Does your business run like a conventional train or the Shinkansen?

A few years ago, Fortune was working with the management team of a Japanese business and helped them move from the red to the black. After the local CEO went back to Japan to report on their success, we asked how he expressed the value of Fortune's contribution to his senior management in Tokyo. He said he told them we were training them to run the business like the Shinkansen.

Intrigued and bemused we asked T-san what he meant by 'run the business like the Shinkansen'?

The Shinkansen, or Japanese bullet train, is best understood when contrasted with a conventional train. Conventional trains are powered from the front and/or the rear, with both or either engine generating all the power and pulling or pushing every carriage into action. That's how his business, and most others, operate; management push and pull people towards achieving business goals, and any time their energy or attention is diverted, the entire operation slows down. Occasionally it runs off the rails altogether.

By contrast, the Shinkansen distributes power from its engines to every individual carriage, each of which has its own transformer that collects the power and drives it to the wheels. So the carriages collectively propel the train, and because it's working as one, the Shinkansen is consistently faster, more stable and operates more efficiently than a conventional train.

Setting objectives and dragging your organisation towards them, like the conventional train, is tiresome and ineffective... and fails to utilise people's natural motivations. But setting direction, building a climate or environment that harnesses people's motivations by building belief in the organisation and empowering them to achieve the organisation's goals while also achieving their own, like the Shinkansen, profoundly improves business productivity. And it builds resilient organisations that know how to adapt, compete and make money!

Posted: 9/11/2010 8:20:03 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
Filed under: business, empowerment, motivation, shinkansen
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