Almost every change Yabe-san introduced risked decreased efficiency and quality of service in the short term. Having the cleaners distracted from their jobs by talking with passengers, decreasing measurement and oversight. Even making the cleaning crews more visible to the customers went against the hospitality and travel best practices which hold that this kind of work is to take place out of sight and all friction for the customer is to be removed.

But everything Yabe-san did increased the possibilities for human connection. Not the usual, scripted staff-customer communication or the usual manager-staff meetings, but inefficient, unnecessary communication not directly related to completing the task at hand.

Rather than managing for control and compliance, he was managing for transparency and connection.

Internally this not only resulted in a skyrocketing of morale but an outpouring of creative ideas. The Tessei staff not only came up with innovations that improved their own jobs, but helped design the shape of the bins on the new Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, and they came up with the idea for the nursery and baby areas in Tokyo Station.

And, of course, it was this feeling of human connection that resulted in passengers cleaning up after themselves because they did not want to create extra work for someone they had just seen working so hard.

It led to people realizing that we are all on this train together. Yes, it eventually made processes more efficient and less expensive, but more importantly, it actually made life a little bit better for everyone involved.

What’s going on is that without some kind of direct experience to use as a touchstone, people don’t have the context that gives them a place in their minds to put the things you are telling them. The things you say often don’t stick, and the few things that do stick are often distorted. Also, most people aren’t very good at visualizing hypotheticals, at imagining what something they haven’t experienced might be like, or even what something they have experienced might be like if it were somewhat different.

Time is seen in a particularly different light by Eastern and Western cultures, and even within these groupings assumes quite dissimilar aspects from country to country.

A good software architect, as well as a good project manager, doesn’t need meetings and never organizes them.

Meetings demotivate, waste time, burn money, and degrade quality. But more about that later. For now, let’s discuss a proposed alternative.

This is not to say that skill doesn’t matter — merely that in a competition in which all the leaders are highly skilled, randomness may explain the difference between triumph and failure. Good luck plus skill beats bad luck plus skill any time.

Standing out, rather than fitting in, could in fact be the smarter route to success. A phrase coined in a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2014, the “red sneaker effect”, revealed we confer higher status and competence on mavericks versus conformists.

So we often perceive someone wearing clothing that deviates from the norm in professional settings as having higher ability, rank and respect than colleagues who conform to dress codes.

This is because diverging from the norm signals you have autonomy and can bear the cost of nonconformity – even if it costs you your job.


But she found that in collective cultures,such as East Asia and Latin America, people prefer norm followers as leaders, because they may prioritise organisational goals over their own.

I’ve never stepped into a leadership role without it quickly becoming clear why a new leader was needed. I think it’s normal for companies to hire new leaders when there are problems that need to be addressed. So I suspect that as the congratulations die down, it’s also normal to look at the set of problems that surround you and ask, “Where do I begin?” (also normal: “What have I done?!”). I suggest instead starting with these two questions:

  • How do I create clarity?
  • How do I create capacity?

A lot of evidence suggests that in cases of this kind, employers will stubbornly trust their intuitions — and are badly mistaken to do so. Specific aptitude tests turn out to be highly predictive of performance in sales, and general intelligence tests are almost as good. Interviews are far less useful at telling you who will succeed.

ADKAR is a research-based, individual change model that represents the five milestones an individual must achieve in order to change successfully. ADKAR creates a powerful internal language for change and gives leaders a framework for helping people embrace and adopt changes.

“Japan’s population continues to be concentrated in Tokyo,” Ishiba said. “This concentration in the nation’s capital of people, products and wealth is likely the world’s most dangerous situation.”

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