January 17, 2017 2:30 am JST
My Personal History

Carlos Ghosn (16) Codifying the Nissan Way

After the success of Nissan 180, Ghosn and his team set a course for lasting growth

Carlos Ghosn and Nissan Motor employees celebrate addition of 1 million vehicles.

I have on the bookcase in my office a photo book titled "Shift," which charts our journey from 1999, when I first came to Japan, to 2005, which marked the end of the Nissan 180 plan. Copies of "Shift" were distributed worldwide and handed out to all Nissan Motor employees, and it does its best to capture the six years that, as I wrote in the book, forever changed us, as a company and also as leaders. The final photo is especially meaningful: It captures the moment right after we sold our 1 millionth vehicle, reaching our Nissan 180 goal.

The book is an important record of the incredible feat the people of Nissan achieved. But in addition to recording the past, I believed we also needed something to guide us in the future. That something became the "Nissan Way."

In 2005, a number of executives, including myself, attended a daylong retreat at a camp in Hakone, some 100km southwest of Tokyo, to discuss various ideas. We wanted to create a global code of conduct that the entire Nissan community could embrace. It was based on the idea that, "The power comes from inside" and is divided into five mindsets and five actions that all Nissan employees are expected to demonstrate to this day.

That same year -- 2005 -- was a turning point for both Nissan and myself. In May, I was appointed CEO of Renault. Former Chairman Louis Schweitzer had announced that I would be his successor three years before he stepped down as CEO. He had even wanted me to take the helm prior to 2005, but I asked him to wait because I wanted to concentrate on rebuilding Nissan.

With this promotion, I became the first CEO to simultaneously lead two Fortune 500 companies. This position allowed me to further deepen the relationship between the two automakers through the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Leading both a French and a Japanese company required a major shift in how and where I spent my time. Until then, I had spent three weeks of each month in Japan and one week on overseas business trips. However, in order to also lead Renault effectively, I needed to reorganize my time: one-third in France, one-third in Japan and the remaining third in the markets where we operate. My family returned to France.

At Nissan, I named a chief operating officer to handle management along with me. I appointed Toshiyuki Shiga, who was then a managing director. Because I now wore two hats, I could not manage Nissan the way I did before. Of course, strategy is ultimately decided by the highest decision-making group, the Executive Committee, which I chaired, but a certain degree of role-sharing was necessary. As I take on the role of Mitsubishi Motors chairman today, I have similarly asked our chief competitive officer, Hiroto Saikawa to step into the role of co-chief executive officer of Nissan.

That said, I still like to be a hands-on manager. I want to know what's happening in the development, production and sales offices, and I make extra time in my schedule to visit them. Even at the top level of an organization -- and maybe even especially then -- there is always something to be gained by seeing and feeling things for yourself. As I take on additional responsibilities as Mitsubishi chairman, I will continue to find time to do these things. To me, if you think there aren't enough hours in a day, you simply aren't maximizing the ones you have.

Carlos Ghosn is chairman and CEO of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

Read more installments of My Personal History: Carlos Ghosn

See recent articles on the auto industry at Auto Industry Upheaval

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