YKK Stories

2018-04-23 Issue 44 Fundamental Behavior 17 Practice Blameless Problem-Solving

February 19, 2019
Author: YKK
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Tadao Yoshida once wrote about a time when a security guard in Kurobe was lax in performing his duties, and, as a result, thieves stole some money. Ashamed and wracked with guilt, the guard traveled all the way to Tokyo to sorrowfully present his apologies and resignation to Tadao Yoshida. And President Yoshida did chastise the man, but not for the theft. He chastised the guard for wasting valuable time away from work by traveling to Tokyo, and worse, how his resignation would put the company in an even worse position because he would have to hire and train a new security guard! In President Yoshida’s mind, there was no better guard than the one who knew the true pain and cost of making such a mistake. So President Yoshida rejected the guard’s resignation and just asked him to remember the lesson and work harder to fulfill his duties in the future.

I really love this story because it says so much about the type of man our founder was and also sets an important tone for us. At YKK, we talk about making ‘new’ mistakes. We want everyone to always try to do their best work. We also recognize that problems will arise; and, yes, mistakes will be made. When this happens, it is important to determine the root cause and learn from any mistakes that were made so that we do not repeat those mistakes.

Root cause analysis is not that hard, but doing it without assigning blame is really tough. When we face problems and challenges, I think we naturally gravitate towards criticism and assigning fault. We must fight this impulse. We really need to grant at least the level of grace we would hope others would grant us. One trick to getting your head in the right place to offer that grace comes, I think, from the part of this Fundamental Behavior where we are encouraged to assume “that people are good” and that “the intent behind their actions is positive.”

We are too often surprised and even dismayed when our co-workers do things that we think are incorrect or that will even hurt the company. Our first reaction is to wonder, “How could they have done this to us?” and may even think they are working against us in some way. The fact of the matter is, they are no less (and no more) good, smart, and dedicated as the rest of us. Starting from the presumption that everyone is doing their best for the company really helps me get past recriminations and onto the really useful exercise of solving the problem so we can all move on to the more important work of serving our customers and the community.


Jim Reed
YKK Corporation of America