Transcripts

Zhang Ruimin

Mentioned In

Ep. 54 Bill Fischer and Simone Cicero on Haier and the entrepreneurial organisation

...y to talk to two people who have been immersed in the Haier world, at least for the last few years — but I know Bill that you’ve also known Haier and Zhang Ruimin for several decades now. B Fischer: So I think it goes back to 1997 I think when we first met but I was living close-by when they started to smash t...more
...story. Can you can you share that story about smashing the refrigerators briefly? B Fischer: In 1982 I believe it was, a young fellow by the name of Zhang Ruimin had moved from the light industry bureau within the Qingdao government to take over the general management position at what was called Qingdao Refrig...more
... Refrigerators. And the reason he moved is because they couldn’t find anybody who wanted to run the organisation. It was in such terrible shape. And Zhang Ruimin had these dreams. And it’s interesting because we often criticise bureaucrats for being unimaginative. But in this case, the bureaucrat had all the d...more
...quality products. And just about that point in time, a customer bought a refrigerator, it didn’t work, they brought it back, the customer was angry. Zhang Ruimin, came in and he went to the finished goods inventory and discovered that 20% of the finished goods didn’t work. And Zhang Ruimin wanted to send a mes...more
...customer was angry. Zhang Ruimin, came in and he went to the finished goods inventory and discovered that 20% of the finished goods didn’t work. And Zhang Ruimin wanted to send a message to the workforce that this was unacceptable. So, I think he took 76 of these refrigerators that were damaged, put them in th...more
...f the leadership that it has. Not just when you compare it with other traditional Western organisations, but also in China. This mix of thinking that Zhang Ruimin has put together… really it’s like a puzzle of great ideas, and strong approaches to work and life and everything that makes this crazy, unique cultu...more
...hat makes this crazy, unique culture. For example, it’s a great mix of some of the most interesting and important management thinkers from the West. Zhang Ruimin is such a big fan of Peter Drucker’s work, but really Zhang Ruimin is speaking not only from Western thinking, from the modern management theory, but...more
...x of some of the most interesting and important management thinkers from the West. Zhang Ruimin is such a big fan of Peter Drucker’s work, but really Zhang Ruimin is speaking not only from Western thinking, from the modern management theory, but also from the ancient Greeks. It’s not uncommon that you are there...more
...L Gill: Thank you. Let’s, let’s talk a little bit about the leadership then because I mean, Zhang Ruimin has a legacy already at Haier — 35 years or so I think he’s been in the organisation — and this is now the sixth evolution or reinvention, I believe,...more
...e talks about having a faith in people who are closest to the market and relating to their potential. So I’m curious on what your thoughts are about Zhang Ruimin how he as a CEO is able to hold the space for this organisation to evolve and to be the way it is, which is really quite radical in comparison to mos...more
...een one story, the same story. It’s just different chapters in how you fulfil those two meta-objectives. And I think that what’s so interesting about Zhang Ruimin is that he is consumed by this curiosity. So every time you go to see him, he’s just met everybody you’re reading now. Nothing is allowed to get in t...more
...I think you can recognise this because at the same time, you have these teams that are so engaged with their leaders. Most of most of all, of course, Zhang Ruimin — everybody respects him. But at the same time when you see an interview and you read people saying, “What happens when Zhang Ruimin will leave the c...more
... all, of course, Zhang Ruimin — everybody respects him. But at the same time when you see an interview and you read people saying, “What happens when Zhang Ruimin will leave the company?” And then they will candidly say, “That’s no problem, somebody else will find their way to lead to this organisation.” It’s ...more
...e the company?” And then they will candidly say, “That’s no problem, somebody else will find their way to lead to this organisation.” It’s not about Zhang Ruimin at the same time, it’s about this. And it’s crazy because it’s so important for this organisation. But at the same time, it’s really about this idea ...more
...L Gill: Yeah, I’m curious as well because there’s always a danger that we romanticise Zhang Ruimin and put him in the same camp of this slightly outdated heroic archetype of a leader. But he has this lovely phrase about creating a system where ever...more
...s the constraint definition. And there’s a lot of leadership in Haier that goes through these architectural aspects. So for example, I think a lot of Zhang Ruimin’s actual leadership is an organisational design leadership. So he has been designing the constraints together with his board members over the years, ...more
...visionary, self-confident top management that can unleash bottom-up suggestions and not take them as threats. **And so, you know, I think in a sense, Zhang Ruimin really plays that role very well, because he is self-confident. And he certainly has a lot of power within the organisation. I think he’s used that ...more
...r that there were people celebrating being de-hired because they were, in fact, taking over their own destiny. And I had dinner that very night with Zhang Ruimin and I asked him how did he feel about that? And, with a very human response, he said, “We worked hard together. We’re colleagues, we built this organ...more
...decisions, not being transparent, and so on. I’m curious what that journey has been like for managers because if the if the top management — even if Zhang Ruimin is the kind of progressive leader he is — if he has a COO or someone else in the top management team who is a command-and-control bureaucrat, then it...more
...y put on the individual — it’s really huge. It resonates with Peter Drucker — you mentioned this idea of being the CEO of yourself. That’s not really Zhang Ruimin’s words but Peter Drucker’s words that Zhang Ruimin repeats all the time…it’s a company where individuals are on the forefront all the time. So for ...more
...ates with Peter Drucker — you mentioned this idea of being the CEO of yourself. That’s not really Zhang Ruimin’s words but Peter Drucker’s words that Zhang Ruimin repeats all the time…it’s a company where individuals are on the forefront all the time. So for example, if you create a micro-enterprise — at the m...more
...they did that, they needed to build an organisation or rebuild the organisation so that it didn’t get in the way. So you know, we’ve talked about how Zhang Ruimin is an architect — but really what he’s been doing is taking the barriers out rather than putting them in. It’s been, in a sense, reverse architecture...more
...ureaucracy. They’re really on track to take bureaucracy out of the picture. To take out bullshit, pointless micromanagement. So, when you speak with Zhang Ruimin, he will tell you maybe companies or organisations will disappear. So the question now starts to be really hard now to understand what is Haier and w...more
... well a couple of things that kind of trouble me or questions that I have… one of them I know that you brought up, Simone, when you were interviewing Zhang Ruimin recently about sustainability and thinking about the planet. And the other one is… you know, a few years ago, I went to visit a small organisation i...more
...being confused. It’s all about being confused about the future and being confused about what to do, and being happy with it. It’s about flowing. Like Zhang Ruimin says, “Our future is being like water. It’s being selfless”. It’s really about kind of surfing with what’s going on. And Alicia Hennig in this beaut...more
...al. And in a way that makes everybody, for example, connected in achieving the same objective and depending on each other — like wood and water, like Zhang Ruimin mentioned in the interview. So it requires us to look beyond this idea that there is A and B, there is black and white, there is masculine and femini...more