A Lesson from the Japanese

As a business owner, Social Entrepreneur, Web Worker (I’m all though, LOL), or if you’re involved in any endeavor that keeps you on the edge of innovation and change, there is often the temptation to be extremely capitalist. Which is good – only that jumping on to the next project and taking advantage of the latest opportunity to advance your objectives, without proper consideration, will lead to a spate of unfinished projects or projects that just won’t work after completion.

There is also the case of the ‘idealists’ whose ideas are never ‘good and mature’ enough to be implemented. Such people keep coming up with more and more ideas, without taking the risk of implementing one. They generally have better ideas than the average entrepreneur, but lack that killer execution instinct. The sad thing is that these ‘idealists’ have become the excuse that ‘capitalists’ use to jump into the next project without much consideration – in order not to be caught napping by a smarter entrepreneur. The result of this as we have already seen above is poorly executed projects or projects that end up abandoned because of the poor prospects that reality presents. Examples abound everywhere – great blog ideas with poor design, content and audience, potentially global or continental IT services that the owners have painfully and stubbornly kept local (despite poor outcomes). These are the results of rushed capitalism.

Enter the Japanese, and we see that often the difference between poorly implemented projects (finished and unfinished) and their brilliantly executed counterparts, rests on rushed and poor decision making. There is always the hurry to ‘get to work’, that kills a project’s best prospects before it is initiated. It is widely reported by those who have worked with the top Japanese organizations that there is usually “endless debates and thoroughness of involvement of people at every level of the organization (or innovation cycle) before key implementation decisions are reached”. This allows the organization to move like “greased lightning” when the action stage comes. It is needless therefore to add here that a well-thought and inclusive process in decision making, always leads to better and faster implementation of project/product ideas.

One testimony lies in the story of a Chemicals Company that licensed a chemical plant to a Japanese manufacturer and loaned them one of their engineers as well. The chemicals company also began to build a UK plant at the same time that the Japanese company began work on their identical plant in Japan. Here’s the ending as described by one of the company’s former ex-chairmen, “After four months, we were already breaking ground and priding ourselves on being ahead of the Far Eastern opposition who, according to our engineer, were still endlessly debating items of the design and equipment. Imagine our charging when not only did they complete their plant seven months before us, but it also worked at first go while our suffered the usual teething troubles and only achieved its flow sheet some three months after start-up.”

I work with organizations that just pull projects at the end of each year, and present as progress made in their communities. The result is that while they may win things on the stage (if they present their ideals well), the people whose lives they’re meant to be influencing will know little or nothing about them meaning that their ‘projects’ become unsustainable overtime and financially non-self-reliant (if there’s such a term though). In this time and attention based social media-driven economy that we live in, it is important to get smarter at the things that matter. Getting more or better ideas for your business or organization isn’t the smartest solution. Jumping to implement the newest one without much delibration isn’t a smart move as well. But because the product and not the process will be judged, your best bet in making your next big step work, might just lie in taking a thorough approach to decision making (and scaling prospects), for the implementation of your next product, project or idea.

As a new year approaches, it’s time to choose what the plan will be.

Look out for Part Two of ‘A Lesson from the Japanese’ tomorrow.