A shinkansen preparing for the TESSEI seven-minute miracle.
iStock/ aapsky

Organizational Behavior and Leadership

Ever wonder what makes a great leader? Whether your role requires leadership or not, understanding organizational behavior is useful for your career. This course from GLOBIS Unlimited can set you on your way.

Using Japanese Values to Thrive in Global Business

Japanese companies have unique cultural, communication, and operational challenges. But they also have values that have led to remarkable longevity. Check out this seminar to hear how these values help earn trust from overseas head offices and develop employees.

Since its inauguration in 1964, Japan’s high-speed shinkansen, or bullet train, has amazed the world.

Running at speeds of over 300 km/hour, approximately 1,000 seats are filled by travelers across the country during 373 trips each day of the week. Engineers of this iconic transportation have had to consider a wide variety of obstacles, ranging from sound pollution to earthquakes, snow, and uneven terrain.

But there’s another aspect of shinkansen operations that attract global attention: the “seven-minute miracle.” This refers to the process of cleaning each train between between journeys. This shinkansen cleaning method is so inspiring that even Harvard Business School students study it.

TESSEI, the Japan Railway subsidiary responsible for cleaning the bullet trains, has transformed this simple chore into a lesson for the global community, creating a whole new benchmark for teamwork and efficiency. 

Using Japanese Values to Thrive in Global Business

Japanese companies have unique cultural, communication, and operational challenges. But they also have values that have led to remarkable longevity. Check out this seminar to hear how these values help earn trust from overseas head offices and develop employees.

Here are a few key lessons to be learned from this team of elite train cleaners.

A TESSEI staff performing the seven-minute miracle inside a shinkansen bullet train.
iStock/krblokhin

Efficiency is a mindset.

Innovative efficiency does not happen when we’re seated behind computer screens. It’s not a set of actions in pursuit of an answer. Rather, it should be thought of as a mindset.

Innovation comes with the genuine intention of making the world a better place, creating value for society, the organizations we belong to, the people we work with, and the clients we serve. It comes with the desire and commitment to make any space, service, or opportunity better than it was.

People in Japan call this kaizen (which translates as “improvement” or “betterment”). Kids are raised hearing the word as part of daily conversation. There’s no deep secret here. Kaizen is a mindset. It’s also one of the main engines of growth and sustainability in Japan.

Innovative efficiency requires qualifications.

Innovation is a simple process. It does not require any advanced skills, business models, or special authority. It is a process which can be trained through enhanced awareness, education, and experience. When you innovate, you’re making meaningful progress by doing what others don’t, or by seeing reality from an all new perspective.

It all begins with careful observation—observation of the world, our daily realities, things that happen to us, and our impact on our surroundings.

Then comes prototyping. Many ideas may never go beyond this stage, but those that do will serve the world and their creators through the value they bring. 

The TESSEI operators redesigned the shinkansen cleaning process and customer experience from scratch. What were the customer needs? What was the ideal train-riding experience? Here are a few examples of their innovative efficiency:

They decided to use one cleaning rag for table tops and another for windows. Why? Using the same rag to wipe up coffee stains or stray grains of rice on the windows, so close to the passenger’s face, would be poor manners.

They redesigned the broom. A single stick became a funky retractable device. Why? A retractable broom can fit in a bag and free up the hands. It also has the benefit of hiding dirt and dust from the next passenger ready to board the train on a fresh adventure.

They assigned seats for the crew in the team space under the tracks to encourage transparency, cross-team communication, and customer focus, and to discourage the formation of cliques.

Organizational Behavior and Leadership

Ever wonder what makes a great leader? Whether your role requires leadership or not, understanding organizational behavior is useful for your career. This course from GLOBIS Unlimited can set you on your way.

They wear Hawaiian shirts in summer and have a cute mascot named Chiritori (a play on words that combines the phrase “clean up rubbish” and the word “bird”). The team interacts with guests to let them know that the TESSEI workers are fast, friendly, and clean.

Innovation goes beyond tangible products and services.

Innovation can be found in the way business is carried out and the architecture we create for our organizations. It’s in the way we inspire and motivate our colleagues, friends, and families.

Innovation is about all the meaningful realities we are committed to creating. Good intentions always lead to great ideas, and Japan is a country where great ideas are always welcome.

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