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    Would Kyocera be good to work for? Is leadership style linked to core competencies?

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    ---Like many other Japanese companies, Kyocera's original competitive advantage stemmed from its ability to make high-quality products faster and cheaper than competitors. The housings serve as a ceramic "cocoon" to protect the fragile chips during transit. In other ways, however, Kyocera breaks the mold usually associated with Japan, Inc. The company is one of only a handful of companies in Japan with foreign directors on its board. Its San Diego-based subsidiary is mostly run by Americans. Rather than recruit graduates of prestigious schools, Kyocera prefers to hire its employees from second-tier technical schools. Most Japanese companies strive for consensus and adherence to company norms, but Inamori, the company founder and chairman, encourages creativity and independence within Kyocera. In fact, despite Kyocera's close attention to production details, Inamori believes that the secret to Kyocera's growth is not its grasp of technology. Rather, it is the "spiritual energy of the workers." Inamori implemented that spiritual drive by striving for efficiency. He insists that all employees work at holding down costs and engage in high-quality work. For example, instead of following the electronics industry norm of using distributors for its products, Kyocera relies upon a salaried sales force. The result: Kyocera spends 12 to 13 percent of revenues upon general, administrative, and sales expenses compared to the 20 percent that is normal for other companies. There has never been a layoff at Kyocera's U.S. plant in San Diego; in return, the company enjoys high employee loyalty. Kyocera's success in the U.S. market can also be attributed to its willingness to customize tailor chip housings to each customer's needs. Among California's Silicon Valley chipmakers, Kyocera has become legendary for its service. Kyocera backs up its $100 million-per-year R & D expenditures with sales forces in both the U.S. -- 50 direct salespeople at 12 direct sales offices - and Japan that pay heed to Inamori's unwavering emphasis on quality and customer service.

    Inamori said, "I feel that the strength of an enterprise is determined by the number of workers who really understand the spiritual qualities which enable a business to succeed. That is why I always endeavor to get my thoughts across to them. My time is often taken up in that connection rather than in dealing with technological problems concerning ceramic manufacture." Inamori exhorts his employees to ever-higher levels of performance with Inamorisms, such as "When a company is no longer on the offensive, that company is already beginning to go downhill." Part of Inamori's directness and driven nature may be explained by the fact that, as a young man, his goal was to become a kamikaze pilot during World War II. The war ended before he could fulfill his dream, and he dedicated his life to staging offensive maneuvers in marketing, rather than in the military. Inamori believes that when a company is first founded, the employees have a burning drive for work and military-style discipline. Top management's attention shifts away from the maintenance of worker energy when such organizations grow in size, however. According to Inamori, the spiritual drive that was present when Kyocera was founded has not waned. This fact distinguishes Kyocera from most other organizations - Japanese, American, or otherwise. Inamori implemented that spiritual drive by striving for efficiency.

    1. Would Kyocera be a good company to work for? Why or why not?
    2. Is Inamori's leadership style linked to Kyocera's core competencies? Why or why not?

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    Solution Preview

    1) Kyocera would be a great company to work for. Inamori, the company founder and chairman, is dedicated to his employees. He focuses on the growth of each individual within the organization to achieve the maximum work output by striving for efficiency through quality work and performance. He also encourages creativity and independence in workers which gives them the incentive to "think outside the box" and ...

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