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Sep 26, 2014

WMD's Lessons From An American Caesar

EWMD's: Leadership Lessons From An American Caesar


By: Colin D. Baird


When Emperor Hiro Hito accepted America’s terms of surrender from General MacArthur in September of 1945, citizens of Japan knew they had lost a hard fought war. Over the next 35 years however, leaders in Japan slowly, quietly, and methodically waged a new war.  This non armed, non violent conflagration would continuously improve employee's lives, national productivity, and the quality of goods and services sold to markets around the world. The nation’s collective efforts would lead to dramatic changes in the balance of world power, and Japan's economic future.


Ironically, it was an American statistician, Dr. W. Edwards Deming – a MacArthur appointee, and a man whose ideas were rebuked by American leaders, - who would help Japan develop Economic Weapons of Mass Destruction, (EWMD) to win the new war. The collaboration and cooperation between Deming and Japanese industry unleashed a torrent of simultaneous quality and productivity improvements; improvements the United States still has few defenses from which to counter.


By 1980, Japan’s EWMD were annihilating America's economy, the tables had been turned, and hunters became the hunted. Unable to compete, American executives sought rules of engagement more favorable to their cause. Rather than reflect on, and make the significant changes Deming suggested were required to rebuild America’s own culture and methods of industrial processes to compete in a burgeoning global marketplace, American stakeholders demanded congress put tariffs on imported goods and services to keep high quality, low cost items out of the United States.


Tariffs didn’t work, nor did they improve American quality, productivity, ingenuity, or employee happiness. While consumers willingly paid more for Japanese imports, Japanese exporter's profits increased as consumers turned muscle cars into memorabilia replacing Ford, Chevy, and Chrysler with lesser known brands such as Toyota, Honda, and Nissan.  It was clear: America had lost the new war; continuous business process and cultural improvements were the new EWMD, and dominant factors in America’s inability to compete with our Far East friends.


So what is there for Chief Executive Officers to gain from this historical sequence of events?


Shortly after World War II ended, Japanese citizens lay prostrate to General MacArthur, and America.  Sixty five percent of the buildings in Hiroshima, Tokyo, and Nagasaki were destroyed by either conventional or nuclear weaponry. Citizens were “surviving” on 800 calories per day. No food, shelter nor prospects of industrialization lay in Japan’s distant future, yet somehow a Japanese newspaper, The Nippon Times suggested:  “If we, (The Japanese) allow the pain and humility to breed within us the dark thoughts of future revenge, our spirit will be warped and perverted into a morbidly base design…. But if we use this pain and this humiliation as a spur to self reflection and reform, and if we make this self reflection and reform the motive force for a great constructive effort, there is nothing to stop us from building, out of the ashes of our defeat, a magnificent new Japan free from the dross of the old which is now gone, a new Japan which will vindicate our pride by winning the respect of the world.”


The aim of the message was clear: let bygones be bygones, create homogeneity, strong self identity, and most of all an eagerness to benefit from learning from others.  


We must take our own unique steps to change the direction of our own culture, and our country.



  1. Steps that allow us time to reflect upon our own personal and industrial leadership failures in terms of production, culture, and most importantly: the true intrinsic value of American employee’s curiosity, ingenuity, and yearning for learning.


  1. Steps that as the Nippon Times suggested: make our own inferior leadership methods, our “dross of old which is now gone” for which we can “vindicate our pride by winning the respect of the world.” American leaders must be willing to reflect on their own past, yet determine to not repeat it in the future. When we do fail, we must hold ourselves and one another accountable, and then help each other improve.


  1. Steps that will continuously teach the Deming principles of win-win, statistics, and root cause analysis to youth, undergraduate, post graduate students, and beyond. We must make these principles primary to methods of financial engineering; not vice versa as they are today.


  1. Steps and techniques of leadership that will use our new found knowledge to overhaul our current methods of improving people, and industrial productivity.


Today, the guns of employee disengagement are focused directly on stakeholders, and American leadership. These guns will be silenced if we wage war simultaneously on two fronts: our culture, and our business processes.  


The skies no longer have to rain down the disabling effects from the loss of man's intrinsic motivation and curiosity.  Instead, America’s seas can be calmed, and bear true commerce-where men cooperate, communicate, and collaborate on business improvements all the while serving one another rather than themselves. American employees can then begin to walk upright in their new found sunlight as their self esteem, and dignity are restored, and then nurtured on an ongoing basis. America can quietly be at peace, and our mission as leaders completed.


It’s time to radically transform leadership. It begins with Americans who are willing to stand up, eliminate arrogance, put aside egos, admit to failures, and once again, create their own unique EWMD’S. Our business culture contains the soldiers we can engage for our new found fight. Our children and our grandchildren will be the determiners as to whether we have succeeded, or failed.