Nov 6, 2023


My value clarified through the Short-Term Co-Creation Program under the trainee system

-- What is something only I can do?

DENSO introduced a trainee system for employees to expand their potential for work and career, particularly helping young and middle-aged staff grow more. The system includes a Short-term Co-creation Program that allows employees to experience business creation with those outside the company for a certain period. This time I interviewed Kanako Nakashima who voluntarily raised her hand to participate in the program and found a breakthrough to a career impasse.

Contents of this article

    Want to see myself objectively "when I am out of the company"

    Kanako Nakashima joined DENSO as a new graduate in 2019 and was assigned to the Chassis Control Components Planning Dept. To maximize sales and profit of the business, she has been engaged in profit and loss management including annual planning and performance management in the Japan Region.

    Nakashima"We propose a business policy so as to meet the company-wide profit target. Still, we do not set up numerical targets only ourselves, but develop an annual plan for the whole business after interviewing staff of related departments including Manufacturing, Quality Assurance, and Engineering to hear their activity policy".

    Her role could be said to be a business commandant. Every piece of information issued by her will greatly affect the activities of related departments. That's why, during conversations with staff of these departments, she exercises particular care to harmonize details to prevent a discrepancy in recognition among them. Nakashima says, "While showing our opinion clearly, we are always trying to address their needs".

    Nakashima"When I talk with the staff of other departments, I sometimes notice their unconscious ‘potential needs’ even if they do not express them in words. In such a case, I usually propose having not only one-on-one conversations with them but also discussions in groups including those concerned around them.

    If I feel that just information sharing via e-mails would be inadequate, I will call them right away to directly see them. I always try to be aware that I proceed with things together with them, focusing on how those concerned are convinced. Work is what people with emotion will weave together, no matter how much technology advances. That is why it is indispensable for us to talk to each other and build a relationship of trust”.

    Nakashima had worked sincerely. Three years had passed since she had been assigned to the current position, and she became able to handle all aspects of the regular duties but gradually came to have some concerns.

    Nakashima"Generally, I played the role of encouraging other departments to achieve business targets for sustainable growth even under numerous changes. I understood that I was in an indispensable significant position, and I was conscious of trying to achieve targets as a member of the organization. Still, I did not fully feel that I was directly creating something myself. Then, I began to seriously try to find "something only I can do".

    "What are my strengths and weaknesses?" "What is my added value?" - The desire to find them was getting stronger in herself.

    Nakashima"I do not want to be a person who cannot live unless heavily relying on something. When looking ahead to my career, I wanted to know whether I could deliver the capabilities I had accumulated so far in another organization or out of the company ".

    An elder employee with whom Nakashima consulted her concerns about career development introduced the external trainee system to her. Then, she decided to participate in one of its programs. She came out of her ingenuous thoughts to her supervisor and colleagues because she needed to ask them to put consideration on her workload during her participation in the program.

    Nakashima"Although I was worried about if I could successfully balance DENSO work and the program, I tried to first think while acting anyway, rather than sitting still. My supervisor and colleagues supported my challenge and followed up on my job. I was so grateful for them.”

    Words of my colleagues that "changed" my behavior

    What Nakashima took part in was a Short-term Co-creation Program in which participants belonged to a community outside their company for six months and were required to solve problems while working on their regular work. The participants consisted of diverse members who were different in the company they belonged to, title, and age from each other. They were supposed to work out a proposed solution for social problems with no clear answer.

    Nakashima"The theme in this session was to identify the challenges of a community-based company that existed in Kyoto and to propose a solution for it. Even during my busy work, I went out to Kyoto to repeatedly interview and bounce ideas off those concerned, promoting discussions. That was a fresh experience for me because I had no opportunity of directly interviewing people outside the company during my regular work".

    This program has been designed to have participants work out proposals while coming and going between work in a familiar organization ("home") and an external stimulus ("away"). It was the first one of its kind addressed by DENSO in its human resource system reforms.

    Nakashima is among the 1st graduates.
    Nakashima says that she could not help feeling hasty to deliver leadership to the team members and to achieve her mission within a limited time, and eventually failed to proceed with things as she wanted to.

    Nakashima"I had an uphill battle in building a team while facing very abstract questions with no answers. There were no supervisors or elder employees there. We, consisting of members varying by age in equitable positions, had to decide everything by ourselves including the way of proceeding and the final proposal. Under such a situation, the discussion did not proceed as expected. My own opinions, even if they were rough-edged, often easily converged together with someone saying, "Oh, that's good enough". That frustrated me for the first time.

    Recalling that time, I now realize that all members can never share the same thoughts against a question with no answer to begin with. It was at the last stage of the session that our different thoughts became apparent. When we divided tasks between members to prepare materials for proposals, differences in recognition or thoughts among members came to the surface. As this coincided with the busy season of regular work, I was almost discouraged as well as filled with the regret that I should have handled better the frustration I initially felt".

    Still, Nakashima managed to recover herself and continued working hard until the end. In a review meeting on the last day, a team member told her one thing that engraved itself into her mind.

    Nakashima"I was told that 'it seemed that you were wearing yourself out just because you are overconcerned' and 'the Chinese character for busy is a combination of two characters: heart and killing'. I am originally the type of person who tries to follow through responsibly. That is not bad itself, but I cannot often help thinking 'I have to work harder' too much, resulting in losing my presence of mind. Being busy had become a habit".

    Nakashima could not change herself even though she had known well she had to do it. After participating in the program, however, she was stimulated by the words given by the team members who had been working hard together in the same team.

    Nakashima"I wondered how about me objectively when I had lost my presence of mind. I guess that the team members might sometimes have felt uncomfortable with me and could hardly point it out. I also came to think that my colleagues and younger employees of DENSO might feel similar in some situations".

    Nakashima said she appreciated the team members who made the outspoken comment about her.

    Nakashima"I was able to accept the comments because I felt that they saw me just as I was. I do not want to lose my mind. I do not want to wear myself out. I do not want to ‘live’ by halves. That's why I changed my mind to take action to change how I should be myself".

    Want to work in a way that further leverages my "strengths"

    Getting able to see herself objectively via the program, Nakashima has gradually changed how to work on her job.

    Nakashima"I became a positive-thinking person. Before participating in the program, I took it for granted that I had to do myself whatever I could do. Now I'm aware of my inner world, which helps me take action earlier to actively involve or rely on people around me better than before".

    Since she feels more relaxed, she has now more room to convey her thoughts in communicating with younger employees.

    Nakashima"When I was overwhelmed by busy works, I was likely to fail to take an opportunity of looking back at why I worked on this work. Now I am conscious of expressing the significance of individual jobs and the connections among them in words, understanding them myself and conveying them to discuss them with younger employees".

    While Nakashima improved herself by reflecting on her activities in the program, she also found her strength there, and it became her confidence to support herself.

    Nakashima"Another team member told me that, 'you proactively deliver leadership and are very good at putting people together by openly telling what you are thinking. I want to learn from you. When you go back to work at the company after the program, please encourage people around you. It will make your company even better. I was really glad to hear that. When I heard the words, I realized that it was my strength and added value to proceed with things by putting people together.

    Nakashima then thought that she would continue delivering the strength beyond her current job. She was starting to see her future vision of life.

    Nakashima" I want to find a new technology or a sense of value that has not been disseminated in society but excites me very well to be engaged in commercializing it involving people around me. But I have not found the specific one yet lol. I would like to make more use of my strength when working.”

    While aiming high, I want to get out of my own "framework" to broaden my horizons

    A concern about her own future career triggered her participation in the trainee system. On completion of the program, her mind has almost cleared.

    Nakashima"My attempt to join the trainee system as a 1st graduate was an action to get out of my own 'framework'. As a result of the action, I made new connections with not only participants outside the company but also those inside it who participated in the trainee system like me. That let me know that 'DENSO has people who are doing such interesting things in such a positive way!', which definitely impacted me.

    I also came to think that it was a shame to think of my career just based on what I could see at the time. Then, I have tried to create opportunities to talk with people from other departments with whom I am not involved on a daily basis".

    As she has obtained her own standpoint of objectively viewing herself, Nakashima has come to have a vision about how she will work for business planning which is her main job.

    Nakashima"First I want to broaden the current scope of work to be responsible for consolidated management of group companies not only in Japan but also overseas. I will make effort to be able to be involved in policy making for the overall business. Furthermore, I would like to continue playing the current roles including internal coordination as well as to proactively step out of the company. With my own desire and vivid information, I would like to show how I want to be and design a future route".

    Nakashima - who has just taken another step to address a challenge of expanding the width of her career with Short-term Co-creation Program as a cue. Her journey has just begun.

    * The information contained in this interview was that as of June 2023.


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