YKK Stories

2019-10-21 Issue 119 – Fundamental Behavior 17 – Practice blameless problem-solving

October 21, 2019
Author: YKK
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My responsibility today is to find a solution without assigning blame. When I was working in Japan, I was not particularly concerned about it, but when working overseas, I have had a hard time in this regard. I would like to share my experiences with you.

The biggest difference between work in Japan and overseas is that the basis of work in Japan is “Hōrensō” (“Spinach” in English). “Hōrensō” serves as an acronym to remember to Hōkoku (report), Renraku (contact), and Sōdan (consult). An environment in which employees frequently report their work status to their supervisors is thereby created. Because they talk often, the manager knows the progress of his or her employees’ work and can generally judge the situation when there is a problem. When the employee makes a mistake, inevitably the manager will know.

On the other hand, the biggest difference I noticed living abroad is the behavior of hiding problems. Just wanting to investigate the cause of a problem, I gathered the people concerned, asked why the problem occurred, and inquired about future recurrence prevention measures, but I couldn’t find out in which department the problem occurred, why it occurred or what error caused the problem. I remember that I had a hard time investigating a simple problem because the parties involved were fighting each other. Even if they are not conscious of it, almost everyone thinks that mistakes made while working overseas will have a major impact on one’s career and position. So, even for simple mistakes, it becomes the norm to keep silent rather than report.

In Japan, the manager sometimes reprimands employees  with a rather harsh tone. Since managers often speak with employees, I think to some extent employees accept this. The manager is scolding employees in the context of a trusting relationship. But overseas, there is no culture of scolding employees in front of others. Reprimanding employees in public is part of Japanese culture. That’s why we need to be careful. If a manager does such a thing, even if a problem occurs, employees may be afraid of being reprimanded and will conceal the problem. The manager will become like the emperor in the fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” in which the emperor never gets bad information from his vassals and continues to be happy even though bad things are happening in the world.

In the six months since I came to Mexico, I have witnessed a Mexican manager reprimanding his employees. The strong manager thought that there was a culture of reprimanding employees, but that does not seem to be the case. If you reprimand your employees, your employees will end up fearing the next reprisals and try to hide the problem.

Based on my above experience, I think whether the problem can be grasped promptly depends on managers communicating with employees on a regular basis and whether they are building a relationship of trust. I would like to establish an open organization that can create an environment of trust as soon as possible.

Hector Kubo