deliberating the matter.

The idea behind an independent division for research and development was to create a system in which the collective power of many experts could be put to full use rather than relying solely upon the power of a single genius, Soichiro Honda. During that period, Fujisawa was painfully aware of an additional problem, that being the need to develop the talent that could succeed Honda and himself in leading the company. As Fujisawa had so often told Michihiro Nishida (the former executive vice-president) and others, "The founder's most important job is to preserve the fundamental practices of managing a business on behalf of the next generation."

Recalled Nishida of that period in the company's history, "I believe it was something Mr. Fujisawa had in mind for a long time. He believed that the most important job for the company's two founders was to make an appropriate decision regarding who would take over, once they'd left the company. That's why he spent more than a decade training his potential successors."

The directors' meetings were from early on attended by several young general managers and assistant general managers, upon the instructions of Fujisawa. He would ask them to present the details of a particular agenda and participate in debates, always aware of their ability to contribute. It was through such activities that these younger employees would receive the skills they'd need to enter the upper management.

Kiyoshi Kawashima became a member of the board of directors in April 1962, at the age of only 34, during a period in which Honda Motor produced a number of young directors. Within a year of his appointment, there were four directors, each of whom had another title of significant responsibility. Kiyoshi Kawashima was the general manager at Saitama Factory, Kihachiro Kawashima was the executive vice-president of American Honda, Nishida was the general manager of the Foreign Division, and Takao Shirai was the R&D Center's director. One day, however, Fujisawa summoned them to company headquarters, whereupon he announced that they would be dismissed from their duties as the managers of each respective division.

"So, what are we to do now?" wondered the four directors aloud. Only a day earlier they were busy fulfilling their duties, and now they had been thrown into a state of confusion as the board of to what their dismissals were all about. In fact, it would take another three or four months for them to fully understand the reasoning behind Fujisawa's decision.

"We came to realize," Nishida recalled, "that we had done nothing as the board of directors, although we had performed our duties as managers. Mr. Fujisawa carried out this change in our positions so that we would become aware of that fact through direct experience."

Thus, the four directors began pondering a new question-namely, what a director was.

Fujisawa, in answering the question, told the four of them to "think about what a director should be doing."

The four men debated this question among themselves every day. Faced with a question resembling those asked in a Zen mondo or Q&A session, they often took to the streets of Ginza to discuss it over Japanese hotchpotch and yakitori at local food stands.

"When Mr. Honda and Mr. Fujisawa first met," Nishida said, "they would go everywhere together like a couple of honeymooners. This was because they were eager to get to know each other and debate the issues. And within about seven years of the company's founding they had come up with a concrete representation of Honda's corporate philosophy. So, just as they had done in their own way, we did in our case, debating a great variety of issues and getting to know one another's personalities."

The question had indeed served its purpose, for in time the young directors grew confident that they could carry on the Honda business as opinion leaders in the boardroom.

The Challenging Spirit of Honda

1990 - 1999
  1. The Birth of Twin Ring Motegi / 1997The Birth of Twin Ring Motegi / 1997
  2. Entry to Champ Car Racing / 1994Entry to Champ Car Racing / 1994
  3. Odyssey / 1994Odyssey / 1994
  4. Establishment of Honda Taiyo, Kibo-no-Sato Honda and Honda R&D Taiyo / 1992Establishment of Honda Taiyo, Kibo-no-Sato Honda and Honda R&D Taiyo / 1992
  5. Hosting Hosting "Orei-no-kai" / 1991
  6. The NSX / 1990The NSX / 1990
1980 - 1989
  1. The VTEC Engine / 1989The VTEC Engine / 1989
  2. Honda EV Plus: The Dream of an Electric Vehicle / 1988Honda EV Plus: The Dream of an Electric Vehicle / 1988
  3. An Automated Line for Painting and Coating / 1988An Automated Line for Painting and Coating / 1988
  4. Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS) / 1987Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS) / 1987
  5. The Airbag System / 1987The Airbag System / 1987
  6. The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983
  7. Formula One Entry / 1983Formula One Entry / 1983
  8. Development of Honda's Franz System Car / 1982Development of Honda's Franz System Car / 1982
  9. The World's Smallest Welding Line / 1982The World's Smallest Welding Line / 1982
  10. Transfer Lines for Modular Components / 1981Transfer Lines for Modular Components / 1981
  11. The Car Navigation System / 1981The Car Navigation System / 1981
  12. City / 1981City / 1981
  13. The F200 The F200 "Komame" Mini-Tiller / 1980
  14. Establishing Honda of America Manufacturing / 1980Establishing Honda of America Manufacturing / 1980
1970 - 1979
  1. The Oval Piston Engine / 1979The Oval Piston Engine / 1979
  2. Returning to the World Motorcycle Grand Prix / 1979Returning to the World Motorcycle Grand Prix / 1979
  3. The HR21 Lawn Mower / 1978The HR21 Lawn Mower / 1978
  4. Creating Hometown Forests / 1977Creating Hometown Forests / 1977
  5. The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series) / 1977The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series) / 1977
  6. Introducing the Accord / 1976Introducing the Accord / 1976
  7. CG125 / 1975CG125 / 1975
  8. Establishment of Honda Engineering / 1974Establishment of Honda Engineering / 1974
  9. Company Leaders Honda and Fujisawa Retire; Kawashima Assumes Presidency / 1973Company Leaders Honda and Fujisawa Retire; Kawashima Assumes Presidency / 1973
  10. Announcing the Civic / 1972Announcing the Civic / 1972
  11. Introducing the CVCC / 1972Introducing the CVCC / 1972
  12. Holding All Honda Idea Contests / 1970Holding All Honda Idea Contests / 1970
  13. Launching the Office of Safe Driving Promotional Operations / 1970Launching the Office of Safe Driving Promotional Operations / 1970
1960 - 1969
  1. The Dream CB750 FOUR / 1969The Dream CB750 FOUR / 1969
  2. Launching the Honda 1300 / 1968Launching the Honda 1300 / 1968
  3. The Hondamatic Transmission / 1968The Hondamatic Transmission / 1968
  4. Entering the Auto Market at Last / 1966Entering the Auto Market at Last / 1966
  5. The E300 Portable Generator / 1965The E300 Portable Generator / 1965
  6. Formula One Entry / 1964Formula One Entry / 1964
  7. Kyoto: Celebrating the Company's 15th Anniversary / 1963Kyoto: Celebrating the Company's 15th Anniversary / 1963
  8. Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963
  9. Launching the S360 and T360 / 1962Launching the S360 and T360 / 1962
  10. Employing the Employing the "My Record" Project and Expert Certification / 1960
  11. The R&D Center Goes Independent / 1960The R&D Center Goes Independent / 1960
1950 - 1959
  1. Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959

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