Japanese Business Practices – 報連相 ほうれんそう Hourensou
Working in Japan is a unique experience, and because its so different from “western” business environments understanding and adapting to Japanese business culture is crucial.
In this article, we will be explaining the most fundamental business practices – 報連相( ほうれんそう hourensou). Hourensou is a method of how you report to your superiors and colleagues in a Japanese business setting.
報連相, having the same pronunciation as spinach in Japanese, is an acronym for 報告(ほうこく houkoku) 連絡(れんらく renraku) and 相談(そうだん soudan). 報告means reporting,連絡means informing and 相談 refers to consulting.
These are the fundamental business practices for ensuring smooth business operations and effective business communications in a Japanese corporate environment. In a Japanese business environment, it is expected for every office workers to practice 報連相 in everyday work life.
In Japan – risk aversion is held in high esteem. According to Hofstedes intercultural dimensions – Japan scores very highly on the risk aversion index.
Constantly reporting on the status of ongoing tasks or assignments helps a supervisor to monitor the process of the tasks. This is crucial for project management as a delay in critical tasks will affect the completion of the whole project.
Repointing also helps the supervisor to timely spot significant mistakes made by the subordinate in the middle of the work so as to ensure the quality of the results upon completion of the tasks.
In the process of reporting and sharing information, a stronger relationship between the subordinate and the supervisor is fostered, trust within the organization is built hence creating a comfortable and efficient working environment.
So to apply this – if you are working on a mostly Japanese team in a Japanese organization – make sure your superior knows the status of what’s going on in detail as much as you can.
The second fundamental business practice is about sharing and updating information to everyone involved in a business activity.
In a Japanese organization, most of the time, a project cannot be done by 1 person alone – It requires teamwork.
As Japan is a collectivist society – in-groups and groups that you can identify and align yourself with are very important. This also extends to the workplace where groups are given recognition for their efforts on projects instead of individuals.
This is not just important within the direct project group – but also across the organization. In many Japanese organizations – you will see cooperation across different departments occurring in order to complete a project.
Under such conditions, keeping everyone in the loop becomes significant to the success of the projects. Progress status is not only to be reported to the supervisor, but also shared among colleagues involved in the project in order to work as a team.
Changes are also to be shared – to anticipate unexpected outcomes. Some examples of this business practice can be sending emails to colleagues involved in a project to inform them of the problem faced which may cause a delay and asking for everyone’s opinion on the new idea for a project through an internal business platform.
Consulting actively with supervisors or colleagues is a problem-solving method frequently used in Japanese corporates. It allows the organization to get an idea of the problem in the first moment, generate the most suitable solution to the problem from past experiences and also taking actions to prevent similar problems from happening in the future.
Consulting or “Soudansuru” contextually refers to a closed door meeting, normally 1-1 where a problem can be discussed privately and openly before the idea for the solution can be brought to the group.
The Japanese are slow to suggest solutions as the proposed solution may net disagreement with colleagues – in order to prevent a rift in the group they will consult individually to get feedback and agreement on the idea before presenting it.
This sort of advanced consultative bargaining can referred to as “nemawashi” 根回し – its literal meaning being to “dig around the roots”.
Sharing a problem privately is also a way to save face and allow the superiors to have advanced knowledge so that they can effectively monitor and solve the situation.
報連相 has already integrated into the Japanese business Culture and it has also become a second nature of almost every Japanese office workers.
If you are working in Japan, start using 報連相 today as the first step to fit into the Japanese business culture.
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