Saihatsu Boshi - Keys to solving Japanese problems - Japan Intercultural Consulting (2023)

Article,japanese business keywords,japanese style of work throughRochelle Kopp

The Japanese are known to be perfectionists in many aspects of their work. The non-Japanese who work with them, whether as employees or suppliers, must be familiar with one of the key techniques they use to strive for perfection,"saihatsu boshi.“

Literally translated, this means “recurrence prevention”. But the simplicity of this phrase hides its deep meaning for many Japanese. Of course, people around the world agree that making sure problems don't happen again is a good thing. However, the Japanese have developed a structured process for this. And they often express their frustration when working with people from other cultures who don't take this approach and therefore risk the same problems arising again. In Japan,saihatsu boshiit's just accepted standard behavior and anything else would indicate a lack of professionalism or commitment. Therefore, in order to optimize your relationship with the Japanese, it is helpful for non-Japanese people to use this technique.

The first step insaihatsu boshiIt is "genin wo mitsukeru’, which translates to getting to the bottom of the problem or discovering the cause. This process is what Americans would call detailed post-mortem analysis. It's about analyzing all the possible reasons why something went wrong and pinpointing exactly what factors led to the failure, error, problem or defect. A vague answer such as "it was human error" or "it was an accidental error" is considered unacceptable.

In many non-Japanese cultures, this root cause analysis is difficult because people do not feel comfortable speaking honestly about the mistakes that led to a problem. This is because in many cultures, admitting a mistake is viewed as weakness or extremely embarrassing, or punishing or even firing someone. However, in the Japanese environment, people are expected to shed their pride in pursuit of perfection and the common good. The custom of lifetime employment also makes it safer to be open about where your performance hasn't been perfect because you're not afraid of being fired for it.

Once the root cause is identified, "Taisaku’ – countermeasures – must be implemented. This is true regardless of how difficult to control or how rare the root cause is. For example, if you identified your root cause as a simple mistake made by someone on the production line, your countermeasure might be to implement double checking procedures, add additional inspection staff at the end of the line, or change the operator's job to reduce fatigue or distractions.

As an example of Japan's demand for countermeasures, even in seemingly impossible situations, one of my clients lost a shipment of goods destined for the United States when the ship carrying them hit a typhoon and sank to the bottom of the Pacific. The company was furious when the shipping company didn't seem to find a countermeasure. From the shipping company's point of view, typhoons are not something people can do. But from the Japanese point of view everything can be counteracted. Perhaps the shipping company could build ships with thicker hulls or buy more accurate weather forecasting equipment. When the shipping company found no countermeasures, they irreparably damaged the relationship with their Japanese customer.

And herein lies one of the morals of this story: in the eyes of the Japanese, every mistake or failure is obviously a great disadvantage. But those who can show a good cause analysis and appropriate countermeasures often get a second chance. The harm of not doing such a thingsaihatsu boshiit could be worse than the initial error or problem. The Japanese think that while having a problem is a bad thing, having the same problem happen again is even worse.

In this sense, Saihatsu Boshiit has everything to do with organizational learning: a company's ability to assimilate the lessons from its own experience. saihatsu boshiThis ensures that people and the entire organization learn from mistakes and change their course of action so that they never happen again. The countermeasures created in thesaihatsu boshithey generally consist of improvements in processes and procedures. Hence,saihatsu boshiis truly the backbone of Japan's vaunted abilitydo kaizen(Continuous improvement.)

Here is another example ofsaihatsu boshi. I used a Japanese translation company as a subcontractor. I asked her to do a translation for a client and FedEx it just before the trip to Japan.When I got back from Japan, I called the customer to discuss the document they were supposed to have checked while I was away, only to find out they never received it. Upon investigation, it turned out that the FedEx had been successfully delivered to the company, but was diverted by mail room staff and never reached my colleague's desk. In that situation, many US suppliers would have said "it wasn't our fault" and the case would have been closed. However, I got a call from the Japanese guy who runs the translation company and said he didn't want me to worry about repeating this type of problem. So he instituted a new procedure: whenever they sent a FedEx message to one of my customers in the future, they would always make a follow-up call the next day to make sure they received it. From my point of view, the customer service was above and beyond the call of duty, but when I told him that, he was surprised that I would think so. Initiating countermeasures when something went wrong was standard in his view. Imagine the dismay of a Japanese person used to being treated this way when confronted with an “it's out of our hands” approach.

Suppose something went wrong or there is a problem with your work with Japanese. What is the best way to solve this with thesaihatsu boshiTechnology? First show your intention to dosaihatsu boshiSay something like "We want to make sure this doesn't happen again", "We want to prevent this problem from happening again", or "We want to make sure we avoid this type of problem in the future". Then describe in detail the root cause or causes. Even when you're dealing with someone on a higher level than you or a customer, it's extremely important to be honest about the root causes. This willingness to be open, even when it comes to your own mistakes or shortcomings, is appreciated. Then, for each root cause, describe in detail what countermeasure or countermeasures you intend to take. Finally, close by reaffirming your commitment to preventing the same problem from happening again and your desire to maintain a good working relationship.


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