Check and validate
Travelling by train in Japan recently, I was struck by the regimented pointing and calling undertaken by train drivers (a practice known as ‘Shisa Kanko’). Drivers sit behind glass screens, so their every action and movement can be seen by passengers, and constantly validate their actions.
Whilst all this pointing and calling could be construed as theatre, it is actually a procedure for avoiding accidents. Using one’s brain, eyes, hands, mouth and ears helps focus attention and is reputed to significantly reduce mistakes when carrying out simple tasks. Even the people on the platforms do it.
Shisa Kanko seems a bit strange when you see it for the first time, almost like overkill. Yet because of it, the Japanese railway network is one of the most efficient in the world and has one of the best accident records.
This commitment to excellence extends to other areas of life, including communications. In Japan, before sending an e-mail or message, content is checked to ensure it has all the right information and to avoid miscommunication. Great care is taken in planning meetings to make sure everyone understands in advance what is to be discussed, the timings and what materials are required. This ensures everything runs to plan.
In his recent book, The Excellence Dividend, Tom Peters wrote “Excellence takes time”. All too often we don’t take the time to double-check things, which inevitably leads to errors and inefficiency.
If we all want to stand out as sales professionals or business people, holding high standards can pay big dividends. I’m not saying you have to point and call at every communication you make, but taking the time to prep things, to deliver communication of a high standard, to define outcomes in advance of a meeting will benefit all around you.
Like many things, lessons are always around us, and that train journey in Japan was a great reminder of the importance and value of being systematic about excellence and always considering the impact of your actions on others.
See you out there.
Phil Jones MBE, Managing Director, Brother UK