After posting an annual net loss of $5.4 billion, Sharp Corp. announced Tuesday (May 14) a major reshuffle of its management team by naming a new president and chairman.
Executive Vice President Kozo Takahashi (left) will be promoted to the presidency. Takashi Okuda, who was viewed as uniquely ineffectual, lasted just one year in the top spot. He’s being kicked upstairs as Sharp’s new chairman without representative rights.
Stepping down from the chairman position is Mikio Katayama, once known in Japan as "the prince of Sharp." Katayama’s success as an engineer in the development of LCD panel technologies earned him a lightning-quick ascension to presidency in 2007.
But his huge investment in Sharp’s LCD panel production facilities – both in Kameyama and in Sakai — to compete against Samsung — backfired, as it coincided with the global economy financial crisis and a major dip in demand for super large-screen flat TVs. LCD expansion led to Sharp’s mounting loss and Katayama’s downfall.
I don’t think I’m alone in hoping that what appears to be a decisive management shakeup will end a never-ending soap opera at the ailing company.
But as I was gleaning Japanese media coverage on Sharp, I noticed that Katayama wasn’t exactly going out quietly. Katayama, according to a report in Nikkei, Japan’s economic journal, is taking credit for being “responsible for ending Okuda's presidency after just one year.”
Katayama reportedly urged Okuda to step down with him. Referring to Sharp’s two former presidents — Haruo Tsuji, currently a special adviser to Sharp, and Katsuhiko Machida, a corporate adviser— Katayama said to Okuda, "I will leave, taking with me past top executives. I want you to consider resigning too,” according to the Nikkei report.
For most U.S. readers, all the gory details of politics within Sharp’s former management team might be too much inside baseball. I agree.
But I found it fascinating when I came across another Katayama quote in Nikkei. At a dinner with a component supplier whom Katayama had known for a long time, Katayama reportedly said: "I've made up my mind. Sharp can never get back on its feet unless it breaks away from its past."
All technology advances run in cycles. A good company will embrace that change and prepare their country to move forward with new technologies.
Unfortunately, some companies get so tied up extracting the last dime out of the old technology that they forget to prepare for the future.
In many ways, Japan is not alone in this problem. Europe too is experiencing a lapse from the old technologies to the new. Unfortunately, they tied themselves up with the EU distribution of industries that locked many companies into not dormant technologies.
You must constantly innovate and move forward. The world will not stop and wait for you.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.