YKK Stories

A brief history of YKK’s Corporate Culture

May 8, 2018
Author: YKK
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When the founder of YKK, Tadao Yoshida, was a boy, he read a biography of Andrew Carnegie and was deeply influenced by Carnegie’s philosophy that those with great wealth must be socially responsible and use their assets to help others. As he worked to build YKK, Tadao Yoshida made the concept that the value of a business is in the benefits it shares with society the foundation for all of YKK’s business activities. He called it the “Cycle of Goodness,” and it remains the guiding principle of the YKK Group to this day.

YKK has 111 companies in 558 locations. Of our more than 45,000 employees, 60% do not live in Japan, where our corporate headquarters is located. Collectively, YKK employees speak an estimated 37 languages. Thirty-six nationalities are represented at YKK Canada alone.

But YKK is fortunate to have a common culture that unifies us and helps us bridge these differences and achieve success. Our common culture is the “Cycle of Goodness” philosophy inherited from our founder, as well as our more recent Management Principle, Core Values, and Fundamental Behaviors. You might call it our company DNA, or our “YKK-ness.” You can visit YKK in Canada or Colombia or Italy or Bangladesh, and as disparate as those cultures are, we guarantee that you will know that you are at YKK as soon as you walk through the door. That is the power of culture.

By the time Tadahiro Yoshida took over the business from his father in 1993, YKK was operating in more than 50 countries. He saw the need to expand upon the “Cycle of Goodness” in a way that would resonate in an increasingly globalized society and motivate individual employees to create new value of their own willpower.  So he created the YKK Management Principle, “YKK seeks corporate value of higher significance.” We must pursue new quality in seven fields – strive to satisfy our customers, earn recognition from society, and be a company where employees are proud and happy to work. To achieve this, we must strive for higher quality in products, technology, and management. At the same time, we must always maintain “fairness” in all we do. These are our value standards and they are integral to our company’s operations and activities.

Then, in 2008, Chairman Yoshida asked 15,000 employees worldwide which of Tadao Yoshida’s most popular sayings would make the company stronger going forward. As a result of this survey, YKK chose its three Core Values: “Do not fear failure; experience builds success. Create opportunities for employees;” “Insist on quality in everything;” and “Build trust, transparency and respect.” For the past 10 years, we have been having workshops and roundtable discussions about our Philosophy and Core Values in an effort to make sure that every single employee worldwide embraces and truly lives them.

We’re committed to creating value for our customers, employees, and society in all that we do. Our three Core Values provide the framework for carrying out these objectives.

The Core Values Awards were established in 2014 as a way to recognize employees from the North and Central America region who, through their efforts and actions, embrace YKK’s philosophy and Core Values.

Our Core Values not only serve as an outline to help us carry out processes within the company, but they also serve as a reflection of our work culture.  In order to truly adopt these values and make them part of our daily routines, YKK’s North and Central America Group embarked on a new initiative in which our leaders defined 25 concrete, actionable behaviors based on YKK’s values. Many of these behaviors are directly tied to our Core Values, such as “Make quality personal” and “Make customers a priority.” Others, such as “Do the right thing, always,” “Be vigilant about safety,” and “Protect the environment,” are not explicitly stated by the YKK Philosophy and Core Values but are nonetheless behaviors we expect of employees.

Every week, employees from companies within the North and Central America region meet to discuss the week’s Fundamental Behavior. This discussion sets the tone for the week, and it gives all team members a chance to share what the behavior of the week means to them. Additionally, it also provides an opportunity for members of different departments to come together and share best practices and lessons learned.

So what role does culture play in business? On this, YKK’s founder was clear. He said on many occasions, pointing his fingers at the leaders of the company, “Your job is not to maximize profits. Maybe you read that in some book or studied it at in school, but that’s not your objective.  Your objective is to fulfill the ‘Cycle of Goodness’ in every sense.” Imagine the business that is sure to follow if each of us were to consider how we can best render benefit to others in every action we take.

Follow the link for the complete list of YKK’s Fundamental Behaviors. http://ykkamericas.com/ykk-fundamental-behaviors/