Bill Fischer

When Western companies discovered new management systems in Japan like Just-In-Time in the 1980s, they applied it fast,despite initial misgivings.But when they see now new ways of decentralizing corporate structures in Tencent and Haier, they are reluctant to take it serious, says Haier-watcher and IMD professor Bill Fischer, co-author of Reinventing Giants: How Chinese Global Competitor Haier Has Changed the Way Big Companies Transform at AP.


Haier has tried to speed up product development by using the internet to ask potential customers for suggestions and feedback, an approach taken by Chinese smartphone brands. The company says a new appliance can go from drawing board to market in as little as one year, down from more than three.

Zhang (Ruimin)’s management changes “are more impressive than we see anywhere,” said William A. Fischer, a professor at the IMD business school in Switzerland who has followed the company for a decade. He co-wrote the 2013 book, “Reinventing Giants: How Chinese Global Competitor Haier Has Changed the Way Big Companies Transform.”

“He trusts his employees to play more of a leadership role,” said Fischer.

Fischer said a group of European executives he took to Haier headquarters two years ago refused to believe its decentralized style could work.

“I was struck by how daring Haier was in their thinking. And the people I was working with were hostages to very traditional ways of working,” said Fischer.

The strategy appears to be paying off. Last year’s profit rose 12.8 percent from 2015 to 20.3 billion yuan ($2.9 billion) on revenue that increased 6. 8 percent to 201.6 billion yuan ($29.3 billion). Transaction volume on its business-to-business and consumer-oriented internet platforms rose 73 percent to 272.7 billion yuan ($39.6 billion).

More on Haier at AP.

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