It is a time of great change in Thailand as the country forges ahead with its 4.0 vision. Leading his manufacturing team through uncharted waters is Parin Mekabut, captain of Lixil’s ship in Thailand. As a subscriber to the Japanese philosophy of ‘kaizen’, Parin shares how the love and passion for what he does drives him towards career successes.
“As a captain, I first need a clear vision of where the ship is headed. Knowing that, I then need to communicate that vision to my crew. Critical to my success as a leader is their trust in me.”
Therein lies Parin’s pick of the top qualities of a good leader: having a clear vision, good communication skills, and trustworthiness. He holds himself to these virtues as he leads his 2,000-plus strong team at Lixil’s plant in Thailand.
In managing his team, Parin has chosen a style that is consultative, engaging and empowering.
“I spend less than half a day in the whole week at my office as most of the time is spent on the floor at the plant — I want to be present with my team members. That’s fundamental when it comes to understanding their challenges and subsequently coaching them. If it comes down to me wanting to make changes to any processes, I actually ask my employees for permission. At that point, I work for them,” says Parin.
"I don’t usually give solutions straightaway. Instead, I ask the right questions to start their minds rolling"
In a crisis situation, however, Parin steps in quickly and asks that they follow his lead. “That’s the kind of management style that works for me.”
Parin laments that many local managers raised in Thailand do not practice that form of leadership. He feels too many of them, once arriving at management level, are no longer ‘hands-on’. “They think their job as managers is to give orders, instead of being part of the problem-solving process with the team.”
"It is something my mentor taught me: you work to build an organisation that doesn’t need you. That’s my goal"
For Parin, staying in the process works. “I don’t usually give solutions straightaway. Instead, I ask the right questions to start their minds rolling. It becomes a habit for all, and the next time I walk by, they may ask me questions instead. It is more important that they are the ones asking the questions. The exchange of ideas is valuable. If it only comes from me, it will be a dead end,” says Parin.
The ‘Kaizen’ approach
Despite the focus on automation, both internally and by the Thai government, the man behind the machine is where the attention should remain. He says investments in smart technology like robots will only yield 80% in terms of ROI; the other 20% will come from the people optimising the technology. And that last 20% can very well be the difference between success and failure.
Being in the manufacturing arm of a Japanese company, Parin is influenced by the Japanese philosophy of ‘kaizen’, an approach to creating continuous improvement based on the idea that small, ongoing positive changes can reap major improvements.
“In manufacturing, there are more than a hundred parameters to control. Big improvements can be solved mostly by engineering, but the rest comes from minor tweaks, and these have to be achieved through continuous small changes. These small steps culminate into a leap,” he explains. “Kaizen, as a process, never ends. I don’t know where the peak of the mountain is. But that is life, and that is why it is never boring,” says Parin.
Those small steps of continuous change are also what he encourages and mentors in his people. “I keep coaching them closely so they feel more confident. It is something my mentor taught me: you work to build an organisation that doesn’t need you. That’s my goal.”