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From the Empire State Building to the Eiffel Tower, Otis Elevator Co. has helped to build cities and transformed the world of movement. Today it continues to drive forward its global presence with dynamic leadership at the vanguard of its designs for reinventing the way people move. One of its dynamic leaders was Guillaume Renaud, president of Nippon Otis Elevator Co., who lost his life in a tragic automobile accident on Aug. 14, at the age of 49. With great sadness Otis mourns the passing of Renaud, who is survived by his wife, Nathalie, and two young children, Thalia and Marceau.

Renaud was born in Cameroon, where he spent part of his childhood in addition to France. Due to this early childhood experience, he developed an abiding intercultural curiosity. He graduated from Supelec, a top French engineering school, and later earned a master’s degree in business administration from INSEAD. He started his career at General Electric Co. as a commissioning engineer and project manager for power stations, with assignments that gave him the opportunity to live in various countries in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia Pacific.

He then brought his strong business and global mindset to United Technologies Corp., starting at its climate, controls and security division in 2004 and subsequently holding positions of increasing responsibility in marketing, strategy and general management until becoming in 2015 the vice president of service at Otis France. With a wealth of experience in business management and leadership roles, he relocated to Japan in 2017 where he was appointed president of Nippon Otis Elevator. He spoke highly of his move to Japan at the time, expressing his admiration for Japan’s culture and the values he learned during his study of martial arts at a young age.

He became a well-respected and highly regarded member of the Otis Asia Pacific leadership team and demonstrated strong dedication and an ever-present willingness to roll up his sleeves and get things done methodically and aligned with Nippon Otis’ strategic vision. His quality-focused change management and innovation mindset, combined with a high degree of cultural sensitivity, helped Nippon Otis adapt rapidly to a changing world.

Corporate culture change

Renaud had a clear vision for Nippon Otis: “We will continue to focus on quality and to enhance our customer experience. Also, we will keep identifying new ways to improve our productivity and to invest in our business. In today’s volatile business environment, we need to become a more agile organization — to deliver innovative solutions and to operate at the pace, density and scale necessary to best service our customers.” Attracting an increasingly diverse range of talent was one of his priorities. He launched a series of initiatives to support the business strategies in adapting to fast-paced changes taking place globally. Renaud pushed for employee empowerment while revolutionizing operational processes by embracing the latest technologies. The push for advancement in product designs, engineering and architecture all require an increasingly adaptive stance from the industry, and Renaud’s responsive management approaches have embraced the creativity and ingenuity of people at all levels in the company.

Of the belief that a good leader should share a clear vision, build relationships and forge ahead to achieve big goals as a team, Renaud sought to work alongside his colleagues rather than above them. Overseeing more than 2,000 Nippon Otis employees, he strived to foster a new management style that focused on human connection. Describing his management approach in 2018, he stated: “Work together, change together, grow together. Solid preparation, teamwork and a good heart will make our journey a success.” The same year, Nippon Otis completed a merger with Otis Elevator Service, a fully owned subsidiary of the company, to provide better service and acquire new talent. Through this merger, Renaud and his team succeeded in creating an effective platform for incubating new ideas.

To drive stronger company dynamics, Renaud created open communication channels to encourage employees in sharing their ideas and feedback. His focus on shared challenges and cohesive teamwork brought fresh perspectives and creative responses from the team, thus facilitating the adoption of flexible approaches to support critical projects.

Bottom-up innovation

Renaud launched the Innovative Idea Contest, a trend-setting move that encouraged ideas from every level of Nippon Otis. Started in 2019, the contest sought to create ground-level improvements to all aspects of the business by turning to those who knew it best. Discussing his open approach, Renaud explained that the company had been developing its work style reforms over the years, striving to achieve an open corporate culture. Attracting the younger generation was key and cementing a work-life balance environment would improve employee satisfaction. Combined with a focus on empowering staff and fostering innovation at all levels, Renaud wanted Nippon Otis to be an attractive company open to solutions proposed from the front lines.

Taking inspiration and guidance from the suggestions, initiatives were launched to develop the Nippon Otis way of life.

One of the potentially most formative changes led by Renaud was to advance the Diversity and Inclusion Council at Nippon Otis, which began as the Women’s Council and was renamed in February. He brought his diverse international experience to the fore when spearheading the council’s re-envisioned goals and influence, seeking to broaden the employment pool, increase diversity and create an inclusive, respectful environment. Upon his participation in Nippon Otis’s Women’s Service Engineer Forum, he personally engaged with female professionals who attended the event. Said Mioko Morishige, one of the forum participants, “Talking with Guillaume at the Forum has brought us to recognize the importance of expressing our ideas in order to improve our daily work.” The council’s activities have been temporarily put on hold due to coronavirus precautions, but its legacy will no doubt continue to grow and shape the company in the years to come.

Community contributions

While transforming many aspects of Nippon Otis’ corporate culture, Renaud also sought to keep valued aspects, including several corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities focused on community contributions and empowerment. In one CSR activity, employees volunteered to clean and maintain the Ronald McDonald House, located adjacent to the University of Tokyo Hospital, that provides lodging and accommodations for families with injured or sick children staying in the hospital.

Renaud was also proud to support the Special Olympics, most recently with employees volunteering in the Walk and Run Festival in October 2019, where teams of five runners comprising employees and someone with an intellectual disability ran a relay race. The competition is not about beating the other teams, but about how close the team can finish to its pledged race time. Nippon Otis’ team from the Kanagawa Branch finished in second place, the best finish among its 12 employee teams competing.

Renaud himself led lessons Nippon Otis provided at children’s homes in the cities of Otsu and Hamamatsu in 2017 and 2018 to teach children how to safely use elevators and escalators. With his warm and engaging personality, he quickly made friends with the young participants, many of whom affectionately tried to keep him from leaving once the lessons were finished.

Digital transformation

Along with embracing flexibility in corporate structure, Renaud pioneered digital acceleration across the functions, from marketing teams to on-site workers. Describing how many staff work on site, Renaud commented: “It is critical to have proper communication in order to make the right decision to improve both productivity and work-life balance. By utilizing digital tools, we can promote interactive, immediate communication between our on-site staff and management.”

Under Renaud’s leadership, Nippon Otis made significant investments in digitalization, with the introduction of robotic process automation, business intelligence and artificial intelligence to both streamline work processes and reduce staff workload.

Discussing the importance of these changes, Renaud stated that one of key objectives was to take advantage of the digital tools available to enable work from anywhere. Proven effective not only in simplifying operational processes and allowing staff to work flexibly, these progressive decisions resulted in a smoother transition during the sudden changes brought about by the coronavirus outbreak.

Combining digital development with compassionate management, Renaud’s impact on Nippon Otis will be long lasting. The company will continue to pursue the dreams he designed to unite teams and reach new goals.

Said Stephane de Montlivault, chairman of Nippon Otis and president of Otis Asia Pacific: “Guillaume was a visionary leader who focused on driving innovative solutions to meet the evolving needs of the industry, while putting people first in the decisions he made. His deep commitment, collaborative spirit combined with a fact-based decision making approach were distinct traits of his character. His vision and transformational leadership style have well-positioned Nippon Otis in driving future growth. My heartfelt appreciation to Guillaume for his commendable leadership and vast contributions to our employees, shareholders and communities. He will always be missed dearly and our thoughts will continue to be with his family and loved ones.”

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