Value of Hourensou – What’s That You Ask?

Here’s an interesting Japanese term…hourensou. Ever heard of it? It’s a common term amongst those at Toyota, but really you can’t find much on it from the Web or from all the great published books on Toyota or Toyota Way.

The word hourensou is broken down into 3 meanings (hou = report, ren = inform, and sou = feedback).

So why a post on hourensou? I want to share my insights on the power of communication (verbal and written) in the workplace and how something perceived to be so simple can really be a visual key to separating your strong performers from your weaker performers.

What does it mean?

Hourensou means to report out to other’s frequently to keep those necessary informed of your work, while remaining open to feedback and direction from a peer or direct. This could be in the written form by using an email to communicate daily progress on a project to the stakeholders or in the verbal form to have short frequent walk-ups to a direct to share and get feedback on the progress of an assignment.

At Toyota, being able to communicate effectively is essential. Assignments are given with the intent that others will follow hourensou from start to finish. If an assignment will take 3 months to do, the expectation from working level to Executive management is that multiple (6-10) updates occur during that period. While performing hourensou, you are also performing nemawashi, a more common Japenese term meaning to prepare the roots or gain consensus. As you involve others in your assignment, you are obtaining their feedback and incorporating it so that the final product is the work of many instead of one.

Hourensou doesn’t equal micro-management

For those of you that have never heard of hourensou before may think it sounds a lot like micro-management of other’s work, but it is quite the opposite. In my opinion, micro-management is when you smother your team members and tell them what to do and how to do it. With hourensou, the team member has ownership of the assignment, makes decisions on his or her own, but by informing others frequently gets necessary feedback to keep the assignment progressing on schedule within scope, both key elements to reducing team member burden.

Whether you have heard of this term before or not, the key is the value of open communication is imperative to having a strong team working towards common goals.   Does your team value communication?

Jason

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Value of Hourensou – What’s That You Ask?

  1. Hourensou means a lot of things to a lot of people. :-)

    A great read and a critical pillar for our company. Effective Communication is key to all success obtainment.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

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  4. Robert

    See Liker, The Toyota Way, p.233-234.

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