Kazuo Inamori, inventor of Amoeba Management, has passed away

It was with sadness that I read this morning of the death of Kazuo Inamori . His is not a name that is widely known in communities I move in (namely the western agile community) but he deserves to be better know, his name deserves to be up there with Shigeo Shingo and other founders of the Toyota Production system. In Kyocera, Inamori founded a company as worth studying as Toyota.

I have to confess that although I read his Amoeba Management eight years ago, and although his ideas have a great influence on my own work – as anyone who has read Continuous Digital in particular will know, I had not made time to learn about Inamori himself.

Amoeba Management is such a good fit with agile I am constantly surprised it is not better know. As you might guess from the name companies are split into multiple Amoeba, self-contained business units with their own profit and loss account. Such Amoeba could be as small as a team and fit right in with the idea of devolved authority and engagement.

This morning’s obituary in the FT (paywall) goes some way to correcting that: he was a giant of management in Japan. In addition to Kyocera he founded KDDI and was instrumental in resurrecting Japan Airlines after bankruptcy.

Nor did I know that as well as Amoeba Management he wrote many other books although only a few of them have been translated to english. I intend to correct that omission immediately and read more of his work.

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