Who is Rapidly Under New Foxconn Management

Hon Hai Precision Industry of Taiwan has already begun to restructure Sharp’s personnel management system and organization in earnest since it acquired the struggling Japanese electronics maker a month ago Monday.

Sharp, the first leading Japanese electronics company acquired by a foreign company, is faced with drastic changes brought by Hon Hai, also known as Foxconn, to turn around the Osaka-based company.

At Sharp’s head office, relocated to Sakai from Nishi-tanabe as a result of the acquisition, company President and CEO Tai Jeng-wu, the No. 2 man at Foxconn, claps his hands in worship in front of a Shinto shrine on its premises before the meeting that starts at 8 a.m. every morning. Tai, 65, who was dispatched to lead the new subsidiary’s restructuring, began the practice in Taiwan and continues it in Japan.

Tai, who took the helm at Sharp on Aug. 13, studied accounting and Japanese language at the Tatung Institute of Technology established by major Taiwanese electrical and electronic equipment maker Tatung group. He joined Tatung after graduating from the institute and was dispatched to Japan as a resident official, among other assignments.

In 1986, Tai joined Foxconn and made a name for himself by succeeding in arranging a deal with Sony. He has since become Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou’s right-hand man. Gou is often in Taiwan and China, and Tai is in touch with him almost every day.

Gou has a cheerful demeanor and speaks loudly. Tai is generally considered an aide to Gou, but he has already begun to develop a management stance of his own.

Upending the system

At a management strategy meeting in late August, Sharp officials were surprised at Tai’s familiarity with the company’s operations, because he said that he would end the existing “rotation system.”

This is a personnel management practice by which young employees are assigned to three separate sections, thereby producing workers with knowledge outside their field of specialty, rather than being expert exclusively in a specific area.

The system was promoted by Sharp’s fourth president, Katsuhiko Machida, who was credited with a steep increase in the company’s earnings in the first half of the 2000s due to his avowed policy of replacing all cathode-ray tube TVs with liquid crystal display panels. Although the rotation system was identical to Sharp’s, Tai readily ended it because Foxconn usually requires workers to specialize in specific fields upon joining the company and continue improving their specialty.

An organizational reform announced on Aug. 26, exactly two weeks after Foxconn’s acquisition of Sharp, included the creation of the President’s Office to support Tai.

“The President’s Office is like the prime minister’s office, and the head of it is like the chief cabinet secretary,” a Sharp official said, because the new office is not only responsible for bundling secretaries for executives and overseeing management plans but is also tasked with putting Sharp under Foxconn’s control.

The office is staffed with 200 members and includes officials in charge of structural reforms, personnel management, legal affairs, information technology, public relations and external affairs.