Can the seven principles of the Mazda Way, stemming from Japanese manufacturing concepts, be accepted globally?
Yes, answers Sandra Jimenez Villa, Human Resources Director of Compañía Colombiana Automotriz (CCA). "The Mazda Way is easily understood and is something we can identify with," she says, adding, "I feel great satisfaction because the application of the Mazda Way globally means there is a shared awareness of Mazda's business culture worldwide."
In April 2008, Mazda summarized seven basic principles and values handed down within the Company over time, and defined them as the Seven Principles of the Mazda Way. The intent was to internalize and promote the practice of these principles on a global scale to further strengthen the Group.
The Mazda Way concept was then applied to Group companies around the world.
Sandra Jimenez Villa, CCA's Human Resources Director, is responsible for promoting the Mazda Way. But even before the Mazda Way was introduced, she emphasized the active implementation of human resource policies.
In 2006, the Company was awarded the bronze prize (third place) for Occupational environment management from among more than 6,000 Colombian companies. Not satisfied with this, Jimenez Villa wondered how difficult it would be to win the gold prize, she worked hard to overcome the remaining issues, and as a result, CCA won the gold prize (first place) in 2008.
"My challenge is to make sure that CCA has employees who identify with the Company, who are committed, satisfied and oriented toward creating value for the brand," says Jimenez Villa. She wanted all of CCA's approximately 650 employees to understand and incorporate the Mazda Way in their work, and wondered what sort of methods would be acceptable to them.
She listened to the staff's opinions, discussed with the labor union, and subsequently came up with activities for workers to internalize the Mazda Way. The resulting 'Mazda Way Album' and 'Mazda University' are unique initiatives at CCA that solidly reflect the seven principles of the Mazda Way.
It was hard for workers in CCA to become familiar with the principle of 'Basics/Flawless Execution' at first. The idea of reflecting on one's daily work, for example going over our work in our mind and considering it in minute detail is not a normal habit in Colombian working culture.
This sense of unfamiliarity was the impetus behind the Mazda Way Album. It is a tool for employees that encourages them to reflect the seven principles in their day–to-day activities, and to internalize the principles through a fun learning process by using stickers and questionnaires.
The Mazda University is a company training system. It gives staff opportunities to study Mazda's business practices, learn what other areas of the company do, and how they can affect others or contribute through their work. This leads to the achievement of "Mutual Learning" (Tmoiku), in which mutual growth among staff members leads to a unified "One Mazda" feeling.
"Right now we are still in the initial stage of implementing the Mazda Way Album, but the results of Mazda University have been positive. We have observed that workers fully identify with the seven principles in a significant manner. We expect the Mazda Way to be gradually incorporated into their behavior," says Jimenez Villa, who senses that employees are responding to the initiative. In fact, she says, the Mazda University is extremely popular, with applicants exceeding the number of spaces available for each training course.
April 2010: The auditorium at Mazda's head office in Hiroshima. Speaking enthusiastically about the Mazda Way in front of a crowd of new recruits was Sayaka Fujisawa, who had only joined Mazda herself a year before. "I never imagined for a moment that I'd be explaining the Mazda Way just one year after joining the Company."
It's now been over three years since the Mazda Way was introduced. A two- year long initial establishment period commenced in 2009. Promotional staff at the head office in Japan are working hard to develop the Mazda Way from something that people 'know' to something they 'practice.' Fujisawa first heard the words Mazda Way during a training seminar when she joined the company: "I could see that the Mazda Way was really important, but I couldn't really grasp how it was connected to my actual work." However, after joining the Human Resources Division and starting work as part of the program staff, she realized that "I wanted to understand the Mazda Way better than anyone in Mazda."
Without a real 'understanding,' there is no 'practice.' To raise awareness of 'practice' among employees, Fujisawa devoted herself to creating an in-house Mazda Way website, posting a wide range of information each month. The main features are titled "Mazda Way Episodes" and "Sanpunkan", which means "Three Minutes."
But activities based on the Mazda Way are not restricted to those within Mazda itself. There are also initiatives, both in Japan and overseas, that have yielded positive results. The Mazda Way Episodes posts cover those achievements. Fujisawa handles everything from planning through to gathering materials and writing up the documents herself. Though the Mazda Way approach is consistent, the ways it is put into practice are as varied as the types of work being done. Each time she gathers information, she comes across new discoveries, and has come to realize, just from the number of episodes, that the Mazda Way has really taken hold.
Another regular post is her Sanpunkan feature. From 1956 to 2001, Mazda distributed information every week to each of its workplaces with the aim of giving employees an opportunity to think about how their work was proceeding. This included discussions lasting about three minutes. Fujisawa is now reorganizing that information from the viewpoint of the Mazda Way and presenting it again. Various topics are raised, but the Mazda Way approach is interwoven into each of them. Fujisawa is receiving feedback from employees who recall the original Sanpunkan discussion. One coworker told her, "At that time, I couldn't really understand what it was about. But when I read it now, I can see that each topic touched on the importance of how we approach our work."
However, when Fujisawa looks back over the last year, the reactions have not been universally positive. Some people still don't really understand what the Mazda Way is about. Even so, Fujisawa remains optimistic. "Always in the front of my mind is the idea of 'continuous kaizen' ('continuous improvement'). On the website, I want to continue to convey information that makes the Mazda Way even easier to grasp and leaves a lasting impression, so that Mazda employees gradually come to understand the Mazda Way and are able to use it as the basis for their work. That's what inspires me in my job."
This new corporate culture, in which employees work guided by principles that are clearly stated in ideas rooted in Mazda over the course of our 90-year history, is now permeating each department and transcending borders and generations as it becomes an established part of the working landscape.