Japanese Management Lingo

In last week’s Pocketblog, we looked at the 5S approach to ordering and organising a workspace, introducing five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke.

It struck me that there are an awful lot of Japanese terms that have enriched our business language, so I thought I’d list a few more.  Of course, readers of the Pocketblog will also probably be familiar with gemba too.

I think that some of the concepts that they raise are absolutely fascinating – and necessary to us in the West.  Let’s look at a few more, some familiar, some little known.

Hourensou

Collaboration and information sharing.  Keeping others informed.

Kaikaku

Radical change.  The opposite of…

Kaizen

Continuous flow of incremental improvements.

Kanban

A progress tracking approach that follows instances through a process.  Literally ‘billboard’.  Increasingly used in project management and team workflow.  There is a lovely (free) web-based app called Trello that works on Mac, PC and mobile app formats.

Karoshi

Literally: ‘death from overwork’.  Don’t!

Kyosei

The spirit of co-operating for the common good.

Meikiki

Perception and foresight, coupled with good judgement.

Mottainai

The sense of regret when we become aware of waste and failure to use well any things of value.  (I am so glad I now have a word for this).  It comes from the concept, ‘mottai’ that things have inherent value, or dignity.  Nice.

Muda, Mura and Muri

… are the three forms of waste

  • Muda
    Wasted effort
  • Mura
    Inconsistency
  • Muri
    Unreasonable – even ridiculous – requirements

Nemawashi

Literally, ‘going around the roots’.  Refers to the informal stakeholder alignment and political process that lay the groundwork for effective consensus or change.

Pecha Kucha

Currently popular style of presenting, with 20 slides, each lasting 20 seconds.  Gives a fast and dynamic way to present an idea.  Pecha Kucha nights often consist of a dozen or more presentations.  Literally, ‘chit-chat’.

Poka Yoke

Making error proof.  Creating something so that mistakes cannot be made.

Tatemae

Public truth.  The things that are appropriate to share in a public situation.  It literally means ‘facade’ and we might contrast it with ‘honne’, meaning your true feelings.  Puts me in mind of the Johari Window.

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One thought on “Japanese Management Lingo

  1. Duncan P Miller

    Reblogged this on e-literate and commented:
    Been in quite a few meetings recently where traditional ‘cliche’ business lingo has been removed and replaced with what I’d argue are more compelling and meaningful phrases from the book of Japanese Management. Check this blog out for a selection of a few…

    Reply

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