Understanding the Japanese Work Culture: HouRenSou
Know the ins-and-outs of HouRenSou.
To others, the Japanese work culture can seem mysterious and different—from the quintessential nomikais or drinking parties, the annual health check, and on top of that, the language barrier to boot. However, if you try to understand how the Japanese people work (especially compared to other countries), it actually makes a lot of sense!
One of the most basic concepts that typically make up the Japanese work culture is called the HouRenSou, which stands for Houkoku (Reporting), Renraku (Informing), and Soudan (Consulting). The name came from the Japanese habit of abbreviating words using the first or last syllable. Coincidentally (or probably not), hourensou also means “spinach.” So maybe this is what makes companies stronger (get it?).
Another major concept is the 5S in the workplace. While 5S focuses more on the office organization and workflow efficiency, HouRenSou is important for building trust and communication in the workplace.
When you start working on your task, it is important to report to your superior periodically on the status of your work to let them know of your progress. This is not only important for the team but it is also important for the managerial side as well to prevent micromanaging. It is also good to report about mistakes and mishaps as well. Houkoku refers to the more formal way of reporting.
This is more towards your colleagues or fellow team members in a less formal setting. The act of renraku to your fellow employees is important to make sure that those who are involved in a certain project are well-informed. Simply, letting your coworkers know that the meeting venue has changed is another form of renraku.
Lastly, it is necessary to ask advice as well especially if you are stuck or when you feel like you would need a second opinion. In Japan, the act of soudan is not seen as a bad thing. Rather, this is seen as an initiative to improve yourself.
The goal of all of this is simple: to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that no one is left out or lagging behind information. But you might wonder, isn’t this already common sense? In Japanese companies, however, communication is a top priority. It is considered more important than anything else. So, as long as you remember that goal, everything will be just fine.
(31 May 2019)