Empowering our People for an Agile Future

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Updated: October 29, 2020.

Walking through the doors at LIXIL’s former Kasumigaseki headquarters in 2015, it would be hard to differentiate the office from any one of the traditional Japan Inc. or government offices that dominate the central Tokyo neighborhood. The long rows of desks and top-down corporate culture were at odds with the company’s focus on developing innovative water and housing products to make our homes more comfortable and livable.

After taking over as President and CEO in 2016, Kinya Seto set LIXIL on a new path to become a purpose-driven entrepreneurial company. The aim was to radically transform from being a complex and often-times inefficient conglomerate, into an agile, consumer-focused organization that understands and meets consumers’ fast changing needs.

For LIXIL, this would be achieved through a combination of concrete structural changes to create a simpler, stronger organization, as well as by embedding a more agile, empowering, and open culture that enables employees to succeed to their full potential.

One of the first signs that old ways of operating were changing came when Seto abandoned the company’s dress code. There was a clear message; the focus would be on the work, not the formalities of corporate Japan. This was just the beginning of a transformation journey to create a more agile organization. Since then, the company has unified globally around a standard set of LIXIL Behaviors and transformed internal collaboration through new digital platforms and global integration. LIXIL also divested non-core businesses and will soon formally transition to a simplified operating company structure.

Being Ready to Face Unprecedented Challenges

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus on agility was given a real-time stress test. With a simplified organization in Japan and all international markets integrated under LIXIL International, as well as a more digitally enabled workforce, the company was ready to face this new challenge.

Supply chain teams worked globally across time-zones to balance the increased demand for bidets in the Americas against Asia demand. With fewer layers, shorter report lines, cross-regional project teams, and a global view of key processes, LIXIL was demonstrating its newfound agility.

LIXIL's people embracing more agile work styles

Individual contributors have themselves started to break the mold of rigorous, hierarchical barriers. Leveraging the internal collaboration and communication platform, Workplace, employees have been inspiring and connecting with one another across borders: teams in EMENA and Japan came together to collaborate on 3D printing of the same ‘elbow-controlled’ door handles in response to COVID-19. During the pandemic many employees were now working from home, but 66%¹ said they felt more productive, taking advantage of the digital tools the company had at the ready and improving their work-life balance.

Focusing on the Job, Not the Title

Kinya Seto (CEO) and Bijoy Mohan (Leader, LIXIL International)
touring the Lahr factory in Germany

LIXIL is now taking another transformational step to remove barriers to agility and ensure the focus stays firmly on the work. The company is simplifying and harmonizing titles for managers and above across the entire company. For managers across LIXIL International and working in global roles at corporate functions, titles will be standardized as “Leader” along with area of responsibility, applying to everyone including Bijoy Mohan, formerly CEO and now Leader, LIXIL International.

Along with the simplification of titles, LIXIL has this year also redefined the role of Corporate Officers to consist of one President and two classes of Officers: Executive Vice President and Senior Vice President, bringing the number of Corporate Officers down from 50 to 24. This change also reflected the shift to a simpler, more agile organization, and has clarified the roles and responsibilities of the top leadership team with fiduciary responsibility for managing and setting the direction of the company, thereby strengthening governance.

For Seto, “Everyone has the capacity to lead – not just the person carrying the biggest title. People’s contributions shouldn’ t be limited to the title they hold. An environment without concerns about titles enables employees to stretch beyond where they believed their title would have allowed them to participate.”

Mohan said, “This is a milestone step towards us becoming a simpler, more open culture. What’s important is the actual work individuals are responsible for, not the title or rank they carry. We are focused on strengthening agile, team-based work. Teams create value for the organization by capitalizing on the collective strengths and diversity of thought. However, deference to hierarchy, fear of consequences, and lack of transparency can be barriers to effective teamwork. We want the best ideas to win, rather than a person’s rank.”

Office environments are becoming more collaborative and innovative

The move is also aimed at LIXIL better serving its partners and consumers, by placing an even greater focus on the actual services provided. With right expertise and decision-making capabilities at the table, the emphasis will be on collaboration and innovation to quickly find the right solutions, not the title on the business cards LIXIL people carry.

Yugo Kanazawa, Leader, Digital added, “The simplification of titles across the organization can be a catalyst for further positive culture change in LIXIL, ensuring that we embed a more agile and empowering culture. Our LIXIL Behaviors of “Do the Right Thing” , “Work with Respect” , and “Experiment and Learn” are all anchored in specific notions to encourage speaking-up and sharing views, acknowledging that everyone is a steward of our company’s success.”

The WING campus encourages employees to explore various working styles

LIXIL moved from Kasumigaseki to a consolidated global headquarters in November 2019. Sitting on the riverside in a largely residential part of Tokyo, the WING campus is home to a new R&D facility, design center, and spaces that encourage open communication and new ways of thinking. LIXIL is also redefining the role of the office at its regional bases in Piscataway, Singapore, and Dusseldorf. With a collaborative and innovative work environment that opens doors to creativity, employees are empowered to do their best work. Ways of working have changed dramatically since 2015 and the future will be more agile.

The company’s transformation continues.

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