YKK Stories

2017-10-23 Issue 20 Fundamental Behavior 19 – Be Proactive

February 19, 2019
Author: YKK
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Those of you who have been around YKK for a few decades know that in the old days we took the concept of “learn from your mistakes” to a whole new, unfortunate level. We learned a lot because we made a lot of mistakes. During those early years when we were working so hard and so quickly to try to gain traction in the U.S. marketplace, we often made mistakes and then tried to learn from them so as not to repeat them.

Then Chairman Tadahiro (Tad) Yoshida, the son of founder Tadao Yoshida, took over after his father’s passing in 1993, and led us into a new era of compliance. President Yoshida (at that time he was president; now he is chairman) said that we had to “Be proactive” in ensuring that we “Do the right thing, always.” (See how these Fundamental Behaviors can be strung together to make coherent sentences because they’re so inter-related?). In every instance, he wanted — and still wants — YKK and YKK AP to be good corporate citizens by preventing serious mistakes or problems from ever happening.

Remember the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” That’s what this Fundamental Behavior is all about. Being pro-active is a little bit about being active and a whole lot about anticipation and prevention. Rather than making mistakes and then not repeating them, in the new era we are tasked with preventing mistakes. Needless to say, in the early 1990s we found ourselves in a much more difficult situation because we no longer had the opportunity to excuse our shortcomings by talking about how much we had learned from our mistakes. We knew the new approach to being more proactive was working when we became ashamed whenever we made a mistake, knowing that we had let Mr. Yoshida down, and possibly damaged the YKK and YKK AP brands.

Our approach to safety is an excellent example of our being proactive. We don’t want to have to learn safety by reacting to a series of accidents. Our goal always is zero accidents. So we ask everyone to help us raise our overall awareness to unsafe situations and/or conditions so that we can fix them before an accident occurs. In this new era, of course we analyze all accidents that occur, but we start the process of achieving safety much earlier. We start when the machines are being designed, and when factory floors, loading docks, ceiling fans, and storage racks are being planned for a new factory. Every aspect of our work environment should take safety into consideration from step one.

One place where we can learn more about safety than almost any other place is in “near misses.” A near miss is an accident that almost happened, but didn’t. We need to hear about every situation in which someone almost has an accident. We treat the near misses as if they were accidents so that we can be proactive and eliminate the possibility of having a real accident. We all need to be proactive and speak up about near misses, and not worry about being criticized for almost having an accident.

Another area is machine maintenance. We can maintain our machinery regularly or we can wait for it to break and then perform costly repairs. I hope all our departments practice proactive routine preventive maintenance for obvious reasons.

There are so many areas of our work and our lives where being proactive is the smart way to conduct our business. I’ve only touched on a couple of areas, but I hope you will bring up lots more examples during your discussions this week of Fundamental Behavior #19, “Be proactive.” And please share some of your stories with me of how you’ve invested in an ounce of prevention!

Thank you.



Alex Gregory
Chairman and CEO
YKK Corporation of America