Thursday, August 18, 2016

Waigaya and Sangen Shugi - Honda

Two big takeaways from Driving Honda were Waigaya and Sangen Shugi.

A few days ago, we were working on a strategy module for a company. As we leafed through old and new theories and books around the same - one comment which caught my eye was Henry Mintzbergs comment where he says "Strategy is like weeds, it has to grow all around your company"

A lot of times organisations dip into their pool of employees (and sometimes customers) and solicit ideas from them. This happens either at an offsite or a meeting or some quarterly review and the ideas pile up. Most companies today have an innovation program that encourages bottom up ideation.

Many of these ideas are future strategy - provided someone is listening.

Sometimes these ideas are not immediately implementable - but if one keeps looking, there might be valuable stuff in there. And if (post such programs) ideas die very often, the motivation of someone to keep doing it will also diminish.

Waigaya is what Honda calls as 'blah-blah-blah' - bottom up meetings where people meet, discuss and thrash out ideas, problems, resolution and so on. "

At Honda Motor, these unplanned, shapeless gatherings are ubiquitous an indispensable - and arguably the most inventive, characteristic and elemental principle of the Honda Way. It is the noise of heated discussion and the free flow of ideas; it represents a battleground of subjective and objective opinions, of chaotic communication, open disagreement, and inharmonious decision making.

Waigaya follows four rules:

Everybody is equal in waigaya - there are no bad ideas except those that are not aired

All ideas must be disputed and rejected until they are either proven valid or vanquished

When a person shares an idea he or she doesn't own it anymore - it belongs to Honda and the group can do with it what it will

At the end of waigaya, decisions and responsibilities are generated - a precise list of who is to do what next and by when.

This is a great example of a bottom up culture.  Waigaya is a great way to tap into ideas, thoughts in the here and now.

And very often this does not happen. And hence ideas, strategies which are there in the company end up never being used or exploited.

The second concept is one of Sangen Shugi. Having worked in multinationals and having been in the industry - very often, there is a strong chain of command which hates anything local. And this is often all pervasive. Sangen Shugi pre-empts that.

This principle states that

Knowledge emanates from local conditions; and
decisions are outgrowths of knowledge; hence
operating tactics and strategies from one region to the next should be determined chiefly by local preferences and characteristics, rather than a corporate template.

The concept of Sangen Shugi and Waigaya are great concepts to harness and use local knowledge and expertise and build bottom up strategies and tactics.  Worth keeping in mind when as an MNC there is a general tendency to push a one-size fits all locations.

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