I lived and worked in Japan for 13 years, from 1985 until 1998, at three high technology companies — PSDI, Western Digital, and now Maxtor. Today, Maxtor is a leading manufacturer of hard disc drives and storage solutions, with a bright future in Japan.
I first became aware of TMT shortly after moving to Japan and have been fortunate to partner with Mr. Nevins and TMT on a wide range of projects. TMT has always been a reliable and dedicated partner in the Human Resource area. One of the most important advantages of partnering with TMT & Mr. Nevins is Tom’s constant effort to learn, grow and develop new and better consulting and training tools.
Shortly after joining Maxtor in the summer of 1996, we faced the challenge of restructuring the entire corporation on a worldwide basis. In Japan our challenge was a complete restructuring, which encompassed a major staff reduction, as well as the recruitment of a new sales and support team. Our staff reduction involved about one-half of the headcount. Tom largely led the employee communications on a group basis, and also met one on one with employees. Everything went smoothly and as planned with no disruptions to the base business. With Tom’s assistance we completed the entire project within one month.
Once the restructuring was completed and the organization in Japan stabilized, we worked with Tom on implementation of new Rules of Employment and the TMT Salary System. With Tom’s guidance and assistance we were able to convince the employees to willingly increase daily scheduled working hours, cut back vacation days, take an allowance instead of be paid for overtime (a huge cost savings at the time), place a ceiling on the commutation allowance, establish guidelines for performance and build a strong foundation for employee relations. Throughout the entire process Mr. Nevins brought credibility, humor, and employee buy-in to the meetings and discussions. It is clear from the results that the changes we made actually contributed to a much more efficient and enjoyable working environment for our team in Japan.
In the 15 years I have known Tom, he has always rejected the commonly held belief that there can be no negative changes. His philosophy is “Even if 50 million people say a foolish thing it is still a foolish thing.” (Bertrand Russell and Nevins). He always has told me that, “if it was set-up wrong we might as well fix it now.”
Maxtor used to divide annual income by 13 and pay only one month of bonus (in the winter). Keeping annual pay the same, Tom worked with us to get acceptance from all the employees to divide pay by 17, with summer & winter bonuses of 2.5 months each.
In a country where it is so hard to fire people, among other things, this type of system allows more flexibility/opportunity to closely manage poor performers, by telling them very little or no bonus will be paid. Furthermore, it limits retirement liability and reduces payroll costs for both the company & the employees.
One of Tom’s key strengths is his total honesty and candor with the employees. He is direct and to the point, giving the employees every opportunity too fully understand and participate in the entire process. Even though their monthly pay was actually reduced, all the employees willingly supported these changes.
In addition to Tom’s ability to work with the employees and local management in Japan, he can work just as effectively with the head office. In our case Tom worked with our corporate management team and with human resources to explain the issues, pro and con. He helped the headquarters team understand the rationale, importance and nuances of the changes that were being implemented.
Tom’s approach and communication style is not just about changing a lemon into lemonade. Rather, it’s an upbeat, motivational process that reassures employees that firm and fair management while paying attention to costs, is the only way the company can succeed and grow.
In early 2001, Maxtor again called upon Mr. Nevins’ expertise to assist the company with a number of issues resulting from Maxtor’s acquisition of Quantum HDD. Tom helped with the development and execution of a plan to integrate and rationalize the Rules of Employment, personnel policy, pay, retirement and other benefits. The result was a successful merger of our two organizations in Japan.
One of the keys to Maxtor’s success with TMT has been executive participation. Maxtor’s Executive Vice-President of Human Resources, Phil Duncan, has always played an active role in our projects in Japan. In fact, prior to joining Maxtor, Phil had worked with TMT and Tom Nevins on several projects including one at Cirrus Logic, which is mentioned in one of Tom’s earlier publications. The positive outcome of that project and as well as their past relationship certainly has helped in Maxtor’s success with TMT.
Mark D. Meyer
Maxtor Japan, Limited
Business Unit Director