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Welcoming the Students from Darden

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Last summer, a Japanese second year student at Darden contacted me about the possibility of Darden students visiting Japan in May 2017. Darden is the University of Virginia's Master of Business Administration school where you can get an MBA after a two-year course.

e-Jan has been hosting groups of about twenty-five students from the University of Virginia every year. They were master students from McIntire, the School of Commerce. This time, the students from Darden, the school which I graduated from, would visit instead. I thought of making this an occasion to have some constructive discussions to get some insight from MBA students.

Initially, thirty students were to visit Japan, but because the Japan tour was so popular among the students, the group grew into fifty. Prof. Yael Cockayne was the only teacher to attend, but later, Prof. Bob Conroy was also assigned to come with the group because of the increase in members.

What to do when they are here became my question. Thanks to the visits from McIntire School, we already were experienced with what to do in terms of the office tour, discussions, and hosting a reception. The real question was what to discuss. Darden is a school that solely uses a case study method, so I wished I to create a case for them to discuss our actual issues.

I decided to have discussions with the title of "Who owns the company?" and discuss what to do with the stocks we purchased back from Toray, our initial investor, in March this year. I wished to make a system in which the employees at the company hold the stocks as a motivational tool. We needed a realistic case, so after the office tour, I described what we had been doing, and we jumped into the discussions.

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Many opinions were raised, and the theme of the discussions gradually evolved to "Does people's motivation change with financial merit?" We talked about e-Jan's once-a-year-EBIT (earnings before income tax)-proportional bonus etc. The discussions went into a different direction than I had originally planned; "How to motivate the people in the organization?" It was an important question across cultures. The way that the office desks and meeting spaces were organized at e-Jan was praised as one of the advanced ways to motivate people.

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"Shiro, you'd better describe our TMC and DR system!" People from e-Jan jumped into the discussion, so I asked them to describe the two. TMC (ten minutes conversation) is a system that allows myself or the direct managers to converse with each person face to face once a month. DR (daily report) is a system in which everyone leaves an end-of-the-day report and I leave comments every morning before official working hours. Our newly developed IT system, to support constructive conversation-style comments, was shown to the students. A person disclosing her target weight reduction on her DR was a big hit. The students got to understand what we were doing to motivate people, and they gradually understood why e-Jan has been doing well over the years.

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Anyhow, thanks to the Darden students who were really good at discussions, it turned out to be very lively and fruitful. After this, we moved into the reception. The next day, Prof. Bob Conroy wrote me with the following note:

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Shiro,

Thank you for everything you did for us yesterday. Students really enjoyed the case discussion. I personally was very impressed with your case teaching style. It was a great visit and really presented a unique view of a Japanese company.

Please let me know if you are coming to Charlottesville. I would very much like to return the hospitality.

Best regards,

Bob

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