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Workstyle Reform: Empowering the Middle was the theme of the 2018 Kansai WIB Summit, held on September 13 at the Hilton Osaka, focused on empo­wering middle managers in Kansai organizations. The goal was to encourage dialogue on how these managers can support their employees in fostering workstyle reform that creates a positive impact across the organization and society as a whole.

With welcome greetings from Karen Kelley, US Consul General at the US Consulate General Osaka-Kobe, and US Ambassador to Japan William F. Hagerty IV, via video, the Kansai summit sought to:

  • Provide clarity on why empowering middle management is critical to drive true workstyle reform that is sustainable and meaningful for the company, middle managers, and all employees
  • Explore barriers faced by middle management when attemp­ting to support workstyle options for their employees
  • Share experiences and ideas, and provide actionable learning at all levels that can be applied to further promote workstyle reform via productivity and flexibility

Welcome greetings were also given by ACCJ Vice President-Kansai Stephen A. Zurcher and ACCJ President Sachin N. Shah.

EY Advisory Consulting Co., Ltd. Japan Associate Partner Nancy Ngou gave the opening presentation entitled “Empo­wering Managers for Workstyle Change,” which set the tone for the rest of the day.

Digging In
Two afternoon plenary sessions built the foundation for discussion.  Honne Talk: Set Up Your Middle Managers for Success” highlighted real-world examples of what organizations have learned from their efforts to empower the key stratum of middle managers. Sharing their experiences were: Minako Yoshikawa, general manager, Risk Management, CSR Division, and Diversity & Inclusion Co-Leader at ASICS Corporation; Shigeki Egami, executive officer, chief human resources officer, and head of Kitami operations at SATO Holdings Corporation; Nobumi Toyoura, Caterpillar Japan Ltd. executive officer and general manager of the company’s Akashi plant; and Akiko Kato, human resources partner at AIG Japan Holdings KK.

“Dialogue Across Difference,” led by Suzanne Price, president and representative director of Price Global, used an in-the-moment, interactive drama format to bring to light the existing beliefs, attitudes, intentions, and blind-spots of employees—and the consequences of such behavior. The approach allowed for a safe and authentic dialogue while raising intellectual and emotional awareness.

Exploring Further 
Building upon the foundation established by these two plenary sessions, the day was capped by more granular discussion in three breakout sessions.

Price led her second session of the day with “We Know About Unconscious Bias, But What Do We Do About It?” This interactive presentation helped participants understand where personal and collective unconscious bias come from, the function such bias serves, and how it impacts the quality of our day-to-day decision-making and business performance.

In “Communicate Smart to Get What You Need at Work,” attendees learned how to communicate assertively and without emotion in conversations with those who may have different values and workstyles than you.

“Dialogue for Change,” led by Eli Lilly Japan Senior Director of Corporate Affairs Mie Kitano, broke out participants into small groups to discuss key issues such as inclusion, unconscious bias, flexible work practices, and effective empowerment of middle managers.

Save the Date    Next Kansai WIB Summit
September 24 at the Hilton Osaka

  Read about the Chubu WIB Summit >>

Megan Casson is a staff writer at Custom Media for The ACCJ Journal.