To better understand this answer, it helps to look at some of the important traits of the Japanese culture. One of the biggest parts of this involves the concept of “kata”. These are general societal rules and patterns of behaviors that the Japanese exhibit in their everyday life. Since this is an ingrained part of the Japanese culture, the standard practices of business come very naturally to people in this country. As part of their culture, the Japanese are also known for being perfectionists in everything that they do. They take a great deal of pride in their work, so they take a great deal of care to train their employees to ensure the highest quality of work.
Another big part of this concept of lean is listening and patience. Toyota is a company that has been heavily associated with lean. One of the things that makes this company so unique is that rather than just barking orders, they encourage workers to develop their own skills and problem-solving abilities. There is also a focus more on the long-term goals of a company rather than the short-term. These are all areas that exemplify how crucial patience is to the Japanese culture. In fact, to be considered an expert in any field it takes a great deal of time so patience is necessary.
Lean is all about how you organize a business to make it more efficient. The purpose is to maximize value and reduce waste. The Japanese culture is known for valuing cleanliness and order, both in the way their live their everyday life and how they run their businesses. If everything is meticulously organized, you can reduce waste because you know exactly what you have and what you need. This applies to office supplies and workflow management. You are able to see who should be working on what to know what needs to get done. It makes the business run more efficiently.
Japan and the world cup
It is therefore interesting to see how both the Japanese team and fans left the stadium after a heartbreaking loss to Belgium they still cleaned the stadium and locker room, the team even left a thank you note. If you google "Japanese fans" often picture of them cleaning comes up because this is a behavior you don't normally see in the football stadium.
Picture taken from Reuters
So the big question is, how do we get this in the culture of our companies but also how can we teach this to our children?
For those who have implemented lean or even thought about it might consider to start with 5S. It's an easy methodology for workplace cleanliness and the thought is that if things are clean and organized we don't have to search for our tools and therefore we are minimizing waste. Just beware that it is not a one time thing - rather it is a change in culture!!
Lead by example
So how can you change culture, I think it's best to lead by example or you could also call it "walk the talk". Think about if you see trash somewhere on the streets - do you pick it up or do you walk past it? If you walk past it and your children see it you are teaching them that it doesn't matter and the same goes in the workplace if your employees see you walk past it. A very wise man who was my boss always said "If a captain of a ship wants the ship clean, it will be clean. If he doesn't care, it will be messy". I think in order to change a culture we have to start first with ourselves and set an example. We need to continue that until our kids and employees find it absurd to leave trash somewhere other than in the bin because everything is so clean. Then you know that you have changed the culture and I think that's where we should aim at.
Viktoría og Lísa