If you want to build your career in Japan, learning Ho-Ren-So is a great way to start. Many foreigners working in Japanese companies have difficulty adapting to the communication style in the business. Even though they are initially doing great in their jobs, the communication gap can mess it up.
Don’t worry, we are here to guide you! By the end of the article, you will learn what Ho-Ren-So is, why you need to do it, and why it is crucial to your career development.
What is HoRenSo
Horenso means spinach in Japanese. You might be wondering what the correlation is between spinach and work ethic. How can spinach be crucial in Japanese business communication?
The answer is no, spinach is not crucial in the Japanese communication system. What’s important are Houkoku, Renraku, and Soudan—in short, Hou-Ren-Sou or Ho-Ren-So.
Houkoku (報告; ほうこく) means report.
Renraku (連絡; れんらく) means communication or contact.
Soudan (相談; そうだん) means consult or ask advice.
The concept was first introduced by the CEO of Yamanata Security, Tomiji Yamazaki. He wrote the implementation of HoRenSo in his company in the book published in 1982, Strengthen Your Company with Ho-Ren-So. The concept became widely spread in Japan and applied in many companies.
HoRenSo is one of the basic skills for employees. New staff usually undergo employee training and learn HoRenSo. It is necessary to master the principles to ensure the communication in the company works effectively.
As a subordinate, you have to constantly report to your superior. In Japanese companies, the process and the result are equally important. The manager has to know every bump in your progress because it is their responsibility.
When you face a small problem or make a tiny mistake, you might feel it is unnecessary to report. You can solve it alone quickly. Why bother the manager? However, it is not how things work in most companies in Japan. Every staff member has no authority to make decisions on their own. What you have to do is report immediately to your superior.
The employees should report before the manager asks about their progression. The purpose of reporting is to keep the manager informed about every assignment. That way, the manager can detect any problem and help immediately.
Renraku (Communicate, Inform)
Renraku refers to brief and quick information to your coworker. The difference between renraku and houkoku is that anyone can initiate renraku. The manager can inform the staff and vice versa. While in houkoku, the subordinate is the one that approaches.
When informing your colleagues, you have to make it facts without personal opinion, assumptions, or unimportant things like gossip. For example, you have to notify your coworkers immediately when you are late for a meeting. Your coworkers will not worry and panic. They also can quickly cover for you.
By doing renraku, everyone keeps notified about the progress of a project or the condition of their colleagues. No more problem caused by miscommunications like someone assumes their coworker already knew.
Soudan (Consult, Ask Advice)
Japanese companies encourage their employees to ask for input and discuss upon completing a task. You can consult your team member, superior, or external stakeholder. The consultation usually happens in a 1-on-1 setting.
The employee should not feel alone when working on a project. Remember, Japanese companies focus on groups, not individuals. Requesting consultation does not mean incompetency or dependency. It is a way to include others.
Seniority is important in Japan. By asking for advice, an employee shows respect to their superiors. It means you rely on the seniors and trust their opinion. You can also learn from their experience to prevent similar mistakes. It will help you from wasting time and energy working in the wrong direction.
Effective Communication or Micromanaging?
Micromanaging refers to superiors or managers that observe their subordinates too close. They try to take control of trivial things even when their employees are capable. Problems arise because of a lack of trust in the staff and limited freedom.
Ho-Ren-So might seem like micromanaging for foreign workers, especially if they come from an independent work culture. They used to work individually then only inform the manager when the project was done instead of frequent meetings.
However, Ho-Ren-So is different from micromanaging. The employees in Japan usually do not get detailed instructions at the beginning of a project. The company gives authority to propose ideas, control the direction, manage the pace, and many more. Because of that, the employees have to constantly report the progress to the manager.
In the implementation of Ho-Ren-So, the employees are given space to grow. The role of the managers is a bystander. They supervise the progress and guide along. If the employees accidentally make mistakes, the managers gladly help. By having their assistance, tiny errors are solved during the process rather than realizing something is wrong in the end.
Why is HoRenSo Important?
Ho-Ren-So is necessary to make a company run smoothly. Effective communication is the key to ensuring multiple people always work cooperatively on their common goals.
Continuous communication strengthens the bond between superiors and subordinates. When an employee practices the Ho-Ren-So diligently, it makes them more trustworthy. The managers believe if something happens, their employees will report to them quickly. The employees believe their manager has their backs and is always ready to help when needed.
Of course, there are pros and cons to Ho-Ren-So. However, it is perfect for Japanese business cultures. It is convenient for companies where group teamwork is the priority, and the progress is as valuable as the result. If you want to work in Japan, you have to do Ho-Ren-So to fit in.
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