The Dark Side of Japanese Working Society

The Japanese work ethic is pretty amazing, and their work standards are among the best of the world. In previous posts I have often written very favorably on these standards. Yet, not all is right in the Japanese working world. In fact, a lot is wrong and troublesome, and this superior work performance comes at a significant cost of work-life balance.

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Monozukuri – Japanese Work Ethics

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Japanese word monozukuri (sometimes written as 物作り, but most often written as ものづくり). Literally translated, it means to make (zukuri) things (mono). Yet, there is so much meaning lost in translation. A better translation would be “manufacturing; craftsmanship; or making things by hand.” However, this translation also does not give justice to the weight and influence this idea has in Japan. Let me take you on a tour of the Japanese culture of monozukuri.

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Employee Motivation and Lean Implementation – Part 4: Respect for People

Motivating employees is not easy. In previous posts I described that the carrot and the stick approaches don’t work very well. What in my experience works best to improve the system is Respect for People!

This is actually a very important aspect of the Toyota Production System, and Toyota puts in lots of effort to show respect to all people. This includes not only employees (the focus of this post), but also customers, suppliers, neighbors, and pretty much everybody else it comes in contact with. At Toyota, it is actually called Respect for Humanity (人間性尊重, ningenseisoncho). Unfortunately, all too often I find this lacking in Western lean implementations.

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Employee Motivation and Lean Implementation – Part 3: Lack of Respect

Motivating employees for change is tricky. What often helps is respect, but in reality the opposite is common. While managers claim that of course they respect their people, the employees feel very differently, and quite often there is a lack of respect. In this post I want to talk about this lack of respect and why it happens, before showing how to do it better in the next post.

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Employee Motivation and Lean Implementation – Part 2: Money

Lean improvements often fail in implementation, meaning the employees do not follow the new standards. In my last post we already saw that pressure (“the stick”) doesn’t work very well. The second option is the carrot. In this post I will show different “carrots” that are sometimes used to get employees to follow the new standard. However, most of them won’t work very well either. What often works best is actually simply treating people with respect – but I will talk about this in my next post.

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Employee Motivation and Lean Implementation – Part 1: Carrot and Stick

All too often, good ideas for a lean implementation fail because workers won’t use the new ideas. They simply stick to their old habits. And, no matter how good the ideas are, if they are not used, then the improvement project is a failure. In this post I want to talk about this common problem in industry. The solution is – in theory – easy: Get your people motivated! Doing this in reality, however, is an extremely challenging task with an often-unknown outcome.

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