Panasonic Energy is the primary supplier of electric batteries for Tesla. While Panasonic has been a leader in battery technology for generations, in the early 2010s, they took a major leap of faith to partner with a wild-eyed entrepreneur named Elon Musk. Together, they set out to transform the automotive industry.
In late 2018, Panasonic appointed Allan Swan to serve as President of the North American Energy division just as their collaboration with Tesla began picking up speed. Allan inherited a highly technical work environment, operating at a break-neck pace in a new industry where the labor force was not mature. The business had incredible promise, with potential to be the shining star in Panasonic’s portfolio of companies, but Allan and his fellow leaders saw clearly that the “produce at all costs” culture they were operating in was not sustainable. Leaders and managers lacked a clear set of standards and training for how to lead their teams, develop people, and, most importantly, hold people accountable for results without creating a culture of fear or reprisal.
In the year before the global COVID-19 Pandemic, Tesla’s business started to explode. Demand for Panasonic’s batteries kept going up. They needed to make more, and faster, and the pressure to expand the factory, improve production, and increase profitability at the same time was enormous and unrelenting. Allan and his leadership team were under direct pressure from Tesla, from their Panasonic colleagues in Japan, and from their staff, who were starting to show the exhaustion and disengagement that was inevitable from working in such a pressurized environment. The attrition and happiness numbers said it all. Something needed to be done.
Around that time, Allan happened to be in the audience for one of Jonathan’s keynotes in Atlanta. As Jonathan talked about the Accountability Dial, and how leaders and managers needed to have a different type of conversation with their employees than they’d ever been trained to have, a lightbulb went off. “This is exactly what we need,” Allan thought. Allan invited the Refound team out to Reno to see if they could help. What has become a multi-year partnership started with a discovery project to truly understand what was wrong in the culture and how to build a program that would fix it. Panasonic took advantage of Refound’s People Leader Training program to transform 400 managers into people leaders, cultivating a culture of curiosity, conversation, and clear boundaries. Allan charged his direct reports to embrace the “More Yoda, Less Superhero” mindset by asking them to clear at least 50% of their calendar so they had increased headspace for creative problem-solving and employee development. Refound’s Accountability Dial set a standard for holding productive feedback conversations that enabled managers to set reasonable expectations for their team members and superiors. Refound’s expertise helped Panasonic managers find the breathing room they needed in order to establish sustainable workflows for the business.
With Refound’s help, Panasonic Energy was able to maintain their incredible growth trajectory over the last four years, even through the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of their work with Refound, Allan and Panasonic have seen:
- Consistent growth and a leading competitive advantage in the industry
- Employee attrition reduced by nearly half
- A stronger company culture recognizing that every employee’s voice is heard and further propelling accountability, productivity, and performance
- Dramatic increase in resilience of leaders and teams
- Fewer and less urgent headcount emergencies
- Continued trust and high satisfaction from their biggest partners and customers, including Tesla, even during a global pandemic
- Evolution from reactive production to commercial enterprise