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Kazuhiro TSUGA (President, Panasonic)

Standing at the Forefront of a Revolution

In June 2012, Kazuhiro Tsuga became the 8th President of Panasonic. He is the 2nd Osaka University alumni to take the position, following 6th President Kunio Nakamura (currently an advisor at Panasonic). After taking up the position, he has actively taken part in corporate reform, making big decisions such as pulling out of their flagship plasma TV business. Due to the financial recession in 2008 following the bankruptcy of companies such as Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, along with a number of other factors, such as departure from home appliance manufacturing and stepping up its automobile and housing businesses, the company ran a persistent deficit before returning to the black.

Profits for the last fiscal year were 120 billion yen, up 870 billion yen from the previous year. Mr. Tsuga’s decision-making ability is highly praised in economic circles as well.

Last year, he revived the high-end audio equipment brand “Technics,” of which Panasonic had previously ceased production, making waves with his drastic brand strategy.

After graduating from the School of Engineering Science at Osaka University in 1979, Mr. Tsuga entered Panasonic that very same year. Working primarily in the fields of research and technology, he eventually ended up at the top of the company. But, he soon realized that “the things I can do are limited” as a president with engineering background.

He clearly separates “what he can do” and “what he can’t do” and gives serious consideration to what he can do. He listens to others' opinions, leaving the things he doesn’t know to those who do.

Of course, as a leader, he makes the important decisions for himself. Even when his workers' opinions over an issue are split, Mr. Tsuga makes the final decision after clarifying the reasons why he has made such a decision. If the management doesn’t make quick decisions, both the management and employees will grow fatigued. This is Mr. Tsuga’s working style.

He led a relaxed student life

From the time he was at Osaka Prefectural Ibaraki High School, Mr. Tsuga excelled at math and physics, was attracted by the lack of ambiguity in scientific subjects. A friend of his with good grades wished to enroll in the School of Engineering Science at Osaka University. Mr. Tsuga found out that the school had a Bioengineering Department, a unique department that investigates life through an engineering approach, and decided to take the entrance examination for that school.

He majored in computer control at OU. At first, he chose computer architecture that he had designed as the topic of his graduation thesis, but his advisor said that a thesis on that topic would lack objectivity, so he changed his topic to “voice recognition,” which greatly influenced his direction after entering Panasonic. His junior colleagues brought ideas from his thesis topic to fruition in the form of voice recognition for a children’s toy.

When Mr. Tsuga was at university, there were 40 students in the Department of Bioengineering. Because they spent 4 years together, they were all extremely close. They not only enjoyed studying together, but also going to mixer parties and playing mahjong. “I didn’t spend my entire time studying. I led a relaxed student life. But I was happy to be able to place myself right in the middle of the new field of engineering science,” he reflected.

What are research and development to a corporation?

The reason he chose Panasonic is a bit surprising: he was already engaged to be married as a student, so he “wanted to join a company in Osaka.” After new hire training, he was assigned to the wireless laboratory. At the lab, he was in charge of “voice synthesis,” which also happened to be related to the topic of his graduation thesis.

When he was 27, he studied at the Voice Laboratory at UC Santa Barbara at the company's expense and obtained a master’s degree. Following this, he was in charge of multimedia and networks at Panasonic for quite some time.

From his extensive experience in Research and Development at Panasonic, on the difference between universities and corporations, he said, “research at universities focuses on finding new things, but research at companies needs to lead to the development and design of products, and, eventually, to their commercialization.”  He believes that both universities and corporations cannot develop without taking on challenges.

Gather knowledge and insight to shape an uncertain future

Mr. Tsuga’s motto is “gather wisdom with an honest heart to shape an uncertain future.” He put his own spin on the management philosophy of Panasonic founder Konosuke MATSUSHITA.

Having an “honest heart” is a prerequisite for people to grow and for companies to expand. “Gathering knowledge” means “clearly defining roles for each individual to work together,” which is Mr. Matsushita’s management principle for Panasonic.

“Shaping an uncertain future” is Mr. Tsuga’s own idea. One cannot clearly see one’s future, but he believes that aggressively taking on challenges toward one’s future goals will lead to accomplishments. This is true for corporations and universities. Mr. Tsuga said with a smile, “Challenging ourselves to change as we move toward an unknown future is rewarding.” He thinks that the unknown future motivates him. He sends an encouraging message to current OU students, saying, “The things you learn at university aren’t the culmination of what you have been striving for; they’re a running start for your unknown future.”

• Kazuhiro TSUGA
After graduating from the School of Engineering Science at Osaka University in 1979, Mr. Tsuga entered Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (now: Panasonic Corporation) in the same year. After serving as the Director of the Multimedia Development Center and the AVC Mobile Server Development Center, he became a board member of Panasonic in 2004. He became a Managing Executive Officer of Panasonic and Executive Managing Director and President of the Panasonic in-house company Automotive Systems Company in 2008, and in 2011, he became Representative Senior Managing Director and at Panasonic and President of the Panasonic in-house company AVC Networks Company. Mr. Tsuga took his current position as President in June 2012.

Corporate Information

Panasonic Corporation (Kadoma, Osaka)

Founded by the late Konosuke MATSUSHITA in 1918, Panasonic Corporation is a general electronics manufacturer involved in production, sales, and services for household electronics, electrical appliances, FA devices, information communication devices, and housing related devices. Consolidated sales reached 7.7365 trillion yen (for the period of March 2014), and has 271,789 employees (as of March 31, 2014). More than 2,000 Osaka University alumni work or have worked at Panasonic.

Note: This is a reprint of the article posted in the Osaka University NewsLetter No. 67 (March 2015).

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