“HoRenSo” for non-Japanese employees (9): Sharing Its Purpose

“HoRenSo” for non-Japanese employees (9) Sharing Its Purpose When Giving Orders

Q: During the training session for new staff, I was taught to take notes when receiving instructions and to grasp accurately the contents of instructions. Also I was told to recognize a clear target. I thought this was very important.

However, after I was assigned to a department, a senior worker at the department told me that the most important thing in a job is purpose. He advised that if we do not have a clear purpose, there is no way we can do a good job. What should I make of this?

A: Targets are the means to achieve purposes.

You have a good colleague. What is important in a job is to clarify the purpose of doing a job. Targets are "dated points of arrival." Purpose is the meaning of targets. One of the important elements when clarifying the meaning of targets is purpose. There is a famous saying, "Targets are the means to achieve purposes."

You should have a clear target. But not only that, you have to have a clear purpose, otherwise you cannot make a good judgment. Judgment can be made by taking purpose into account.

Therefore on a routine basis let's remember to grasp the purpose and background and understand the entire situation on everything we do.

Order with a background info

Order with a background info

But it is also the reality that your superior or your client does not brief you all about the purpose. Therefore you have to grasp the way of thinking of your superior, to work hard at understanding the situation to infer the purpose. When you simply have no idea, ask to clarify the purpose.

What we want to ask people in the managerial position is to convey properly (depending on how much your subordinate already understands) not just the target, but also the purpose, background, and entire situation when instructing an important task to your subordinate. Please read the case below.

(Case 1) Hurry up with the patient's medical record!

It is a big hospital with many departments.

Every morning, the reception staff bring patient’s medical records to each department. Even though they bring the records in the same way to all the departments, only the department of internal medicine hurries them. If they were late they would be told off by the head nurse.          

One day, due to a mistake by the reception, the passing of the medical records was delayed. When the reception staff went to apologize to the head nurse, the reason why they were often hurried was revealed.

The head nurse said, "There are many patients with diabetes in our department. These patients come for examination without having breakfast. So if there were any slight delays the patients would get irritated. Therefore we hope you can bring the medical records here faster, for the sake of these patients." Having known the reason the reception staff were able to understand the purpose, and thought that they would be more careful from the next time.

This was a good chance whereby they shared the meaning of purpose and background.

It would be good if the internal medicine department didn't just rush the reception staff, but gave the reason for doing to share the purpose.

(Case 2) What August 28 means?

I was once asked to give a seminar on real HORENSO to a technical research committee of a food products company in Hiroshima Prefecture. Many people including the CEO, the directors of the technical department and technicians attended.

During the seminar, I said, "August 28, 1977." There was no reaction.

Next, I said, "August 28, 1984." This time there was quite a bit of response. Some even nodded with those sitting next to them.

"August 28, 1984" is the day the company was founded. It does not have any meaning to those outside the company, but it is an important day for the staff with the company.

On the other hand, "August 28, 1977" is my birthday. This has no meaning to the staff of the company but it is important to me.

What we understand from this case is we can say that there is no meaning in factual information called "numbers." The background gives meaning to numbers.

From this we understand that even if you were to handle target management efficiently, we should not just suddenly start talking about numerical targets but to "share information" by first discussing sufficiently the entire situation and purpose. If you skip this step, you probably will not be successful in achieving the targets.

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