MATSUSHITA by John P. Kotter


Leadership Lessons for the 21st Century from the 20th Century's Most Remarkable Entrepreneur
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 A singularly uncritical and sketchy briefing on Konosuke Matsushita from a Harvard Business School professor whose stated intention is to showcase his subject's extraordinary achievements as object lessons for those who aspire to leadership positions in any endeavor. Drawing mainly on archival material, Kotter (coauthor of Corporate Culture and Performance, 1992) provides a once-over- lightly rundown on how the youngest son of an impoverished family from the Japanese hinterland overcame great adversity to found Osaka-based Matsushita Electric, a transnational corporation (best known in the US for its Panasonic line of consumer goods). After working as a wiring specialist for a public utility, Matsushita (who died at 94 in 1989) went into business for himself in 1917, manufacturing sockets, and hit the sales jackpot five years later with a cheap, reliable bicycle lamp. The still young entrepreneur soon diversified into batteries, radios, and allied products, becoming a commercial force in his homeland's wholesale and retail markets. Kotter all but ignores the thriving company's presumably significant contributions to Japan's WW II effort. After V-J Day, all companies that had supplied the military were ordered by occupation forces to cease production; but quickly receiving approval to resume production of consumer goods, Matsushita Electric recovered apace, expanding its sales horizons to encompass Europe and North America. The author touches without dwelling on the factors that powered the company's postwar growth (inter alia, decentralized management, a willingness to run calculated risks, government restrictions designed to keep foreign rivals out of domestic outlets, and an effective R&D program). Unfortunately, Kotter seldom comes to close grips with the personal qualities that enabled the competitive and demanding entrepreneur to build a world-class industrial enterprise that continues to prosper long after his departure. A bio that verges on hagiography and lacks the saving grace of practicable precepts.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-83460-X
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1997


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