Cleaning and Corporate Management: The Historical and Theoretical Relationship Between Japanese Companies and Their Cleaning Activities 9819907608, 9789819907601

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Cleaning and Corporate Management: The Historical and Theoretical Relationship Between Japanese Companies and Their Cleaning Activities
 9819907608, 9789819907601

Table of contents :
A Message to Readers of the English Version
Introduction for Japanese Readers
Part I Historical Research
1 The Power of Cleaning: Factors Essential to Great Success in Business
1.1 Struggles of a Young Business Owner
1.1.1 Dreams of Growth
1.1.2 Brakes on Growth
1.2 Are Japanese People Disciplined?
1.2.1 Japanese Companies a Century Ago
1.2.2 The Lack of Discipline and Diligence of Japanese Workers
1.2.3 Managerial Challenges, Old and New
1.3 An Ethical Perspective
1.3.1 The Tribulations of Honda Founder and Celebrated Manager, Sōichirō Honda
1.3.2 The Difficulty of Building Large Companies in Japan
1.3.3 The Advantage of Divine Surveillance
1.4 Solidarity Through Thought or Through Action?
1.4.1 The Authority of Religion and of Cleaning
1.4.2 The Tradition of Teaching Discipline Through Cleaning
1.4.3 Is the Morning Assembly Meaningless?
2 The Spirit of Toilet Cleaning: Escape from the Endless Competition for Differentiation
2.1 The Distinctive Attributes of Toilet Cleaning
2.1.1 Do Japanese Executives like Cleaning the Toilets?
2.1.2 “God of Management” Kōnosuke Matsushita Cleaned the Toilets
2.1.3 Toilet Cleaning: Ideal and Reality (1) “Anyone Can Do It”
2.1.4 Toilet Cleaning: Ideal and Reality (2) “A Shared Task Tangential to the Job”
2.1.5 Toilet Cleaning: Ideal and Reality (3) “The More You Clean, The Cleaner It Gets”
2.2 Is Effort Always Appreciated?
2.2.1 The Little Things Matter
2.2.2 The Touchstones of Successful Managers
2.3 A Shiny Grill in a Restaurant, Two Litters in the Company
2.3.1 What are Your Company’s Bonji Tasks?
2.3.2 Companies that Do a Thorough Job of “Bonji” Tasks
2.4 Escaping the Curse of Differentiation
2.4.1 No Ethos, No Meaning
2.4.2 Why are Companies that Clean so Strong?
2.4.3 The Illusion of the Differentiation Strategy
2.4.4 Take for Granted that Which Should Be Taken for Granted
3 The Spirit Underlying Cleaning: How Leading Japanese Entrepreneurs Embraced It
3.1 The Dangers of Financial Capitalism for Japanese Companies
3.1.1 In Their Own Words: Leading Entrepreneurs on the Value of Cleaning
3.1.2 Weber’s Warning
3.1.3 Do Companies Really Need a “Management Philosophy”?
3.2 Japanese Companies and the History of the “5S”: What is Cleaning For?
3.2.1 Cleaning is a Silent Salesman
3.2.2 5S, 6S, 7S, and 30S!
3.2.3 Origins of the Study of Business Administration
3.2.4 Cleaning Becomes a Social Movement
3.2.5 “5S” Was Not Initially a Kaizen Activity
3.3 A Higher Value than Cleaning
3.3.1 The Relationship Between Management Philosophy and Cleaning
3.3.2 Sacrificing Profits for Something of Greater Value
3.4 Freeing Ourselves from the Profit-First Principle
3.4.1 Toward Unique Companies, Not Unique Tasks
3.4.2 The Cleaning Principles Underlying Matsushita’s ‘Tap-Water Philosophy’
Part II Theoretical Research
4 Two-Fold Benefits: How to Gain Greater Utility from Cleaning
4.1 Lessons from a Survey of 400 Companies
4.1.1 The Current Status of Cleaning in SMEs
4.1.2 The Companies that Responded to the Survey (Q1, Q2)
4.1.3 The Implementation of Cleaning Practices (Q4, Q5)
4.1.4 Why Japanese Companies Clean, and the Effects (Q3, Q6, Q7)
4.1.5 Why Japanese Companies are Doubling Down on Cleaning (Q8)
4.2 American Management Studies: The Missing Piece
4.2.1 Management Effectiveness and Efficiency
4.2.2 Not Much Fun, But Good Nevertheless
4.3 The Direct and Indirect Utility of Cleaning
4.3.1 Unexpected Answers
4.3.2 Direct and Indirect Utility
4.3.3 Clean During Business Hours, or After?
4.4 An Alternative Approach to Human-Resource Development
4.4.1 Does Mind Guide Action or Action Guide Mind?
4.4.2 Somatic Psychology
4.4.3 Japanese Cleaning as Pragmatism
5 Three Ways that Cleaning Strengthens Problem-Solving
5.1 Lessons from a Quarter Century of Cleaning
5.1.1 Cleaning Even on Holidays
5.1.2 Giving It Their All, Even When It’s Not Fun
5.2 Cleaning as Self-Improvement
5.2.1 Enjoyment
5.2.2 Self-Improvement
5.3 Cleaning for Others, Bringing Out the Power of Others (Tariki)
5.3.1 Routine
5.3.2 Tariki
5.4 Three Types of Corporate Members
5.4.1 Cleaning: For Whose Sake, By What Power?
5.4.2 Problem Solving for Existing Issues
5.4.3 Problem Solving for Dynamic Issues
6 The “Habit Loop”: Building Sustainability
6.1 Small Things Matter: The Daily Log
6.1.1 Concerns Raised at the “Cleaning University for Managers”
6.1.2 Too Routine?
6.2 Experienced Companies and Companies New to Cleaning
6.2.1 Does Cleaning Have to Happen in the Morning?
6.2.2 Comparing Experienced Companies with Companies New to Cleaning I: The Difficulty of Sustaining Bonji Tasks
6.2.3 Cleaning Only, or Cleaning Plus (Sorting and Organizing)
6.2.4 Comparing Experienced Companies with Companies New to Cleaning II: The “It Can’t Be Helped” Excuse
6.2.5 Comparing Experienced Companies with Companies New to Cleaning III: The Company’s Basic Issues, Revealed
6.3 Changes Sparked by Cleaning
6.3.1 Change 1: Strong Company Loyalty
6.3.2 Change 2: Wisdom and Integrity
6.3.3 Change 3: Acceptance and Innovation
6.4 A Culture of Leading by Example and Giving Praise
6.4.1 The Power of Habit
6.4.2 A “Habit Loop” for Cleaning
6.4.3 Have You Praised Your Subordinates This Week?
6.5 Cleaning in Japanese Companies
6.5.1 Giving Meaning to the Mundane
6.5.2 Means-Oriented Cleaning
7 Beyond Japan: Cleaning, American-Style
7.1 Two Case Studies
7.1.1 Disneyland
7.1.2 Godiva
7.2 Taylor, The Father of Scientific Management, Espoused Cleaning
7.2.1 Frederick Winslow Taylor’s Theories Today
7.2.2 Goal-Oriented Cleaning
7.3 The Limitations of American Management Theory
7.3.1 A “Harmful Kind of Intellectual Snobbishness”
7.3.2 The Goals-Orientation and Its Limits
8 Slow Management: Essential for Our Times
8.1 Cleaning and “Strategy as Practice”
8.1.1 Practice and Praxis
8.1.2 American- and Japanese-Style Decision-Making
8.2 A “Problem-Solving” Perspective on Cleaning
8.2.1 Four Patterns of Environmental Adaptation
8.2.2 Heuristics
8.2.3 Effectuation
8.3 Essential for Modern Corporate Management in VUCA
8.3.1 Cleaning as a Practice, Cleaning as a Heuristic
8.3.2 Action and Imagination in Problem Solving
8.4 The Value of Slow Management
8.4.1 Slow Management in Times of Rapid Change
8.4.2 “Quit Worrying, Just Give It a Try!”
Afterword for the English Edition “The Three Ethos of Management and Cleaning”

Citation preview

Shin Ohmori

Cleaning and Corporate Management The Historical and Theoretical Relationship Between Japanese Companies and Their Cleaning Activities

Cleaning and Corporate Management

Shin Ohmori

Cleaning and Corporate Management The Historical and Theoretical Relationship Between Japanese Companies and Their Cleaning Activities

Shin Ohmori College of Business Administration Otemae University Nishinomiya, Japan

ISBN 978-981-99-0760-1 ISBN 978-981-99-0761-8 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Springer imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. The registered company address is: 152 Beach Road, #21-01/04 Gateway East, Singapore 189721, Singapore


I would like to express my special gratitude to my mentor, Dr. Tadao Kagono (Professor Emeritus of Kobe University). Without Dr. Kagono’s comments, advice, and instruction, I would not have been able to continue my research on cleaning and corporate management, let alone publish this book. He especially urged “make what is hard, easier; the easy, more profound; and the profound, more interesting.” This is itself a profound idea that suggests what to aspire to both as a management scholar and as a human being. I had these words constantly in mind as I wrote this work. I would also like to express my gratitude to current Deputy Editor-in-Chief Komatsu of K¯obunsha Shinsho for his great efforts through all the stages of planning, writing, proofreading, and publication of this book. It was his beautifully written and moving letter inviting me to write this book that first encouraged me, and his many suggestions, large and small, have spurred me on in my efforts to present this subject in an easy, profound, and interesting way. It is my readers who will determine whether I have lived up to Dr. Kagono’s advice. Finally, I would like to thank my parents, Hiroshi and Hiroko Ohmori.


A Message to Readers of the English Version

In recent years, Marie Kondo has gained global fame by educating the world about the magical powers of Japanese house cleaning. She demonstrates how the process of tidying and organizing can “spark joy” and awaken us to the meaning of daily life and to our love for ourselves and our families. This book offers a corporate counterpart to Kondo by showing how some of Japan’s most iconic companies have strengthened and transformed themselves through a strategy of top-to-bottom cleaning, from the factory floor to the employee washroom. My focus is not the individual or the home but the company, and I map a path to creating and sustaining the well-being (the corporate counterpart of Marie Kondo’s “joy”) of both the corporation and each of its individual members. Business people and management scholars outside Japan, especially in Europe and the United States, have long tried to divine the secret of post-WWII Japan’s management successes. Many of you are probably familiar with terms like “QC circles,” “just-in-time (JIT)” manufacturing, and “kaizen” or “continuous improvement.” With this translated edition of my work, I would like to introduce a new term to readers outside Japan: “bonji.” Bonji means “the little things, the ordinary things.” This book argues that the emphasis on bonji has been key to Japanese corporate success. In fact, the Japanese business leaders you will encounter in the following pages considered bonji so important that they committed themselves to instituting the most bonji task of all: toilet cleaning. The chapters below therefore explore in detail the whys and wherefores of toilet cleaning at Japanese companies. Cleaning is one of those ordinary tasks that anyone can do but that everyone tends to neglect. It can seem trivial or tangential to the “real work” of a company. But the ability to carry out mundane tasks such as cleaning is a prerequisite for success in any of the much-touted practices—JIT manufacturing, QC circles, kaizen—that nonJapanese companies often try to instill but find difficult to sustain. The thoroughness, or lack of thoroughness, of in-house cleaning practices signals a company’s health: “If you can’t even complete and sustain something as trivial as daily cleaning, what can you be relied on to do?” Many renowned Japanese entrepreneurs and executives have preached the importance of cleaning, and not a few of them insist on the value of cleaning the toilets vii


A Message to Readers of the English Version

in particular. You will read below an account by Matsushita K¯onosuke, the Founder of Panasonic, about how furious he was to find the toilets filthy at his factory and how he immediately grabbed a bucket and some rags and started cleaning them himself. Honda Motor Co-Founder Honda S¯oichir¯o wrote that he always noted the condition of the bathrooms at other companies and avoided doing business with parts manufacturers that could not keep their toilets clean. Japanese business leaders often preach that “the little things matter” and that, to use an English expression, “God is in the details.” They regarded toilet cleaning as the quintessential example of “the little things, the details,” and assessed the condition and competence of their own company and others based on the state of the cleaning. Many Japanese companies with a global presence, including Nidec, a world leader in the motor industry, and CoCo Ichibanya require in-house cleaning by their employees. Toyota, Honda, Nissan—in fact, all of Japan’s automobile assemblers and their parts manufacturers—have long maintained daily cleaning practices as part of their 4S and 5S routines. Panashop, Sony, and Sharp, Kirin and Suntory, YKK and Fujifilm—global manufacturers in an array of industries—also conduct thorough cleaning at their factories in Japan and all around the world. In other words, a great many Japanese companies continue to value the bonji task of cleaning today as they did in the past. Many of you may have the impression that “Japanese employees are diligent” and “Japanese companies produce high-quality products.” But this was by no means the case when private companies and large-scale businesses were first getting established in Japan. Entrepreneurs and managers expressed great dismay at the widespread lack of diligence and the prevalence of defective products. In other words, they struggled with the same management that plagued companies in other countries— that is, until they succeeded in instituting the bonji practice of cleaning in their companies. Chapter 1’s descriptions of these companies in their early days may come as a surprise, but perhaps they will also inspire readers to think about how they might use in-house cleaning or other ordinary “bonji” tasks to address their own management issues. What prompted me to take up the perhaps unlikely subject of “Cleaning and Corporate Management”? I am a researcher in management studies. Scholars in my field have two major missions: the academic (advancing theories of management) and the practical (showing practitioners what management theory has to say about how best to manage companies). We aim to find the right balance between the two. But it is probably fair to say that the academic side has lately been overshadowing the practical. Academic conferences and papers are often dominated by explications of theory and methodology. The research itself might be theoretically and methodologically flawless, but how useful is it for the managers and businesspeople who actually run companies? That’s less clear. My own research was no exception. I was beginning to question my role in this regard when I chanced to visit T¯okai Shin’ei Electronics, a manufacturer of printed circuit boards. The president, Yoshihito Tanaka, gave a general overview of the business and then declared: “We’ve improved the company by cleaning together.”

A Message to Readers of the English Version


His enthusiasm was palpable. T¯okai Shin’ei’s performance had declined sharply in 1991 after the collapse of Japan’s economic bubble, but he had turned the company’s performance around by instituting a thoroughgoing cleaning routine. They’ve maintained it for over 20 years so far. I toured the company—offices, factory, and the very clean toilets—and what stood out even more than the company’s recovery or the more than the spic-and-span toilets was Mr. Tanaka’s face as he spoke. I hadn’t seen a manager look so happy in a long time. I was also impressed by the candor of his managers and the liveliness of his employees. The company still faced a challenging business environment, but not only was it profitable, its members also brought true good will and energy to their work. It struck me that perhaps the true mission of management scholars is to help develop companies where everyone, from management to shopfloor staff, can develop this kind of vitality. I visited T¯okai Shin’ei repeatedly, joining in its early morning cleaning tasks, and thus began developing the world’s first theory of management and cleaning. This book is the result of more than a decade of research that followed. My aims are first to show that toilet cleaning, sorting, organizing, and so on have practical benefits for companies, and second, to contribute to the management-studies field. VUCA, meaning the “volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity” characteristic of today’s business environment, is the acronym of the day in management studies. COVID-19 is an obvious example of VUCA, with the drastic changes it sets in motion around the world. Anticipating that we will face more and more such crises and conditions that test human comprehension, companies are already attempting a fundamental reconsideration of the meaning and value of their activities. What has been considered rational in the past may not seem so for much longer. I hope that readers of the English edition of Cleaning and Corporate Management will ask themselves whether the assumptions about rationality that have undergirded existing management theory and corporate strategy can continue to be effective in the years ahead. This book is an English translation of the entire text of Cleaning and Corporate Management: The Historical and Theoretical Relationship Between Japanese Companies and Their Cleaning Activities, published in Japan in 2016, with additions and corrections. The Japanese edition won second prize in the Shoko Research Institute’s 41st Awards to Encourage Research on Small and Medium Enterprises. I would like to thank Louisa Rubinfien (Senior Lecturer, University of Maryland Department of History) for her interest in my research and for her meticulous translation. A grant from Otemae University supported a portion of the translation and publication of this English edition.

Introduction for Japanese Readers

Cleaning—the big “little thing” Cleaning—the extraordinary “ordinary thing”

“How can we best deal with work?” That is the question that the academic discipline of management studies tries to answer. Corporate philosophy explores how companies can make work meaningful; corporate strategy is about setting a company’s direction going forward. The study of leadership and motivation has essentially involved research on these issues in the context of the workplace. Academics have carried out this research hand in hand with those who are actually in business. Management studies has not given much thought, however, to “how best to deal with non-work matters.” The cleaning that is the subject of this volume is an example of an entire area that has been overlooked in academic research. Nevertheless, it is not unusual for the essence of a company—or its people—to be revealed in something other than the company’s core business or the person’s core job. Look around at the desks of your colleagues, the one to your left or your right or of your boss or subordinates. Do they not express the very essence of the people using them and of their work styles? Let me give you an example. One of my acquaintances is a life-insurance salesman. Life insurance is intangible, the kind of product that customers cannot actually pick up and examine, and because it does not fill an immediate need, even the most experienced businesspeople find it hard to grow their sales. Insurance is said to be an industry that truly tests a salesperson’s mettle. My acquaintance has lately been targeting hospital directors and the managers of small- and medium-sized companies, and he says he can tell how things will go as soon he steps into the office of the client company’s president. When he’s dealing with a company where the president’s office is clean and organized, the discussion goes smoothly, whether he ultimately gets a contract or not. The president has an organized mind and raises questions that are clear and to the point. The more particular executives are about cleaning and organizing, the more attentive they



Introduction for Japanese Readers

are to small matters such as the behavior of their salespeople, and the salespeople themselves become the target of sorting, that is, the target of cleaning and organizing. When the president’s office is cluttered, though, my acquaintance says that he has to repeat the same explanations over and over, and that negotiating a contract inevitably requires multiple meetings and an extraordinary amount of time. The likelihood of concluding a contract in such cases is no better for all these meetings; in fact, new issues and cancellations often occur even after an agreement has been reached. Interestingly, the offices of hospital directors are often much messier than those of company presidents, and the contract negotiations are also often a more difficult process. When I heard that, I thought that if someone in my family had to undergo a life-or-death surgery, I would want to visit the hospital and check the state of the president’s office before choosing to do it there. Cleaning may be humble, but it reveals the essence of a person’s or company’s views of work and management. In other words, it’s the little things that matter. The tasks that are part of an organization but not its core business are the ones that most truly expose its character. This book explores the relationship between cleaning and management. Chapters 1–3 delve into the history of cleaning at companies. Perhaps your company is one that is already diligent about cleaning and organizing. Even if not, you can probably think of at least one company you know that is devoted to cleaning as a company practice. That is because it is not a rare phenomenon. Japan has—and has had—a surprisingly large number of companies that are enthusiastic about cleaning and organizing. A number of its most famous entrepreneurs have placed great importance on cleaning. I will introduce how this came to be, sharing with you material found long-ago company newsletters and other historical materials. In this context, I will also discuss the nineteenth-century social-science masterpiece, Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Chapters 4–8 examine the cleaning-management link from a theoretical point of view. It goes without saying that people’s way of thinking and way of life differ from country to country, and by region and period. Our assumptions, values, and lifestyles reflect our culture and our times. Businesses and management are no different: they cannot be uniform across all cultures and times. This most obvious fact is sometimes forgotten, however, in both the academic and the business worlds. In recent years, American theories of business management have dominated the entire world, including Japan. A seismic shift is now occurring in management studies, however, beginning with a new approach called “Strategy as Practice (SaP)” in strategic management theory. Importantly, though, this approach is not yet widely known, either among academics or among businesspeople in Japan. Strategy as Practice dates to around the year 2000. It was spearheaded by European management scholars who sought to understand how the realities of European companies might differ from those of American companies, and to develop theories for corporate management under European conditions. A number of researchers

Introduction for Japanese Readers


in Japan are now exploring this approach and asking whether it is in fact best for Japanese companies to blindly adopt American views of management and management methods. As I describe in detail below, American-style management theory and methods are characterized by an emphasis on prescriptive rationality, goal-orientation, and efficiency. Establishing a business’ purpose from the start and pursuing it as efficiently as possible are regarded as “rationality” itself. The lack of a prescriptive purpose and inefficiency of any kind is considered “irrational.” Given the rapid change and great uncertainty of today’s environment, however, it is no longer easy to declare objectives prescriptively. Even if we force ourselves to set clear goals, we will find that they are unrealistic, with little likelihood of being realized. They may work on paper, or if they succeed, risk doing so only in the short term. Strategy as Practice draws on the philosophical approach of pragmatism to try to grasp the reality of how corporate strategies are formulated. It does not present an ideal but seeks to understand reality. It therefore does not set up a particular company or country as a model or try to discover a “best” approach to management. With this approach, it may be possible to show that prescriptive rationality, goal-orientation, and efficiency are not the only paths to effective management. In the pages below, I draw on new research trends of this kind to highlight the problem-solving and strategy-formulation processes of companies that place a high value on cleaning. I also explore the meaning and significance of that cleaning in Japanese companies that have practiced it for many years. Readers who are particularly interested in the latest theoretical approaches and survey data are recommended to start reading from Chap. 4 onward. The company cleaning routine is sometimes ridiculed as “old-fashioned.” The following chapters bring to light what existing management studies have overlooked and elucidate how something as humble as cleaning actually has a significant role to play in corporate management. This book is intended for everyone working in a company that stresses daily cleaning and organizing, and for those at Japanese companies who are working hard to survive and thrive amid today’s harsh global competition. I hope especially to reach young managers and business owners and would be greatly pleased if the ideas in this book are able to serve them in their endeavors.


Part I

Historical Research

1 The Power of Cleaning: Factors Essential to Great Success in Business . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.1 Struggles of a Young Business Owner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.1.1 Dreams of Growth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.1.2 Brakes on Growth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.2 Are Japanese People Disciplined? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.2.1 Japanese Companies a Century Ago . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.2.2 The Lack of Discipline and Diligence of Japanese Workers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.2.3 Managerial Challenges, Old and New . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.3 An Ethical Perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.3.1 The Tribulations of Honda Founder and Celebrated Manager, S¯oichir¯o Honda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.3.2 The Difficulty of Building Large Companies in Japan . . . . . 1.3.3 The Advantage of Divine Surveillance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.4 Solidarity Through Thought or Through Action? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.4.1 The Authority of Religion and of Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.4.2 The Tradition of Teaching Discipline Through Cleaning . . . 1.4.3 Is the Morning Assembly Meaningless? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 The Spirit of Toilet Cleaning: Escape from the Endless Competition for Differentiation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1 The Distinctive Attributes of Toilet Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.1 Do Japanese Executives like Cleaning the Toilets? . . . . . . . . 2.1.2 “God of Management” K¯onosuke Matsushita Cleaned the Toilets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.3 Toilet Cleaning: Ideal and Reality (1) “Anyone Can Do It” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

3 3 3 4 4 4 7 8 8 8 9 10 11 11 13 14 15 17 17 17 18 19




2.1.4 Toilet Cleaning: Ideal and Reality (2) “A Shared Task Tangential to the Job” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.5 Toilet Cleaning: Ideal and Reality (3) “The More You Clean, The Cleaner It Gets” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2 Is Effort Always Appreciated? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2.1 The Little Things Matter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2.2 The Touchstones of Successful Managers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3 A Shiny Grill in a Restaurant, Two Litters in the Company . . . . . . . 2.3.1 What are Your Company’s Bonji Tasks? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3.2 Companies that Do a Thorough Job of “Bonji” Tasks . . . . . . 2.4 Escaping the Curse of Differentiation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.4.1 No Ethos, No Meaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.4.2 Why are Companies that Clean so Strong? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.4.3 The Illusion of the Differentiation Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.4.4 Take for Granted that Which Should Be Taken for Granted . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 The Spirit Underlying Cleaning: How Leading Japanese Entrepreneurs Embraced It . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.1 The Dangers of Financial Capitalism for Japanese Companies . . . . 3.1.1 In Their Own Words: Leading Entrepreneurs on the Value of Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.1.2 Weber’s Warning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.1.3 Do Companies Really Need a “Management Philosophy”? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2 Japanese Companies and the History of the “5S”: What is Cleaning For? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2.1 Cleaning is a Silent Salesman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2.2 5S, 6S, 7S, and 30S! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2.3 Origins of the Study of Business Administration . . . . . . . . . . 3.2.4 Cleaning Becomes a Social Movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2.5 “5S” Was Not Initially a Kaizen Activity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.3 A Higher Value than Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.3.1 The Relationship Between Management Philosophy and Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.3.2 Sacrificing Profits for Something of Greater Value . . . . . . . . 3.4 Freeing Ourselves from the Profit-First Principle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.4.1 Toward Unique Companies, Not Unique Tasks . . . . . . . . . . . 3.4.2 The Cleaning Principles Underlying Matsushita’s ‘Tap-Water Philosophy’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

20 21 21 21 22 23 23 24 25 25 26 27 28 29 31 31 31 31 33 33 33 35 35 36 37 39 39 40 41 41 42 44


Part II


Theoretical Research

4 Two-Fold Benefits: How to Gain Greater Utility from Cleaning . . . . . 4.1 Lessons from a Survey of 400 Companies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.1.1 The Current Status of Cleaning in SMEs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.1.2 The Companies that Responded to the Survey (Q1, Q2) . . . . 4.1.3 The Implementation of Cleaning Practices (Q4, Q5) . . . . . . . 4.1.4 Why Japanese Companies Clean, and the Effects (Q3, Q6, Q7) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.1.5 Why Japanese Companies are Doubling Down on Cleaning (Q8) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.2 American Management Studies: The Missing Piece . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.2.1 Management Effectiveness and Efficiency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.2.2 Not Much Fun, But Good Nevertheless . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.3 The Direct and Indirect Utility of Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.3.1 Unexpected Answers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.3.2 Direct and Indirect Utility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.3.3 Clean During Business Hours, or After? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.4 An Alternative Approach to Human-Resource Development . . . . . . 4.4.1 Does Mind Guide Action or Action Guide Mind? . . . . . . . . . 4.4.2 Somatic Psychology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.4.3 Japanese Cleaning as Pragmatism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Reference . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

47 47 47 48 49

5 Three Ways that Cleaning Strengthens Problem-Solving . . . . . . . . . . . 5.1 Lessons from a Quarter Century of Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.1.1 Cleaning Even on Holidays . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.1.2 Giving It Their All, Even When It’s Not Fun . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.2 Cleaning as Self-Improvement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.2.1 Enjoyment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.2.2 Self-Improvement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.3 Cleaning for Others, Bringing Out the Power of Others (Tariki) . . . 5.3.1 Routine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.3.2 Tariki . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4 Three Types of Corporate Members . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4.1 Cleaning: For Whose Sake, By What Power? . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4.2 Problem Solving for Existing Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.4.3 Problem Solving for Dynamic Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

61 61 61 62 62 62 64 65 65 66 68 68 69 70 72

6 The “Habit Loop”: Building Sustainability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.1 Small Things Matter: The Daily Log . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.1.1 Concerns Raised at the “Cleaning University for Managers” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

73 73

50 51 51 51 53 53 53 55 56 57 57 58 59 60




6.1.2 Too Routine? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.2 Experienced Companies and Companies New to Cleaning . . . . . . . . 6.2.1 Does Cleaning Have to Happen in the Morning? . . . . . . . . . . 6.2.2 Comparing Experienced Companies with Companies New to Cleaning I: The Difficulty of Sustaining Bonji Tasks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.2.3 Cleaning Only, or Cleaning Plus (Sorting and Organizing) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.2.4 Comparing Experienced Companies with Companies New to Cleaning II: The “It Can’t Be Helped” Excuse . . . . . 6.2.5 Comparing Experienced Companies with Companies New to Cleaning III: The Company’s Basic Issues, Revealed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.3 Changes Sparked by Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.3.1 Change 1: Strong Company Loyalty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.3.2 Change 2: Wisdom and Integrity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.3.3 Change 3: Acceptance and Innovation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.4 A Culture of Leading by Example and Giving Praise . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.4.1 The Power of Habit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.4.2 A “Habit Loop” for Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.4.3 Have You Praised Your Subordinates This Week? . . . . . . . . . 6.5 Cleaning in Japanese Companies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.5.1 Giving Meaning to the Mundane . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.5.2 Means-Oriented Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Reference . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

74 74 74

7 Beyond Japan: Cleaning, American-Style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.1 Two Case Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.1.1 Disneyland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.1.2 Godiva . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.2 Taylor, The Father of Scientific Management, Espoused Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.2.1 Frederick Winslow Taylor’s Theories Today . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.2.2 Goal-Oriented Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.3 The Limitations of American Management Theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.3.1 A “Harmful Kind of Intellectual Snobbishness” . . . . . . . . . . 7.3.2 The Goals-Orientation and Its Limits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

87 87 87 88

8 Slow Management: Essential for Our Times . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.1 Cleaning and “Strategy as Practice” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.1.1 Practice and Praxis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.1.2 American- and Japanese-Style Decision-Making . . . . . . . . . . 8.2 A “Problem-Solving” Perspective on Cleaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.2.1 Four Patterns of Environmental Adaptation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.2.2 Heuristics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

95 95 95 97 98 98 99

75 76 77

77 78 78 79 80 80 80 82 83 83 83 85 86

89 89 90 90 90 92 93


8.2.3 Effectuation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.3 Essential for Modern Corporate Management in VUCA . . . . . . . . . . 8.3.1 Cleaning as a Practice, Cleaning as a Heuristic . . . . . . . . . . . 8.3.2 Action and Imagination in Problem Solving . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.4 The Value of Slow Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.4.1 Slow Management in Times of Rapid Change . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.4.2 “Quit Worrying, Just Give It a Try!” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


100 102 102 102 103 103 104 105

Afterword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107

Part I

Historical Research

Chapter 1

The Power of Cleaning: Factors Essential to Great Success in Business

1.1 Struggles of a Young Business Owner 1.1.1 Dreams of Growth Osaka has a chain of okonomiyaki [pancake] restaurants called Konamon’ya Tonpei. The business started as a local okonomiyaki place run by a couple just across from the train station at Toyonaka, but when their son, Keiji Tabe, took over the business, it grew into a chain with eight to nine okonimayaki shops in Osaka alone. Mr. Tabe also runs several popular hot-pot restaurants and bars in Kita, Osaka. Having inherited the original restaurant from his parents, Mr. Tabe wants to open more branches to share its flavors not only all around Osaka, but all over Japan and even overseas. He and his young staff and part-timers push themselves day and night to realize his dream. Every year at the beginning of April, the company holds an entrance ceremony for new employees along with a study session featuring a talk by Mr. Tabe, and a reception for all the student part-timers and other staff at the chain of restaurants. I had the opportunity to attend the event once and was amazed by what I saw. Even before the reception began, part-time staff, most of them students, were lining up to shake President Tabe’s hand. As if to respond in kind, President Tabe bowed deeply to each of the young people, who were probably just 20 years old, shook their hands and thanked them, in natural, everyday language, for their work. At the reception, the names of the outstanding employees and part-time staff at each branch were announced. The president himself handed out awards and prize money to those who mounted the stage and commented in detail on what made each person such an excellent addition to the company. The young people were likely even more impressed by the president’s awareness and scrutiny of their work all year than they were by the awards themselves, and those who did not win an award must have felt motivated to work that much harder to join the ranks on that stage the next year. The part-timer students lining up to meet him likely did so because © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 S. Ohmori, Cleaning and Corporate Management,



1 The Power of Cleaning: Factors Essential to Great Success in Business

he was a young president who was truly committed to recognizing the contributions made by each employee. President Tabe is himself in his 20s and a sportsman. He has already had a career as a professional boxer. His own physical strength and courage far surpass those of ordinary people, and he is moreover a hard worker. He is also a serious student who, after full days at work, spent the evenings attending a graduate program for working adults and earning an MBA.

1.1.2 Brakes on Growth All his efforts and strength of personality notwithstanding, however, it is not easy to sustain a business that is popular throughout Osaka and all over Japan. His business model seems to work at the scale of about eight restaurants, but when the number grows to ten or more, small problems start to erupt more often. And the problems are not confined to the newest branches. Somehow, bit by bit, all the restaurants in the chain seem to lose some of their vitality and positive tension, and as little problems multiply, sales start to decline. In the end, the number of branches has to be brought back to the original eight. How might we explain why this happens? As long as Mr. Tabe can put sufficient time and effort into making the rounds of all his restaurants, each one is sure to maintain the high standard he expects even without his giving detailed instructions at every visit. This is because all his employees, regular and part-time, strive to live up to a president who pays frequent visits to their workplaces. When the number of branches exceeds ten, however, even so remarkable a president as Mr. Tabe reaches his physical limit. Without his presence, his staff unwittingly loosen their own standards. Small problems start to accumulate and before long, business falters throughout the chain.

1.2 Are Japanese People Disciplined? 1.2.1 Japanese Companies a Century Ago Business owners who aim for great success, either in scale or geographically, inevitably contend with similar struggles as they grow. As soon as their eyes are not on the details, standards fall. This is true not only in restaurants but in factories throughout the manufacturing sector and in each department of every company across all industries. This phenomenon has in fact been a problem for businesses for a long time and is an ongoing threat to many organizations, without management necessarily being aware of it.

1.2 Are Japanese People Disciplined?


The first half of this book will explore historical accounts of the relationship between cleaning and management. Before introducing that discussion, however, I will show in this chapter that from the beginning of modern history, growing companies have found it very difficult to compel their employees to work in a disciplined or concerted manner and that it was by gradually introducing cleaning and practices to their expectations of staff that they were able to bring greater discipline to the company overall. Kasuga (1994), an economist specializing in Japan’s industrial history, writes in his study, “K¯oj¯o no Shutsugen [The Emergence of Factories]”, that private companies in Japan began their rise in the years 1886–89 when mechanized factories made their appearance in the spinning industry. This was when production began taking off on a basis of private capital, replacing the earlier model of government management and marking the beginning of Japan’s industrial revolution. The textile industry, including silk reeling, spinning, and weaving, accounted for an overwhelming proportion of both factories and factory workers, with female factory workers constituting an extremely high proportion of the total. As shown in Table 1.1, Japan in 1902 already had 7550 private-sector factories with over 440,000 workers as against 18 government-owned factories with about 4600 workers. The textile industry had more than 4500 dyeing and weaving factories and 260,000 factory workers, accounting for over 60% of the private factories and 60% of the total factory workforce. Moreover, while most factories in other industries were still small, with under 50 employees each, 47 factories in the textile industry already employed over 500 workers, and 24 of them over 1000 workers. Almost 90% of these factory workers were women and girls. Many of these workers were what Kasuga calls “debt slaves.” They were “factoryhoused female workers” forced to labor long hours at low wages in order to work off the debts of their parents in the countryside. However, the strict surveillance imposed on them did not necessarily succeed in eliciting the diligence and discipline the companies wanted. A 1903 book called Shokko Jijo [Conditions of Factory Workers] shows women being forced to work long hours because of their constant chattering and neglect of their work. A work regime of 16 to 17 hours per day sounds very harsh, but those working the machines do not themselves operate like machines. They do not do their best all through their working hours. Instead, when they’re tired, they rest their hands, or chat with each other, or get up to fetch winders, [taking breaks] for themselves without their supervisors being aware… –(N¯o Sh¯omush¯o Sh¯ok¯okyoku (The Industry Bureau of Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce) 1903) Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce, Commerce and Industry Bureau, ed., Shokk¯o jij¯o, p. 236

Similarly, Yokoyama’s (1899) Nihon no Kaso Shakai [Japan’s Lower-Class Society] published in 1899 says of female textile-factory workers that, “When the supervisor disappears for a bit, two or three people will gather in a corner to talk, and they can often be seen neglecting their work” (p. 134). In other words, the

4 – 3 3 1






Textile factories

Machine factories

Chemical factories

Food and beverage factories



















Source Based on Kasuga (1994) K¯oj¯o no Shutsugen [The Emergence of Factories]




Private factories


Under 50





































Over 1000


Government-run factories


Number of factory workers

Number of factories, by size

Table 1.1 Number of factories and laborers by industry and scale, Japan, 1902 Total









6 1 The Power of Cleaning: Factors Essential to Great Success in Business

1.2 Are Japanese People Disciplined?


reality was that the moment they were not being watched by the supervisor, workers would find ways to goof off. Yokoyama’s work introduces another Osaka textile factory whose dormitory managers said that their greatest struggle was getting the women and girls to go punctually to the factory every morning. Their next complaint was about bribes and the third about the difficulties of trying to improve the behavior of the workers. Even where the factory or dormitory supervisors were like drill sergeants, employee discipline and diligence tended to slacken when the institution reached a certain scale.

1.2.2 The Lack of Discipline and Diligence of Japanese Workers The textile industry, with its high proportion of female employees, was not the only one to face such problems. Management at companies dominated by male workers had similar problems, namely a lack of employee discipline and diligence. For example, in a 1925 article titled “Working Hours and Efficiency Scales” in the second issue of Management magazine, company Directory Toyojiro Kanehara describes his frustration with the lazy attitude of his employees (Kanehara 1925). As for the work behavior of general employees these days, the first things they do when they get to work in the morning is chat with their colleagues, have a smoke, go to the bathroom, or receive visitors. They loiter around and efficiency seems like a dead-end proposition.

Reports from construction sites described conditions we can hardly imagine today. In 1930, Eisuke Hayashi, Managing Director of the Nihon Ky¯ory¯o bridge construction company said the following in the third volume of Industrial Efficiency (Hayashi 1930): They can’t even be bothered to go all the way to the toilet, so they just let off streams of urine wherever they want, right amidst the building materials. They go naked to the bathhouse, they smoke whenever and wherever they please, and their work and everything around them is disorderly… I was berated by an inspector who came to look at what we were making and said it was very bad. I was admonished for bad work the next time as well. We missed deadlines and produced bad quality work. My work as managing director seemed to be reduced to making the rounds of our clients to apologize.

An older person I know who now consults for the construction industry says that such conditions are not a thing of the distant past. Many construction sites lacked order and discipline when he first became president of his company. This was especially true at sites where workers from the main firm, its subcontractors, and their subcontractors all worked side by side. He said he struggled with situations that made him want to cover his eyes. The “disciplined and hard-working Japanese” was not born that way; it is not a traditional national trait. The greater the success a manager seriously aims to achieve, and the more a company tries to make the most of the people it has, the more it is likely to face management issues. This is even truer in the IT sector, for example, where the workers in question are younger and where the industry is new and relies heavily on the strengths of more than one company at a time.


1 The Power of Cleaning: Factors Essential to Great Success in Business

1.2.3 Managerial Challenges, Old and New The resources available to businesses are people, things, and money. These are a company’s weapons, and managers showcase their abilities by skillfully gathering and utilizing them: they are indispensable for success. It has become relatively easy in recent years for start-up companies and small and medium-sized firms to obtain both funding (money) and the latest machinery and equipment (things), including the information equipment necessary for their particular businesses. But the number of young people is shrinking in Japan, and a growing number of industries are struggling to secure the people they need. Moreover, business owners are suffering not only from the shortage of young workers but from the decline in their quality. The fundamentals of management tell us that these workers need to be nurtured slowly and steadily over time, but retention rates are not high enough. Moreover, it is never easy to acquire and develop a large number of employees who consistently maintain diligence and discipline on the company’s behalf. All these factors mean that managers are increasingly concerned about the issue of human resources. Because ensuring employee quality is an absolute essential, the question of how to elicit disciplined work from large numbers of employees promises to be an ongoing problem for ambitious business owners and managers.

1.3 An Ethical Perspective 1.3.1 The Tribulations of Honda Founder and Celebrated Manager, S¯oichir¯o Honda S¯oichir¯o Honda, the founder of Honda Motor Co., Ltd., experienced the same trials as the other managers I have described. The company, founded in 1948 in Hamamatsu City (Shizuoka Prefecture), grew rapidly under Mr. Honda’s leadership and in a short time was catapulted to global status. In 1953, Mr. Honda wrote the following in the inaugural issue of the company’s in-house newsletter: This is our fifth year in business, so we are still a start-up company. We set up a factory in Saitama Prefecture, far from [our home base in] Shizuoka, and we have grown from a company where everyone knew each other to one that has a rapidly increasing number of employees who have never met. This is why we now need an in-house newsletter and why I am addressing the entire company with the following thoughts, titled, “Work Ethic.” It is generally believed that the reason improvements aren’t made to a product is because the necessary technology has not yet been developed, but I have come to learn that the cause often lies less in inadequate technology than in a lack of a work ethic among the people working in the factory. For example, a certain company makes a car that has a joint that rattles. The company has long been aware of the rattle and technically is well able to fix the problem, yet it has not done so. This is because the company lacks the drive to improve, lacks the work ethic that

1.3 An Ethical Perspective


strives to give the utmost service to any customer who buys the company’s product. In modern industry, only those companies that sense the feelings of the masses, that make the masses happy, and that make products that the masses love can win the favor of the masses and therefore prosper. In this lies the roots of pride in one’s own work and the capacity to develop self-esteem. When we truly commit ourselves to the spirit of service to our customers—that is, when we embrace a [true] Work Ethic—we find ways to devise [solutions] and to improve, whatever the effort required, and we win the satisfaction of our customers. If we fail to satisfy our customers, it is because we have not set out to do so. This ethic is at the very heart of every person’s work. –From Honda Motor Co., Ltd. in-house newsletter, first issue (1953)

Even the renowned Honda, celebrated for his genius at grasping the human mind, lamented the absence of a “work ethic” among his employees and struggled to motivate people to give themselves in earnest to their work. The difficulty has been felt not only in Japan: all over the world, in times past and present, the problem of keeping employees working in a diligent and disciplined manner has been a hindrance to corporate growth.

1.3.2 The Difficulty of Building Large Companies in Japan It was the sociologist, Max Weber, who recognized that there was one part of the world that had effectively addressed this problem, and he set out to study the factors that made this possible. He argued that even with the industrial revolution, businesses could not achieve growth in scale or geographically solely by mechanizing their factories or relying on emerging national infrastructure such as railroads. In his pioneering work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber (1904) pointed out that England, America, and the Netherlands were the first to establish large corporations and argued that the reason for this was the strong adherence to Protestantism in these countries. Japanese readers found it surprising that something as rational as a modern capitalist society capable of establishing large corporations would be born of something as irrational as religion. Weber also pointed out that large corporations did not form in Catholic countries or regions, though they, too, were Christian, and that establishing large companies requiring diligent work by large numbers of unrelated people was difficult in strongly Confucian countries as well, such as Japan and China. Businesses in China, in particular, despite the country’s long history of commerce, were limited because they worked only with those they knew, such as people with regional or kinship ties. Confucianism is focused entirely on this world. Weber (1920) wrote, for example, that, “The Confucian desired “salvation” only from the barbaric lack of education. As the reward of virtue he expected only long life, health, and wealth in this world and beyond death the retention of his good name [English edition, p. 228].” The obverse that holds is that adherents of Confucianism strive for benefits in the world they see but performs no penance or abstinence for the sake of the afterlife. We might well think this a characteristic of many Japanese people in our own time.


1 The Power of Cleaning: Factors Essential to Great Success in Business

By contrast with Protestantism, Catholicism emphasizes ritual. The more zealous a Catholic adherent is, the more he or she goes to church. Catholics attend church beginning with baptism and at every life event from weddings through funerals. In this sense, Catholics seek salvation through church attendance and ritual. From the perspective of the church, the money it collects from its adherents accumulates, and through the adherents’ dependence on the church, it gains in power and authority. From the adherents’ point of view, they have only to go to church and participate in the rituals, which is to say, to spend money, and they will be saved. In other words, those who are lazy or cut corners at their work have only to confess in church to receive absolution. But Protestantism is the exact opposite of Catholicism and Confucianism. It does not emphasize ritual as Catholicism does, but rather, absolute faith. And it does not emphasize this world as Confucianism does, but rather, the afterlife. Entering the kingdom of God in the afterlife is the ultimate goal of Protestants, and they adhere to God’s teachings by adhering to their absolute faith in God. Therefore, the more committed a Protestant is, the greater the effort he or she will make to life and to work, in the belief that an omnipotent God is always watching. God sees his faithful followers at all times in all places. Therefore, the man who neglects his work and becomes a sinner will not be able to enter the kingdom of God. We might call this divine surveillance. It is more powerful than that of the most passionate business owner making the rounds of his shop floor or of the strictest supervisor overseeing a factory of female textile workers, because it keeps the workers dedicated to their tasks regardless of whether the owner or supervisor can see them. The use of this divine surveillance made it possible for Protestant areas from an early period to develop large-scale or geographically extensive businesses.

1.3.3 The Advantage of Divine Surveillance The advantage of this divine surveillance is that it keeps management costs low. For example, it is fairly usual today for companies to have many managers. A manager is assigned to each department at the head office and each area of the factory. The more managers there are, the better the monitoring and supervision, and the greater the discipline. Even the okonomiyaki restaurant introduced at the beginning of this chapter was able to develop multiple branches, at least for a time, by introducing a system of area managers and then shifting to a system of supervisors responsible for a few restaurants each. The higher the number of branches, however, the greater the number of area managers and the higher the cost of management for the company as a whole, meaning a drop in per-store profit margins. A greater number of restaurants necessitates monitoring and supervision a greater number of area managers. A company president can handle the oversight of a few area managers, but this becomes impossible at 20 or more, and discipline is slackened a bit by each area manager, just as it was by the okonomiyaki restaurants. A senior-manager position is then created to maintain discipline at the area-manager level.

1.4 Solidarity Through Thought or Through Action?


As more branches are opened, the need arises for a manager to monitor the senior managers, eating further into profit margins even as the number of branches increases. After the founder retires, it becomes clear that the faster a company has expanded, the more easily the discipline breaks down, so much so that even an entire company can collapse like a tower built on sand. By contrast, where the power of God was enough to maintain employee dedication as in Protestant areas, many workers could be maintained without the need for an area manager. This made it possible to establish large-scale organizations without higher management costs and enabled success them both to develop large-scale businesses and to generate greater profits.

1.4 Solidarity Through Thought or Through Action? 1.4.1 The Authority of Religion and of Cleaning How were managers to elicit diligence from Japanese workers without being able to call on the power either of the divine or of Confucianism? Reading back over what leading entrepreneurs and managers of the past had to say, we see that the answer for them lay in the power of cleaning. For example, the S¯oichir¯o Honda statement on “Work Ethic” I mentioned earlier went on as follows: I have always said that “Ingenuity and invention follow on the wisdom born of struggle,” and it is also true that a strong sense of ethics produces superlative inventiveness. When I tell my employees, ‘Clean the factory,’ I am not speaking of cleaning for the sake of appearances. Nothing of true excellence can be produced by hearts or minds that do not care when the factory itself is dirty, disorganized, or cluttered. The factory is where all our employees spend their days. People who do not have the will to take care of their surroundings cannot possibly make outstanding products. This is because there is a direct connection between state of mind and product. When building the Saitama factory, I installed flush toilets and used color dynamics in designing the plant’s machines and buildings because I knew that a well-organized environment fosters the strong ethics that produce excellent products. Ingenuity and inventiveness are not merely a matter of technology. Wherever there is a high level of ethics in the workplace, great ingenuity, desirable improvements, and progress will follow.” –From Honda Motor Co., Ltd. in-house newsletter, first issue

Mr. Honda’s message was that every employee should start by cleaning and organizing the factory. The management teams of young S¯oichir¯o Honda and Takeo Fujisawa stressed the importance of cleaning and organizing in every issue of the company newsletter. For example, after visiting Germany, which was one of the world’s most advanced producers of automobiles, Mr. Honda wrote a piece for the February 1957 newsletter entitled, “Returning from Germany”:


1 The Power of Cleaning: Factors Essential to Great Success in Business This was the first factory I saw in Germany. When I went in, I saw two or three empty milk bottles on the table. The inside of the factory did not seem to be in good order. After visiting various places and listening to others’ accounts, I assumed that this was simply the way German factories were, but then I went to the Lindner factory. As you know, Lindner is a global factory producing high-precision jig borers. The president is an older woman of about 70 and a very bold character. She was very impressed when she heard about Honda’s production volume, and her factory was orderly and very clean. I learned that Linder gets a lot of orders…. Making the rounds of the factories in Germany, I found that on the whole, those that were organized and orderly enjoyed an abundance of orders. –From Honda Motor Co., Ltd. in-house newsletter, February 1957

Perhaps these charismatic managers transmitted their enthusiasm to their employees. Various activities such as Organizing Week were launched at Honda from 1957 on. Even a “Clean Up Counting Song” appears in one of the newsletters, with fully ten verses. Earlier, I described the disorder seen at a Japanese construction site in the early 1900s. The Nihon Ky¯ory¯o Company was one of those that endeavored to establish cleaning and organizing procedures. But in the early days, neither cleaning nor even organizing was entrenched. Mr. Hayashi recalled that, after an announcement that anyone who did not perform the required cleaning tasks would be fired, dismissals numbered as many as 50 and more in a single day. The craftsmen finally came to fear management authority and began to try to clean up after themselves. And gradually the factory and work environment made a complete about-face. When items in the same category are collected in the same place, the factory becomes a much brighter place. It becomes easy to differentiate among everything and to tell at a glance how far along a given product is or whether the product has been made well or which particular order you’re looking at. Even those of us who are amateurs can clearly see, as we walk around the factory, where our urgent orders are being made. And it feels good for the craftsmen to be able to rely on the best of the craftsman’s character. They look at a beautifully finished piece of work and know that they were the ones who made it and it feels wonderful to think that it is superior to those made by other companies. And when the master builder ultimately completes the assembly and prepares for the following day’s inspection and then goes to the bridge he has built with his team, how joyful his countenance is as he walks around it gazing at the product of their labors. This shows us that making good-quality things has become a pleasure all its own.

Similar changes took place in other Japanese companies and factories that introduced cleaning a century ago. For example, Volume 3 of Management magazine, ¯ Printing (Araki published in 1926, reports changes at a printing company called Oe 1926). The factory floor there was dirty, and the quality of the printed materials was adversely affected because employees entered the factory with their muddy shoes on. The company banned them from entering the factory without changing their shoes, but the situation did not improve at all. At that point, the company introduced cleaning. Instead of hiring a cleaner, the factory would be swept and cleaned every day by the employees. Employees stopped coming in in their outdoor shoes and the quality of the printed materials improved. Everyone worked together to bring order to the paper warehouse, discarding large amounts of wastepaper and creating lots of new, usable space. In the tool warehouse,

1.4 Solidarity Through Thought or Through Action?


they established a place for each and every tool, and employees began adhering to the organizational system. The report says that efficiency improved as a result. Another issue of Management magazine, also published in 1926, introduces the case of a socks manufacturer called Imaizumi Knitting Machinery Co (H (a journalist) 1926). The problem was that its socks had a lot of oil stains. That was because the sock-making machines had to be lubricated during the manufacturing process and the employees were carelessly applying too much oil to the works. According to the article, once the company started making the employees themselves be the ones to clean the greasy machinery, they stopped using excessive amounts of oil and the incidence of product defects decreased. As the above cases show, in the early days of private factories in Japan at the start of the twentieth century, it was a struggle to instill discipline and diligence in their diverse work forces. Many companies gradually introduced cleaning and organizing as a way of solving their own specific management issues.

1.4.2 The Tradition of Teaching Discipline Through Cleaning The reason that cleaning proved an effective way to teach discipline is that, varied though these workers were, they all came from households and villages that had long required cleaning and organizing by their members. For example, a “Special Feature on Discipline” published in 1946 in the journal Folk Traditions (Vol. 11) introduced examples from around the country of discipline training practices that had been handed down for generations (Yanagida 1946). A Tottori Prefecture’s teaching in homes and villages said that “dirty toilets and cooking areas are a woman’s shame.” Aichi Prefecture had many admonitions against “dirtiness,” and in Kochi Prefecture dialect, people who kept things clean and organized were referred to respectfully as “gidansha.” A prominent Japanese Folklorist Yanagita Kunio, the journal’s editor, wrote in his introduction to the special issue that “Unlike the way education is handled in school today, training for discipline operated on the principle that what is obvious or expected did not need to be taught at all and that it was when a student said or did something unexpected that he would either be admonished or given a warning.” In other words, prohibitions and commandments—“must nots”—were the norm, in contrast to the “praise and nurture” approach that has become mainstream in recent years. Traditionally, admonitions against untidiness and uncleanness were prevalent among common people all over the country. In other words, the practice of cleaning had long been integral to disciplining household and village members who were intimately known to each other, and it was then introduced by Japanese managers to diverse work forces whose members did not know each other at all.


1 The Power of Cleaning: Factors Essential to Great Success in Business

Thus, it was the authority of cleaning itself that Japanese managers used to discipline people for whom religion was not an effective authority. What religious authority and cleaning have in common is that both had long been valued across regional boundaries as traditional forms of discipline. We cannot know how consciously managers made the choice or whether they introduced cleaning with the intent of harnessing a traditionally accepted authority. But cleaning, like religion, transcended time and categories of human knowledge and therefore exercised an authority greater than might be expected. The authority of long-established traditions should not be underestimated. Or to put it another way, management approaches that rely solely on the knowledge of the manager himself are clearly bound to reach their limit sooner or later.

1.4.3 Is the Morning Assembly Meaningless? However, there are differences between the authority of religion and of cleaning. The former cultivates discipline through ideas whereas the latter cultivates discipline through action. Religion is a set of theories by which its adherents live and work and that transcend time and place. Historically, however, it has not been easy to use religion to motivate Japanese who are unknown to each other to work in solidarity. By contrast, the act of cleaning has a long history of effecting greater discipline, industry, and solidarity than expected among the Japanese. This suggests that a “solidarity through action” based on sharing specific tasks is more effective for Japanese companies than reliance on a “solidarity of ideals” based on specific ideas and theories. In fact, the more I have researched the relationship between corporate management and cleaning, the more keenly I have become aware of the difficulty of building ideological solidarity in Japanese companies. A typical example is the morning assembly. Many Japanese companies, across industries and at every scale, set great store by the morning assembly. Even those companies that outsource cleaning tasks still convene a daily morning assembly. I have often had the chance to participate in these assemblies at companies that also do a morning cleaning. At many companies, everyone stands or lines up in neat rows for the morning assembly. And the president and executives often deliver impassioned speeches or appeals for reconciliation. Unfortunately, however, to an astonishing degree, their words do not resonate with their employees. It sounds almost like a joke, but when the factory is big enough, the president’s voice may not even carry far enough to begin with. Even so, the employees nod as if they are listening. Many employees may well be annoyed throughout the speechifying. And even if the appeal does reach their ears, how often does it reach their hearts and stir them to devotion? Such scenes prove that it is not easy to unite Japanese people with specific ideas or reasoning.



Nevertheless, even morning assemblies have some significance: solidarity through action, the fact of everyone doing the same thing. It might well be said that when employees have stopped attending the morning assembly or standing or lining up, the company is already in crisis. Local employees at overseas factories of Japanese companies often do not line up for neatly organized morning assemblies. This suggests that solidarity through action in the form of the morning assembly is not as easy to effect among everyone as it is among Japanese workers. Cleaning, the focus of this book, is a typical example of “solidarity through action.” Employees may or may not really hear the assembly speeches, but they often see their president and executives cleaning. Observing whether management is intent on the cleaning or actually just leaving it to the staff, whether it puts effort into the cleaning as it does the job or is just paying lip service to it, the employees can gauge the sincerity of the company’s management even if they never put their thoughts into words. If you want to convey your seriousness and enthusiasm to employees, it is more effective to take the lead in cleaning than to make them listen to the morning assembly. In today’s Japan, home to 100 million educated people, or in modern companies with a workforce diverse in gender, race, nationality, and religion, the management approach of appealing to ideological solidarity has reached its limit. What is indispensable for companies today is not ideas so much as activities to which people become devoted. If you have great ambition for the success of your company, this is a good moment for you to look around: do you have activities that build solidarity among everyone in the company? Is it time for you to shift to a management approach based on solidarity through action?

References ¯ Insatsu Kabushikigaisha no n¯oritsu z¯oshin keika The process of increasing Araki T (1926) Oe ¯ Printing Company). Management 3:577–586 efficiency at the Oe H (a journalist) (1926) Imaizumi meriyasu kikai seisakuj¯o kaizen shisaku (Methods for improvement at the Imaizumi Knitting-Machine Manufacturing Co). Management 4:185–224 Hayashi E (1930) Nihon Ky¯ory¯o Kabushikigaisha ni okeru n¯oritsu kenkyu no d¯oki oyobi keika ni tsuite (On motivation and process in researching efficiency at Nihon Ky¯ory¯o Kabushikigaisha). Sangy¯o N¯oritsu (ind Effi) 3:1–25 Honda S (1953) Hatarakumono no tokugishin (The virtue of the worker). Honda Motor Co., Ltd. in-house newsletter 1:2 Kasuga Y (1994) K¯oj¯o no shutsugen (The emergence of factories). Jpn Overview Mod Hist 17(2):185–224 Kanehara T (1925) Kinmu jikan to n¯oritsu shakudo (Working hours and the scale efficiency). Management 2:294–296 N¯o Sh¯omush¯o Sh¯ok¯okyoku (The Industry Bureau of Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce) (eds) (1903) Shokk¯o Jij¯o (The conditions of factory workers). N¯o Sh¯omush¯o Sh¯ok¯okyoku, Tokyo Weber M (1904) Die protestantische ethik und der ‘geist’ des kapitalismus. English Edition: Weber M (1930) The protestant Ethic and the spirit of capitalism (trans: Parsons T). Scribner, New York


1 The Power of Cleaning: Factors Essential to Great Success in Business

Weber M (1920) “Konfuzianismus und taoismus,” gesammelte aufsätze zur religionssoziologie. English Edition: Weber M (1951) The religion of china: confucianism and taoism, (trans: Gerth HH). Free Press, Glencoe Yanagida K (1946) Ky¯oiku no genshisei (The primitive in education). Minkan s (folk Traditions) 11(1):1–27 Yokoyama G (1899) Nihon no kaso shakai (Japan’s lower-class society). Kyobunkan, Tokyo

Chapter 2

The Spirit of Toilet Cleaning: Escape from the Endless Competition for Differentiation

2.1 The Distinctive Attributes of Toilet Cleaning 2.1.1 Do Japanese Executives like Cleaning the Toilets? Even today, a number of Japanese companies stress cleaning and organizing tasks, among them many that set great store by toilet-cleaning in particular. I had the chance in 2015 to attend a meeting of the “Management for Young Executives” study group, which gathers once a month in Kobe, led by Tadao Kagono, Professor Emeritus of Kobe University. The group’s members are all in their 30s to 40s and come from an array of industries. I was interested to learn that of the 20 or so managers there that day, two required daily toilet-cleaning at their companies. One was a metalworking company that carried out the toilet-cleaning at its factories and the other was a wagashi confectioner that implemented it at all its Kobe-Osaka area shops. Why toilet-cleaning? What is the value and significance for a company of toiletcleaning in particular? Probably the best-known example of a company owner who made a serious point of toilet-cleaning is Hidesaburo Kagiyama, founder of the Yellow Hat auto-parts wholesaler in 1961. As I explained earlier, he struggled from the start with a lack of discipline and diligence on the part of his employees. Sales were flat and the discontent was palpable. It was to relieve these conditions and break through to a better place that Kagiyama initiated the practice of toilet cleaning. For all that they were now working for the same company, [my employees] had previously worked at many different places and they brought an aggressive and quarrelsome attitude to their new jobs. Moreover, the company they represented was a tiny one, so the reception they got when they went on their sales rounds was often negative. That made them even more resentful. They would return from their sales calls and leave their manners at the door, throwing their shoes on their desks, kicking the chairs. Seeing them in this state, I wanted to soothe them, to help them feel calmer. I was convinced that we would be able to raise our sales and profits if we could develop a gentler company character. That was the type of company I vowed I would build. © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 S. Ohmori, Cleaning and Corporate Management,



2 The Spirit of Toilet Cleaning: Escape from the Endless Competition … I was not going to be able to win them over with words, so I started cleaning. I wanted a clean work environment so that my employees would not have to see dirt or trash when they came to work. I thought a clean workspace would help defuse their bitterness and that keeping the things clean was a way to demonstrate my gratitude to my employees. At the beginning, though, all that happened was that they used the toilet right alongside where I was cleaning [as if I wasn’t there]; when I wiped the stairs, they stepped right over my hands and kept on walking. –Kagiyama (2005) Souji Dou [The Way of Cleaning] pp. 22–23

One way and another, years passed and still Kagiyama was the only one doing the cleaning. It was at around the ten-year mark that a few of his employees began helping him, and after about 20 years, most of the staff were participating in the cleaning. Kagiyama likes to quote a famous Chinese saying: “In ten years you’ll achieve greatness, in 20 you will arouse awe, and in 30 you’ll be in the history books.” An example of a very different approach is that of Nihon Densan founder Chairman Shigenobu Nagamori. Where Kagiyama doggedly nurtured the willingness of his employees to engage in the cleaning, Nagamori required that they do so. New hires and the employees of companies acquired by Nihon Densan were assigned to clean the toilets during their first year at the company. After a year of washing away the dirt in the toilet bowls with their own hands and cleaning the toilets till they shine, people don’t leave them dirty anymore. Once they have accustomed themselves to this, they keep the factory and the office clean and organized without anyone’s having to say anything about it. This forms the "basis of quality control,” and you know it’s the real thing when they are as careful with what can’t be seen as with what can be. –Nagamori (2005) J¯onetsu, Shinnen, Netsui no Keiei [Passion, Enthusiasm and Persistence in Management] p. 63

2.1.2 “God of Management” K¯onosuke Matsushita Cleaned the Toilets K¯onosuke Matsushita, often known in Japan as the “god of management,” also paid particular attention to cleaning the toilets. Let’s take a look at what he had to say about it. This is a story from long ago—in fact, late in 1923, the year the Great Kanto Earthquake struck the Tokyo region. We were getting things in order before the new year and had been doing a thorough cleaning of the Matsushita factory since early morning. Just before noon, I went around to check over everything. As expected, the entire factory was beautifully clean and tidy. Everything had been well done. We could welcome the New Year with pride, I thought. But then I went into the bathroom, and there, conditions were a little different. It was not an orderly space. Examining it a little more closely, I realized that for some reason, this space alone had not been cleaned at all. I looked around at everyone suspiciously, but they all pretended not to notice, and no one took it upon himself to start cleaning. And the people who should have ordered their subordinates to do so were not saying anything either.

2.1 The Distinctive Attributes of Toilet Cleaning


There was something odd about the atmosphere in the room. Unions were just getting going about this time, so that may have played a role. But whatever the reason for the neglect, the cleaning still needed to be done. Otherwise, we would not be able to give a proper welcome to the New Year. So, I figured I had better do it myself, and I filled the bucket, picked up a broom, and began. I poured water on the bathroom and scrubbed it clean. –Matsushita (1979) Ketsudan no Keiei [Decision Making in Management] pp. 184–185

It is clear from their accounts that these business owners all regarded toilet cleaning as an activity of special significance, distinct from cleaning and organizing other company spaces. So let us consider what distinguishes cleaning the toilet from cleaning and organizing other spaces. Three features stand out: (1) anyone can do it; (2) the toilet is a shared space so cleaning it is not necessarily related to any given person’s own work; and (3) the more you do it, the cleaner it gets. These attributes might apply to other spaces as well, but their full significance becomes most evident when you begin and then persist in the task of cleaning the toilets (Matsushita 1986).

2.1.3 Toilet Cleaning: Ideal and Reality (1) “Anyone Can Do It” “Anyone can do it”—this means it is something everyone can do, from new employees right on up to the company president. In today’s workplaces, even smaller firms have valuable equipment and precision machinery that could be damaged if new employees or people from other parts of the company tried to clean it. And likewise, if new employees clean workplaces without yet knowing how they are organized, they can make things less convenient for everyone and even run the risk of throwing away important documents. But there is no need to worry about that with toilet cleaning. It needs no special tools, just a scrub brush and cleanser. Even new employees can be left to the task right away. As a matter of fact, whatever the industry or the size of the company, there are not many jobs that new employees can immediately turn their hands to. That is part of the reason that more and more young employees lack a sense of accomplishment or fulfillment in their jobs and leave within three years of joining a company. Cleaning the toilets, on the other hand, even if it is done badly, will not hinder the company’s work. And it produces immediate results because it involves such a limited space. A new employee can immediately enjoy a sense of accomplishment that is otherwise elusive at work. In other words, you might say that the task of cleaning the toilets gives people their first chance to demonstrate the value of their being part of the company. People with extensive experience in management and business may think I exaggerate when I suggest that workers find meaning and fulfillment in toilet cleaning.


2 The Spirit of Toilet Cleaning: Escape from the Endless Competition …

But this is what we often hear from young employees in companies that make a point of the practice. Many Japanese companies today, regardless of their size or specialty, face a challenging business environment. It is hard for young employees to take on bigger jobs such as hiring employees. Most of the time they do their daily work as a team. At companies that stress the value of toilet cleaning, many young employees say that doing a careful job at that task, and accomplishing it on their own, makes them feel that they have made a real contribution to the company. There may be far more people than managers imagine who leave the company without having been given the chance to challenge themselves and who feel that for all that they managed to do their job, they did not come away with a sense of accomplishment. Given that they have chosen to work at this particular company, from among all the companies that are out there, most people probably do not go into their jobs determined from the beginning to quit them. It is not enough to lament the shortage of young workers and the high rate of turnover. Do we not also need to create opportunities that will let them understand their raison d’être in the company? On the other hand, there is a flip side to this sense of accomplishment: just as it is easily acquired, it also easily becomes a rut and the accomplishment just a façade. Even the dirtiest toilet will sparkle if you clean it every day for a month. Compared to the cleaning and organizing of other workspaces, it easily becomes a simple a matter of habit. “In ten years, you’ll achieve greatness”: so said Mr. Kagiyama, who did the toilet-cleaning himself for all those ten years. His words will mean the most to business owners and employees who have actually undertaken the task.

2.1.4 Toilet Cleaning: Ideal and Reality (2) “A Shared Task Tangential to the Job” The second characteristic of cleaning the toilet is that it is a shared task that is not necessarily directly connected to any given person’s job. That means that anyone, including yourself, can do it. Toilets can be cleaned by the company president or by a new employee. However, for all that anyone can do the task, it is also a task that someone must do. The toilet is a place used daily by every employee, so it gets dirty on a daily basis as well. While the toilet does not need to be cleaned by each and every employee each and every day, it has without doubt to be cleaned by someone. Because toilet cleaning is a task that I or you or anyone could do, it has a tendency to become something that neither I nor you nor anyone else actually does. It has to be done, but we tend to feel that someone other than ourselves should be the one to do it. That is because the toilet is not my assigned workspace. Even those who keep their tools and machinery carefully cleaned and their desk areas neatly organized may avoid cleaning the toilet because it is a common area, not the locus of their work. Because the task involves cleaning a place that is not directly connected to one’s own

2.2 Is Effort Always Appreciated?


work, it ends up becoming smelly or dirty, and ultimately, many companies end up outsourcing the toilet cleaning to services that are not the users of the toilet.

2.1.5 Toilet Cleaning: Ideal and Reality (3) “The More You Clean, The Cleaner It Gets” The third characteristic, that “the more you clean the toilet, the cleaner it becomes,” means that ideally each person should be using his entire body in the cleaning effort. The toilet is a limited space, so the more you clean it, the cleaner it becomes. Cleaning every part of the toilet helps reduce odors, too. It does not need discussion. But it does require moving the entire body and doing so thoroughly, because the more you bend down, and reach out, and use your entire body to clean, the cleaner the toilet becomes. But this very attribute tends to generate the opposite behavior. People become skeptical about the need to keep up the daily cleaning and especially about the need for their own selves to be the one to do it. Eventually they stop moving their bodies and exercise only their mouths, listing the reasons for not cleaning the toilet that day. And the reasons why people cannot or do not clean the toilet gradually become more and more dominant, just as they do in the company’s actual work.

2.2 Is Effort Always Appreciated? 2.2.1 The Little Things Matter These three attributes suggest that toilet cleaning can be reduced to a single descriptor: “bonji”—commonplace or mundane. A little thing. Yet the bonji task is also something that someone, possibly myself, must do each and every day. And it is something everyone tends to avoid because it requires using one’s whole body to accomplish it. Every company has a number of tasks of this kind besides toilet cleaning. What is more, the company’s survival depends on these routine, bonji things being done properly. Because the tasks are so bonji, big differences arise between the companies where everyone carries out these tasks and those where no one does. The little things matter. Think back to the okonomiyaki restaurant introduced in Chap. 1. When the owner could no longer keep his eye on all the branches he had opened, attention to detail started to flag at every restaurant and by each employee, and the owner was distressed that what he had taken for granted was now being neglected. Similarly, Konosuke Matsushita was indignant about the factory where the toilet cleaning was left unattended because he was already feeling anxious about the fact that bonji tasks were being overlooked all around his company. That is why he took it upon himself to clean the toilet.


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Other bonji tasks besides toilet cleaning tend to get neglected. The importance of something bonji is not obvious before it is taken care of. In fact, something that everyone knows will prove important for the future is beyond the level of a bonji task. Organizations and people often downplay anything bonji because they do not understand the negative consequences that can result from neglecting even routine matters. For example, people who do not clean the toilets or keep their desks organized often end up in a vicious circle such that they do not even notice the condition their surroundings have fallen into.

2.2.2 The Touchstones of Successful Managers Bonji tasks are also hard to evaluate and to reward, precisely because anyone can do them, so that is another reason they get neglected. Even those who make an effort may not be appreciated or rewarded. In fact, the greater the effort that managers and experienced staff have made, the more aware they are that their efforts cannot be evaluated readily and that they likely will not be rewarded. They continue to strive, nevertheless. They know no other way than to keep trying. Although they know their efforts will not be rewarded, they also know the importance of continuing to make the effort. That is likely why so many of the best-known Japanese executives and business owners have continued to value toilet cleaning, the ultimate example of the bonji task. A typical example is Yellow Hat’s Mr. Kagiyama, who silently cleaned his company’s toilets for more than ten years even as his employees continued to use the toilets right alongside him. It is not only the young executives of Chap. 1 who strive in this way, but anyone who has big dreams. With big dreams, however, the results tend not to be as expected. Big dreams need not just effort and talent but also good fortune and serendipity. Sometimes those who take up such challenges must bear with ridicule from others, knowing full well that their efforts are unappreciated and will go unrewarded. And yet they press on, in silence. By contrast, those who are sure that effort is rewarded and continue to believe so even as they grow older often neglect to make the effort, enumerating the reasons why they cannot do so. They are contemptuous of the single-minded efforts and failures of others. They blame others for their own failures rather than taking responsibility and greatly trivialize the bonji tasks that require effort but go unrewarded. It is evident that the capacity to value the bonji and to recognize that effort does not necessarily pay off is an indicator of whether or not a person can become a good manager.

2.3 A Shiny Grill in a Restaurant, Two Litters in the Company


2.3 A Shiny Grill in a Restaurant, Two Litters in the Company 2.3.1 What are Your Company’s Bonji Tasks? We have established that toilet cleaning, out of all the cleaning and organizing tasks, is the ultimate bonji task: one that anyone is capable of doing, that could as well be done by anyone, and that requires actual physical effort but that nevertheless goes unappreciated. This is true in every company, regardless of industry or scale. Every company or industry has its own set of bonji tasks besides toilet cleaning. A manager’s skill lies in being able to unearth these and present them to the employees. Here are some examples of managers figuring out the bonji tasks needed in their own companies and then getting everyone to set to work on them. Each of the Konamonya Tonpei okonomiyaki restaurants introduced in Chap. 1 began to polish its table-top iron grills every day, aiming to become the cleanest okonomiyaki restaurant in Osaka. At okonomiyaki restaurants, these table-top iron grills are used every day, like toilets, and they are sure to get dirty every day, too. Polishing an iron grill is an utterly bonji task: everyone can do it, anyone could do it, and it requires actual physical effort. You can see on the Konamonya Tonpei blog that everyone takes on this chore—managers, regular staff, and part-timers. Some branches have taken this further to include all their cleaning tasks, not just the grills. In Matsubara City, Osaka Prefecture, a rice wholesaler called Konan Foods has maintained what it calls the “1-1-2 Campaign” for many years: everyone working there picks up at least two pieces of trash each day. It is a large site, and there is not so much as a grain of rice on the floor, let alone trash—something that always comes as a great surprise to other similar companies. Angel Foods, for example, a Tokyo company that is Japan’s largest producer and seller of lunch meals for kindergartens, has occasion to visit many rice businesses, Konan Foods among them. Amazed at the unique look and feel of Konan Foods, so unlike those of any other rice wholesaler, it has taken up the 1-1-2 challenge as well. This is a bonji task: anyone is able to do it, it could as well be done by anyone, and it requires physical effort, not talk. It is particularly essential at companies that handle food because they have to be so cautious about any foreign substances. At the beginning of this chapter, I introduced the young-executive group that meets in Kobe to study management. One of the participants is the Kobe hotel where the group meets. Its staff shares the task of weeding the hotel grounds. As at Konan Foods, the hotel site is a large one. Earlier, I commented that people who do bonji tasks become aware that they will not always be rewarded for their efforts. Picking up trash and pulling weeds in large spaces are the ultimate examples of work such work. That is because the weeds will have begun growing again by the time the entire space has been weeded. The same applies to the grills at Konamonya Tonpei. No matter how much they are polished


2 The Spirit of Toilet Cleaning: Escape from the Endless Competition …

one day, they will be completely blackened again the next. This makes people feel there is no point to making the effort to polish them every day. Some companies take their efforts even farther, to cleaning the exterior as well as the interior of their premises. Lefco, for example, is a fitness-club chain in the Kanto, Shikoku, and Kyushu areas. Fitness clubs are community-based businesses that cannot grow and survive without the support of local residents, so Lefco requires all its employees, including the students who work there part time, to clean the area around the outside of the facility before beginning work. This too, is a bonji task that requires effort but that does not have a direct reward.

2.3.2 Companies that Do a Thorough Job of “Bonji” Tasks What happens when everyone makes a point of fulfilling the most bonji of chores, including cleaning the toilet? The following section will illustrate what I call “the spirit of toilet cleaning.” This “spirit” lies in tasks specific to each company that, by being carried out every day, become a “spirit” that only its practitioners can understand. Let us explore how some practitioners have described what I am calling “the spirit of toilet cleaning.” In February 2014, Yellow Hat celebrated the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of its cleaning program by Mr. Kagiyama. Many admirers of Mr. Kagiyama, as well as members of the company itself, participated in the ceremony. The “Clean Up Japan Association” was formed in 1993 by then-Senior Advisor Mr. Kagiyama and his fellow managers. They aimed to take their beautification program beyond the company to Japan as a whole and began developing cleaning activities nationwide with a monthly cleaning of the streets of Shinjuku. Based on his own experience, Mr. Kagiyama, who has been cleaning every day for 50 years, often speaks of “doing the ordinary and doing it to the utmost.” He means that the bonji tasks, including toilet cleaning, should above all be done thoroughly and consistently. Mr. Kagiyama says that he did not coin the saying, “do the bonji task and do it to the utmost.” He read it in a book whose title he no longer recalls, and he has been using it ever since. There is a similar saying that has long been in use in Chinese. The Clean Up Japan Association articulates what happens when you “do the bonji and do it to the utmost,” or in other words, why Mr. Kagiyama cleans the toilets every day. What we gain is five attributes: “humility,” “discernment,” “passion,” “appreciation,” and “a pure heart.” These attributes, introduced briefly on the website of the Clean Up Japan Association, are given greater detail in Mr. Kagiyama’s book. 1. Cultivating humility No matter how talented you might be, you cannot make others happy if you are arrogant. The first condition of being human is humility. And humility is something people come by naturally when they clean the toilets. I’ve never heard of anyone becoming arrogant on account

2.4 Escaping the Curse of Differentiation


of cleaning the toilets. Rather, people who engage in toilet cleaning learn humility, without exception. When you learn humility, people naturally begin to respond to you differently. People who have never said hello to you now begin to greet you…. 2. Cultivating discernment The difference between those who achieve results and those who do not lies in whether they are wasteful or not. To do away with waste, you need to become discerning. By becoming discerning, you become able to avoid waste. In my case, what did most to elicit “discernment” was cleaning. You become the most discerning person you can be. It is the most important thing in life, I believe. People without discernment make themselves and those around them unhappy…. 3. Cultivating passion Feeling is life. A life without feeling is meaningless. To live is to experience feeling. Having been given life, we want to live lives that inspire feeling in others. To that end, we ourselves need first to become people who can easily be moved to feeling. In my own case, the practice of cleaning the toilets, which I have maintained for many years, has greatly helped me to develop a heart that can be moved…. If you want to live a life that arouses you and those around you to feeling or passion, bend down, use your hands and your feet and your body, and give the task your utmost. And sustain your efforts. 4. Cultivating gratitude People do not feel gratitude because they are happy. Rather, they become happy because they feel gratitude. In that sense, cleaning toilets heightens our sensitivity and allows us to appreciate the little things…. Those who can appreciate the little things become able to treat their struggles and worries as little things. And to become happy as a result. 5. Cultivating a pure heart ….Cleaning is the way to leave ego behind and cultivate a pure heart. Cleaning dirty toilets leaves you refreshed and honest (pure) of heart. That honesty (purity) brings clarity in the face of confusion and allows you to see ahead. People become as worried and anxious as they do because they cannot see ahead to the future. Cultivating an honest (pure) heart makes it possible to see the future clearly, [allowing] one’s anxieties to vanish and with them, the excess of struggle. As a result, the spirit is cleansed and the heart and mind shine. –Kagiyama (2006) Hitotsu Hiroeba Hitotsudake Kireininaru (Make the World a Cleaner Place, One Piece of Trash at a Time), pp. 42–51.

2.4 Escaping the Curse of Differentiation 2.4.1 No Ethos, No Meaning Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, discussed in the previous chapter, showed that the foundation of Protestant ethics enabled the formation of the capitalist spirt that in turn made the establishment of large corporations possible in the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Netherlands. The religious ethic said that entry into the kingdom of God in the afterlife required hard work in


2 The Spirit of Toilet Cleaning: Escape from the Endless Competition …

this world and that laziness was unacceptable. This became the basis of the capitalist spirit, which requires large numbers of unrelated people to work their hardest. Weber gave the name “ethos” to this spirit. “Ethos” cannot be apprehended through the intellect alone but refers to a spirit and pattern of actions that become blood and flesh and infused in the body itself. Many people understand in their heads that they should work hard and not be lazy. However, understanding of this kind is meaningless unless it becomes an ethos and penetrates to the very bone. The same is true for “humility,” “discernment,” and the other attributes explained above, cultivated through that most ordinary of tasks, cleaning the toilet. Many Japanese, or experienced business owners, can understand the value of the spirit of the five attributes cultivated by toilet cleaning, even if they themselves do not undertake the toilet-cleaning practice. However, it is not enough to understand it with one’s mind. The understanding is meaningless unless it infuses the body as an ethos, or in other words, becomes a spirit or behavior that is blood and flesh. The spirit that takes life through toilet cleaning is the ethos acquired bit by bit through the practice of doing ordinary tasks and doing them thoroughly. How might things be if this became the ethos of everyone in the company— managers, regular staff, occasional part-timers? Would such a company not become tremendously strong? The ethos could exert a power even greater than the Protestant command “not to be lazy but to work in a disciplined manner.”

2.4.2 Why are Companies that Clean so Strong? Many of the companies in the Clean Up Japan Association are not especially unique in terms of the content of their business, yet they manage to maintain stable returns. For example, Yoshihito Tanaka, former chairman of the Clean Up Japan Association, is the president and chairman of three Gifu Prefecture companies: T¯okai Shin’ei Denshi Kogyo, Nakayama, and Nakayama Riken, which manufacture and sell printed circuit boards, packaging materials and sticker labels, and metal masks. None of these is in a cutting-edge industry. Moreover, it is not easy these days to establish manufacturing businesses in Japan, especially in areas like T¯okai Shin’ei’s printed circuit boards. T¯okai Shin’ei Denshi Kogyo was established in 1969 by a Tokyo company to manufacture and sell printed circuit boards in the T¯okai area. The Tokyo Company eventually went out of business because of price competition from overseas. Many other companies in the industry have moved their production to lower labor-cost places outside Japan, such as China, or have diversified into other sectors to stay profitable. Specialists who provided technical guidance to T¯okai Shin’ei Denshi Kogyo say that it is unusual for domestic manufacturers to stay profitable in this industry. The secret lies in the cleaning. For over a quarter of a century, everyone in the company has worked together to clean the machinery, equipment, and tools, which

2.4 Escaping the Curse of Differentiation


has doubled the length of their useful life; by striving for daily improvement, the company has sustained a surprisingly low defect rate it can be proud of. Cleaning has imbued the workforce with the five attributes of the heart so that they are not just shared by a portion of the staff but are the very ethos of the entire company. Mr. Tetsuo Toshi, current chairman of the Clean Up Japan Association, is president of a company called Nihon Kikaku. Here, too, everyone participates in a daily cleaning. The power of this cleaning ethos undergirds the company. Headquartered in Funabashi city, Chiba Prefecture, Nihon Kikaku has branches in Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka. Its main business is providing information-systems support staff to companies. There is nothing unique about the content of this company’s business. However, the company’s employees, having imbibed the essential ethos through daily cleaning, have been able to win the trust of their clients and to maintain sustained relationships with them over a long period of time. Mariko Noro is the president of Osato Integrated Management, also in Chiba Prefecture. The daily morning cleaning is treated as essential at this company, too. They do an extensive cleaning of both the company-building interiors and the surrounding area. The company is in the real-estate maintenance business, and it is also engaged in various community service activities, including lunches, concerts, after-school care, and various classes such as yoga. But none of these is pursued in isolation from the others. Through the sustained practice of cleaning, the president and staff have absorbed the ethos of humility, discernment, and so on, and a number of local residents have become enthusiastic clients and supporters of the company’s businesses and community service activities. The power of cleaning is a wellspring supporting the company. Konan Foods, the company with the long history carrying out the 1-1-2 Campaign, is in the wholesale rice trade. Rice wholesalers do not produce their own products so it is fair to say that their merchandise cannot readily be differentiated from those of similar companies. But the 1-1-2 Campaign, by training everyone at the company to notice and pick up any litter, has cultivated their awareness of their surroundings, and that character itself has become part of the appeal and credibility of the company, which continues to grow. In each case, cleaning has enabled these companies to sustain a certain level of profit although their areas of business and products are not essentially different from those of other companies in their industries.

2.4.3 The Illusion of the Differentiation Strategy Scholars in business-administration studies traditionally posited that differentiating one’s company from others is at the very foundation of management strategy and urged that every company strive to be unique. Certainly, it makes sense that there would be utility in a few companies pursuing differentiation as a strategy. But as with a strategy of low prices, if too many companies start pursuing a strategy of differentiation, the effectiveness of the strategy is diminished. In today’s world


2 The Spirit of Toilet Cleaning: Escape from the Endless Competition …

of global competition, a great many companies, all around the world, are seeking to differentiate themselves from one another. Just as price competition often leads to discounting wars, the strategy of differentiation can lead to excessive and unnecessary differentiation and to threatening levels of competition among companies. Here, I would like to reexamine the effectiveness of the strategy of product differentiation that so many have assumed is necessary and inevitable, and then to explore how companies that stress cleaning have been able to deemphasize product differentiation and thereby escape the cycle of excessive competition. In recent years, the strategy of product differentiation has come under question in the academic world. The question is whether there really is a correlation between a company’s performance and the strategy of product differentiation. For example, US management researchers Pfeffer and Sutton (2006) argue that there is not as much of a correlation as scholars had expected between profit and the content or degree of a company’s uniqueness. European management researcher Rosenzweig (2007) harshly criticizes the idea that the more a company differentiates itself, the more its profits will rise, arguing that the idea derives from a cognitive bias that overstates certain factors. In addition, Strategy Safari (1998) by Canadian management researcher Mintzberg and his colleagues shows that the “deliberate strategies” developed by top management and strategic staff in US companies have no more than a ten percent feasibility as “strategy” (Mintzberg et al. 1998). Meanwhile, survey of Japanese companies report that Japan’s major companies have a strong tendency to stress product differentiation (Kato 2014). In a survey of 120 businesses, companies responded that their highest priority was product differentiation, a figure that greatly exceeded the pursuit of lower costs, the next highest priority. However, the study showed also that 60% of the businesses surveyed were less profitable than their competitors, and while they aimed to achieve product differentiations, they may either not have been successful, or their success may not have meant higher profits. In an academic paper published in the Journal of Marketing Management, European marketing scholar Hart (1993) investigated whether pursuing a differentiation strategy really contributes to a company’s competitive advantage and profits. Based on the results of a survey of 69 UK manufacturers, she shows that if anything, differentiation is a difficult path to success, first because customers tend not to immediately accept what seems novel, and also because it is costly and can squeeze profits.

2.4.4 Take for Granted that Which Should Be Taken for Granted As mentioned earlier, many of the companies that maintain a clean-up program modeled on Mr. Kagiyama’s did not pursue product differentiation. Yellow Hat, Mr. Kagiyama’s company, sells car accessories. The company does not pursue differentiation or uniqueness in its projects or business. Nevertheless, it was listed on the



First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 1997. This was during the so-called “Lost Decades,” the 20 years of economic stagnation that followed the burst of the bubble economy, a period when many companies were in agony. A company that can be profitable without relying on differentiation is a solid company, one that is not at the mercy of the times. That is the power of companies in which everyone has absorbed the ethos of the five attributes introduced above. Of course, those that succeed in differentiating themselves in content or business practices have the potential to make even greater profits. When the ethos of humility, discernment, feeling, gratitude, and purity take root in most of a company’s employees, even companies that do not pursue small-bore differences can become rich with human appeal and power. Stop and ask yourself if your company is one that can sell even the most ordinary products. Is it a company where everyone can work together to sell the product, whatever it may be, and make a profit? If, instead, your company is able only to sell niche products, it is in danger of being driven into an endless quest to discover more ways to differentiate itself from others. As fashions pass and competitors imitate the changes you make, you will have to unearth yet another form of differentiation. If your company can, however, free itself from the curse of always having to differentiate itself, it will not be plagued by a constant sense of urgency and your employees will be able to work in a stable manner in peace of mind. A company where everyone can do that which is expected, where everyone can sell even ordinary products and services at a reasonable level—this is a company demonstrating the true value of the shared ethos of thoroughly cleaning the toilets. It is a company where all employees can bring their utmost to carrying out even the most ordinary of tasks.

References Hart S (1993) Dimensions of success in new product development: an exploratory investigation. J Mark Manag 9:23–41 Kagiyama H (2005) S¯oji d¯o (The way of cleaning). PHP, Tokyo Kagiyama H (2006) Hitotsu hiroeba hitotsu dake kirei ni naru (Make the world a cleaner place, one piece of trash at a time). PHP, Tokyo Kato T (2014) Ky¯os¯o senryaku (Competitive strategy). Nikkei Bunko, Tokyo Matsushita K (1979) Ketsudan no keiei (Decision making in management). PHP, Tokyo. Matsushita K (1986) Watashi no ikikata, kangaekata [in Japanese]. PHP, Tokyo. English Edition: Matsushita K (2001) My way and way of thinking (trans: PHP). PHP, Tokyo Mintzberg H, Ahlstrand B, Lampel J (1998) Strategy safari: a guided tour through the wilds of strategic management. Simon & Schuster, New York Nagamori S (2005) J¯onetsu, Shinnen, Netsui no Keiei (Passion, enthusiasm, and obsession in management). PHP, Tokyo Pfeffer J, Sutton RI (2006) Hard facts: diagnosis half-truth, and total nonsense: profitting from evidence-based management. Harvard Business Press, Cambridge Rosenzweig P (2007) The halo effect: … and the eight other business delusions that deceive managers. Free Press, New York

Chapter 3

The Spirit Underlying Cleaning: How Leading Japanese Entrepreneurs Embraced It

3.1 The Dangers of Financial Capitalism for Japanese Companies 3.1.1 In Their Own Words: Leading Entrepreneurs on the Value of Cleaning We have examined how cleaning assumed a power akin to that of the religion Weber discerned as underlying the spirit of capitalism. The previous chapters shows that the spirit that is given life through cleaning, and especially through cleaning the toilet, may have developed into an ethos that gave strength to Japanese companies. Further still, we have seen how the spirit that underlies cleaning—namely the resolution to give one’s all to one’s work even when no on one is watching—can penetrate every aspect of an organization till it is permeated with humility, awareness, and sensitivity, and that this became the driving force for the growth of Japanese companies. In this chapter, I would like to look specifically at the entrepreneurs who flourished through this spirit—to focus on management, that is, rather than on workers. Let us hear the thoughts of business leaders on the relationship between management and cleaning and use them to clarify how they arrived at their unique views of management.

3.1.2 Weber’s Warning At the end of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber delivers a warning about the future of capitalist society: But victorious capitalism, since it rests on mechanical foundations, needs [the support of asceticism] no longer…. In the field of its highest development, in the United States, the

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 S. Ohmori, Cleaning and Corporate Management,



3 The Spirit Underlying Cleaning: How Leading Japanese Entrepreneurs … pursuit of wealth, stripped of its religious and ethical meaning, tends to become associated with purely mundane passions, which often actually give it the character of sport…. For of the last stages of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: ‘Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.’ –Weber (1930) The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. [English edition] pp. 181–182)

Writing at the beginning of the twentieth century, Weber worried about the future of a capitalist society in which religion had weakened and profits came first. Many people today, confronted with the transition from industrial to financial capitalism, are wondering whether society is becoming that which Weber feared. Hiroshi Tsukakoshi of Ina Foods, like the chairman of Yellow Hat, is well known for continuing even today to place a high value on cleaning. His company, headquartered in Ina City, Nagano Prefecture, far from Tokyo, manufactures and sells the agar which are traditional foods in Japan, and is known for having grown its sales and profits ever since its establishment in 1958. Chairman Tsukakoshi expressed concerns much like Weber’s: As I came to realize that the company exists to make its employees happy and that there is value in perpetuating the company, I began to ask many questions about what has hitherto been regarded as “good” management. It seems that the priority placed on maximizing sales, expanding profits, and market capitalization has often meant the sacrifice of employee happiness. Since we are talking about business, “management” is meaningless unless sales increase. If a company does not make a profit, it cannot survive. I certainly understand fully the importance of sales and profits. However, when increasing sales and profits is the goal, the happiness of employees becomes secondary. One comes to think that the most effective ways to increase profit are to reduce labor costs, welfare costs, contributions to the community, and support for the arts. This leads to collapse. –Tsukakoshi (2009) Nenrin keiei [My Long Experience of Management] pp. 16–17

Like Weber, who worried that the profit-first principle would overtake religious principles, Mr. Tsukakoshi has expressed great concern about Japanese companies of recent years that have exhausted themselves pursuing profits above all else. Ina Foods has sought to counter the trend with a company motto of “Build a good company— strong, yet gentle” and regards this as the core of its management philosophy. A “good company,” Mr. Tsukakoshi says, “is not merely one whose numbers are good but one about which the people engaged with it say, even in casual conversation, ‘oh that’s a good company isn’t it.’ A “good company” makes everyone happy, including its own members.” By giving this the stature of “management philosophy,” the company hopes to restrain the impulse to give way to the profit-first principle.

3.2 Japanese Companies and the History of the “5S”: What is Cleaning For?


3.1.3 Do Companies Really Need a “Management Philosophy”? Management philosophy is generally defined as “the basic beliefs and guiding principles that permeate a corporate entity” (Management Philosophy Succession Study Group 2008, p. 28). Inside a company, management philosophy provides the guiding principles that foster a sense of unity throughout the entire organization; outside the company, it informs others of the organization’s raison d’être through the articulation of its beliefs. All too often, however, what should be the product of sincere reflection on the part of the management team is merely mimicry of other well-known companies or finesounding words adopted on the advice of consultants. A management philosophy that is mere rhetoric cannot be expected to promote a sense of internal unity. If anything, employees are likely only to become apathetic as the gaps are revealed between the actual mission of the company and the one they display to the outside world. The following pages clarify the sort of spirit that cleaning fosters in management, explores the management philosophies expressed by businesses known for valuing the practice of cleaning, and considers how these philosophies differ from those of other general managers. My aim in this section is to consider how companies can avoid allowing their management philosophies to become mere rhetoric. It is interesting to note in this context that Yellow Hat did not have an articulated management philosophy when Mr. Kagiyama was in charge. When in 1992 he was asked about his management philosophy, his answered as follows: “At that time, we had not articulated a management philosophy. If I’d been asked, I probably would have said, ‘to continue to do ordinary things extraordinarily—or to put it even more simply, ‘bonji tettei (doing a thorough job of ordinary tasks).’” (Kagiyama and Tanaka 2000, p. 16). Mr. Kagiyama’s statement raises the question of whether companies need to make a point of articulating their management philosophies in the first place. This is a reasonable question, especially given that, as I showed in Chap. 1, building solidarity around a particular idea has not always been easy for Japanese companies.

3.2 Japanese Companies and the History of the “5S”: What is Cleaning For? 3.2.1 Cleaning is a Silent Salesman Ina Chairman Tsukakoshi shows the relationship between the company’s management philosophy and cleaning as follows. I always say that “cleaning is a silent salesman.” Clean buildings and offices and wellmaintained premises give visitors a sense of security. Does that mean you can go ahead


3 The Spirit Underlying Cleaning: How Leading Japanese Entrepreneurs … and hire a cleaning company to come and make everything clean? No. It is important that the employees themselves make the space clean through their own effort, with their own hands. That way, the physical space is not only clean but also expressive of the company’s philosophy and ideas. Employees who are attentive to cleaning are also polite in their use of language and their faces are wreathed in smiles. It is not just the place that is clean, but the human beings themselves. The people who clean a space are themselves improved in the process. And the people who visit such a company are not only reassured, but also impressed. They can tell that the sensibility of the management pervades every corner of the company. Cleaning is truly your best salesperson. –Tsukakoshi (2009) Nenrin keiei [My Long Experience of Management] pp. 128–129

Cleaning is a valuable strategic tool for a company, precisely because it is a means of conveying both internally and externally whether the management philosophy has in fact penetrated the entire company. Every year, therefore, we show new employees that they are the foundation of the company and of human society, as we begin training them in the “5S” fundamentals: “Seiri, Seiton, Seis¯o, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke” In English-speaking companies, these are often translated as “Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain” in order to maintain the initial letter “S.” However, this terminology differs somewhat from the original Japanese meanings. Table 3.1 shows the original meanings and content of the “5S,” which will be explained in further detail later in this chapter. Many companies in Japan include cleaning in the “5S” list. Ina’s list is shown above, but these are just a general rubric: the order and contents of the “5S” are not fixed. Some companies put “shine” at the head of the list. The Japanese dictionary says that seis¯o, the word for “shine”, is akin to s¯oji or “clean” but involves more rules: procedures are set out in greater detail or dates and times are fixed for carrying out the cleaning in a systematized way. Table 3.1 “5S”

Seiri (Sorting) Sort items into “still needed” and “no longer needed” categories (Principle: Dispose of unnecessary items (anything unused for one year) Seiton (Set in order/organize) items for easy selection (Principle: Make needed items/documents immediately accessible (within one minute) Seiso (Shine/clean) Keep needed items in the best condition (Principle: Daily maintenance) Seiketsu (Standardize/ set cleansing standards) Establish conditions for maintaining the above 3S and maintain hygiene standards Shitsuke (Sustain/ Discipline) Train company members to maintain the above conditions Source Author’s original work

3.2 Japanese Companies and the History of the “5S”: What is Cleaning For?


Therefore, the “1-1-2 campaign” at Konan Foods described in the previous chapter, in which each employee picks up two pieces of trash each day, is not “s¯oji (cleaning),” but “seis¯o (shining),” as Konan President Kawanishi himself recognizes. However, many companies in fact use the term “cleaning” even for more systematized tasks like the year-end cleaning. Dictionary definitions notwithstanding, the two terms are used fairly interchangeably in actual workplaces.

3.2.2 5S, 6S, 7S, and 30S! Many companies add further categories to their 5S list to meet their particular needs, if they find that five are not enough. For example, Nidec has a list of six, with the addition of “sah¯o (etiquette).” Others emphasize “speed,” “savings,” or other alliterative terms. A “7S” list is common in the food industry, which stresses “cleansing” and “sterilization,” while in Osaka Prefecture, many companies have trimmed the number just three (3S): Seiri, Seiton, and Seis¯o. The list depends on the industry and region. Of the companies I have studied, the one with the longest “~S” list is Honda Cars Central Kanagawa, which has 30! “One’s seniors are one’s manual,” “neatness,” “honesty,” “kindness,” and “negotiations are consultations” are among the additions, and the 30th S is “sincerity.” Of course, not all companies insist on using the letter S, but might highlight “maintaining the environment,” for example, which generally means discipline, cleanliness, orderliness, safety, and hygiene. One reason the S-list is not the same everywhere is that we do not in fact know who started using the term or when. Since its origins are unknown, companies find it easy to modify according to their own circumstances or for each consultant to develop business tools specific to the company. In other words, the S-list is a mysterious entity: no one knows who coined the term when, but many company owners and managers in Japan are familiar with it and one way or another feel good about it. Overseas, however, many companies are completely unaware of it. And because its origin and efficacy are not clear, the tendency has grown even among Japanese companies in recent years to overlook or even avoid adopting S-lists of their own. When did people start using the term 5S and why did they feel the need to? I went back to old materials and in-house newsletters of Japanese companies to unearth the history of the 5S.

3.2.3 Origins of the Study of Business Administration As noted in Chap. 1, it was about 100 years ago that Japanese companies began introducing the cleaning practices that had long been used in homes and villages to cultivate discipline. It was also about 100 years ago that Frederick Winslow


3 The Spirit Underlying Cleaning: How Leading Japanese Entrepreneurs …

Taylor published his seminal work, Scientific Management, one of the first studies of business (Taylor 1911). It may be hard to imagine now, but at the time there was no such thing management studies. The field has not been around for very long. In Japan, the first Faculty of Business Administration was established in 1949 at Kobe University, almost a half century after Taylor’s publication. The history of business-administration studies began with “scientific management,” which had a huge impact all around the world, including Japan. The 1920s in Japan saw one journal after another address questions of corporate management, including Efficiency Research (published in 1923 by the Japan Efficiency Research Association), Labor Science Research (1924, the Labor Science Research Institute), Management (1925, the Management Company), Industrial Efficiency (1928, JMA Research Association). That is why we have records of how businesses actually operated in the Japan of 100 years ago, as described in Chap. 1. Put simply, Taylor’s scientific-management method called for dividing a company’s work up as finely as possible and establishing standards for the most effective and efficient approach to each task. If every person in the company adhered carefully to these methods, the efficiency and productivity of the entire enterprise would improve. This view of management, which persists today, strives for the efficiency and stability of the organization through a division of labor and an adherence to clear-cut manuals. However, it was not easy to introduce this approach in Japan a century ago because of the lack of discipline and lack of an ethos of diligence or industriousness. It was in order to develop employee discipline that companies felt the need to adopt cleaning practices.

3.2.4 Cleaning Becomes a Social Movement Thereafter, cleaning and organizing expanded beyond company confines to become a widespread social movement. Japan in the 1920s faced significant economic and social hardship. The end of World War I in 1918 led to a post-war recession, which was followed by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and the global Great Depression of 1930. It was in that context that cleaning began to be seen as an activity for overcoming the troubles that were afflicting society as a whole. For example, Management reported on a movement called the “No-Waste Week” that was spreading across the country. The first example covered in the magazine was held in Fukuoka Prefecture in November 1929 with the slogan, “Eliminating waste requires first finding the waste, which requires all employees to cooperate and make constant efforts.” Day 1 was “Searching-for-Waste Day,” Day 2 was “Cleaning Day,” followed by “Organizing Day (3),” “Time-Enforcement Day (4),” “Savings/Conservation Day (5),” and “Defective Product Day (6).” Seiri, Seiton, and Seis¯o (sorting, organizing, and cleansing) were clearly of central importance.

3.2 Japanese Companies and the History of the “5S”: What is Cleaning For?


Fukuoka’s second No-Waste Week, in May of 1930, expanded to include government-owned factories such as the Yawata Steel Works, Kokura Weapons Factory, and Fukuoka Regional Tobacco Bureau. The following month, Kanagawa Prefecture held its own No-Waste Week with 50 companies, most of them based in Kawasaki City. Day 1 was designated “Searching-for-Waste Day,” day 2 “Time-Utilization Day” and Day 3, “Cleaning and Organizing Day.” Reports also show that Toho Electric, then one of Japan’s five major electric utilities, held its own No-Waste Week from May 19–24, but because it was a large company, it had already outsourced its cleaning needs to a specialist company and in fact records show that employees were cautioned “not to use janitors to do organizing and cleaning tasks.” The Jiji Shinpo newspaper reported on April 25, 1930, that the government-owned Yawata Steel Works had already participated in the first “No-Waste Week” campaign and that it was a key player in popularizing cleaning practices among companies of the Kitakyushu area. In other words, many Japanese companies of this era began including cleaning and organizing as important elements of a social movement that transcended differences in corporate scale, industry, and region. Workplace safety campaigns developed at about the same time as the No-Waste campaigns. Early in 1900 in America, US Steel revised its “Quality First, Productivity Second, Safety Third” policy to read: “Safety First, Quality Second, Productivity Third,” and improvements followed not only in safety but also in quality, productivity, and profits. Japan at this time also began to work on this area bit by bit. The “Safety Week” activities launched in the Tokyo area in 1919 were the precursors of the first “National Safety Week,” held in 1928, which thereafter became an annual event. In fact, the green cross mark we associate with National Safety Week dates to that very first year. The fact that National Safety Week has continued annually ever since without interruption indicates that companies have been struggling to improve workplace safety for many years. And even in their safety campaigns, the companies work to improve cleaning and organizing. For example, Honda’s in-house newsletter, mentioned in Chap. 1, repeatedly called attention to improvements in workplace safety. The first article on safety measures appeared in October 1956, three years after the newsletter’s launch, with S¯oichir¯o Honda’s statement that “Safety begins and ends with orderliness.” The first reference to 3S came in a 1960 issue of the newsletter: “Each business site will focus on improving the work environment, and workplace maintenance and safety measures will be promoted based on the 3S of Seiri, Seiton, and Seis¯o.”

3.2.5 “5S” Was Not Initially a Kaizen Activity Toyota, too, introduced cleaning and organizing as part of its in-house safety campaigns. The company history found on Toyota’s website (“75 Years of TOYOTA”) cites 1959 as the founding year of Toyota’s safety promotion system.


3 The Spirit Underlying Cleaning: How Leading Japanese Entrepreneurs …

An in-house newsletter called Safety News was launched the following year, and a company-wide 4S campaign—Seiri, Seiton, Seis¯o, and Seiketsu—began in September 1961, and this set is still referred to as the 4S at Toyota. The company’s famous kaizen (continuous improvement) activities are usually thought today to involve 5S (“Shitsuke” being the fifth), but as we see from their histories, Honda and Toyota both first adopted the terms 3S and 4S as part of their efforts to improve safety. It is evident from company newsletters and other materials that although individual companies had stressed cleaning going back many years, it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s that they began invoking the “5S”: Kirin in 1977, Fujifilm in 1978, Dai Nippon Printing in 1982, Honda in 1984, and Kobe Steel in 1985. Many companies, including Komatsu and Shiseido, do not know when they started calling the practice “5S.” It was in those same years that many major Japanese companies also took up TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) at the urging of the Japan Plant Engineers Association. TPM, often known as “Lean Manufacturing,” is an approach to “maintaining production by engaging all participants.” That is, it requires the involvement of all corporate departments, not just those specifically dedicated to production, and it stresses not only preventive maintenance but also productivity improvement. Many companies still retain company-wide TPM activities. What is their connection to the 5S? As a 1981 article in Nissan’s Tochigi factory’s bulletin, Tochinoha, explained, “TPM begins with the 5S.” Chairman Tsukakoshi wanted his new employees to embrace 5S, not just as the first step towards TPM but as the basis for all aspects of work. The content of the 5S is not the same at every company but generally includes the following: In general, “Seiri” is the act of distinguishing unnecessary from necessary items and discarding those that are unnecessary—those that have not been used for at least a year. “Seiton” means arranging the remaining items—the necessary ones—in a convenient and visually pleasing manner. This requires that the items be ready to hand such that even a new hire can retrieve any tools and documents that are needed within one minute: what are called the 3Ts (Tei, Teihin, and Teiho)—or in English, the what, the where, and the how many—must be made completely clear. The third “S” is “Seis¯o,” meaning practices that keeps the necessary items in the best possible condition. It is the fourth S, “Seiketsu” that ensures that the above three can be realized, and the fifth, “Shitsuke” that ensures that everyone in the company is trained to carry them out.

3.3 A Higher Value than Cleaning


3.3 A Higher Value than Cleaning 3.3.1 The Relationship Between Management Philosophy and Cleaning As seen above, Japanese managers used cleaning and organizing to address various management issues that arose as their companies grew. Ultimately, they came to call these practices the 3S or 5S and they continued to value them for many years amidst myriad changes. Company archives show that this long history of cleaning and organizing served as the preparatory stage for introducing scientific management, reducing costs through “no-waste week” campaigns, improving workplace safety, and raising productivity. However, the statements on management philosophy of most companies do not say in so many words that they value cleaning and organizing. Even Ina Foods had the motto, “Let’s make a good company,” and Yellow Hat, though lacking a management philosophy as such, stressed ‘bonji tettei (doing a thorough job of ordinary tasks).’ Even those managers who themselves took on general and/or toilet-cleaning tasks like Tokuji Munatsuji of Curry House CoCo Ichibanya have not gone so far as to explicitly include cleaning and organizing in their statements of management philosophy. Rather, they choose to emphasize other values. This means that there is something still more important than cleaning itself. The Ina Foods Chairman Tsukakoshi explains his views: When I evaluate people, I try to look at effort rather than ability. That’s because the important thing is not the difference in abilities but how much effort people put into using those abilities. Meritocracy and the pay-for-performance approach are not looking at ability either. They only evaluate results. They do not even consider effort –Tsukakoshi (2009) Nenrin keiei [My Long Experience of Management] pp. 168–169

Mr. Tsukakoshi is not saying he places the same value on everyone but rather that he places the highest value on those who strive and especially those who devote themselves to efforts that may not be rewarded. The same is true for Mr. Kagiyama, who advocates “thoroughness in ordinary tasks.” Though mild-mannered, he sometimes harshly scolds his employees. He says that in the process of growing his company, he learned to accept that he would not necessarily be rewarded for his own efforts, and that he has absolutely no tolerance for those who disregard effort and especially for those who overlook or disparage the efforts of others. These are the ones who anger him. I have never been angry at an employee for making mistakes. I don’t get angry even when an employee makes a big mistake that shakes the very foundations of the company. That’s because I am the one who makes the most mistakes in the company. What’s more, my mistakes are much greater than those of my employees. So it is not for me to get angry at mistakes. People don’t set out to make mistakes or to fail, so it doesn’t anger me, especially when the mistakes are the result of working in good faith. On the other hand, there are times when I can get very angry and warn people even about the smallest things. For example, behaving in a dismissive or arrogant way toward the weak, or


3 The Spirit Underlying Cleaning: How Leading Japanese Entrepreneurs … trampling on the good intentions of others. I get especially angry if people do so knowing what they’re up to. –Kagiyama (2011) Keiei mondo juku [Management Dialogues] p. 36.

3.3.2 Sacrificing Profits for Something of Greater Value We established in the last chapter that effort is not always rewarded. The more mediocre the task and the more dedicated the effort, the less it is rewarded. Business owners who focus on cleaning cherish those who undertake to do these tasks. And this is true not only of employees. Clients and business partners, too, who overlook unrewarded effort or disregard the efforts of others are treated the same way. At Yellow Hat, for example, Mr. Kagiyama once broke ties with a major client for the following reasons: We did a wholesale business with a major supermarket that accounted for almost 60 percent of our sales, but then the supermarket announced a change in our agreement and threatened to stop buying from us if I did not agree. Everyone was sure that our company was on the verge of collapse. I made a bold decision [and pulled out of the wholesale business]… The basis of my decision was the ambition I had cherished since founding the company: that I wanted my employees to be sincere people and I wanted my company to have a corporate culture that attracted sincere employees. I thought that continuing as a wholesaler would take me in a direction antithetical to my ambition and that we would all become workers who survived only through cunning. That was the exact opposite of my wishes. –Kagiyama (2011) Keiei mondo juku [Management Dialogues]. pp. 143–145.

Ina Foods also avoids doing business with companies that disregard the efforts of their business partners and internally warns against making transactions that negate the efforts of other companies. I warn myself that ‘profits that are made only by sacrificing people are not profits.’ For example, we do not force our suppliers to keep their prices low. We buy products at reasonable prices and do not make unreasonable demands forcing suppliers to go below their costs…. We also ask that our customers purchase the products we sell at a reasonable price. We make it clear that we cannot trade with them if they make unreasonable demands. –Tsukakoshi (2009) Nenrin keiei [My Long Experience of Management]. pp. 37–38.

He cherishes those who make dedicated efforts and is harsh with those who gloss over effort or avoid unrewarded effort whether they be employees, customers, or business partners. In other words, he is true to his credo. What we call “management philosophy” is essentially the articulation of firmly held convictions like these. The difference is clear between the management philosophy expressing the thoughts of an advocate of cleaning and the management philosophy that is mere rhetoric.

3.4 Freeing Ourselves from the Profit-First Principle


3.4 Freeing Ourselves from the Profit-First Principle 3.4.1 Toward Unique Companies, Not Unique Tasks In this final portion of the chapter, I would like to introduce Seiichi Suzuki, founder of Duskin and another well-known manager who values cleaning even more that those we have encountered thus far. Seiichi Suzuki is so passionate about cleaning that the main business of the company he founded is cleaning. Duskin’s business provides chemically treated cleaning rags and house-cleaning services; the company he founded before, called Kentoku, manufactured and sold the wax used for polishing house floors. Since his mid-20s, Suzuki has been active with Itt¯oen (a service organization established by Nishida Tenk¯o in 1904), especially through a discipline called “60,000 Gy¯ogan” that involves cleaning the toilets in other people’s homes. The aim of the exercise is to realize the treasure of “having no desire,” “start by abandoning the self,” and “do one thing inexhaustibly.” Based on this experience, he advocates “Prayerful Management” as his management philosophy. Suzuki recalls how he founded Duskin and proposed what he calls “Prayerful Management.” “What shall we do now? Sow the seeds of joy! I was laughed at, you know. People said, ‘What kind of seeds do you sell?’ ‘Duskin? Is that the new propane gas?’—mistaking ‘dust’ for ‘gas’. ‘Huh, a business that rents rags?’ But my own determination was to sow the seeds of joy. With dedicated, prayerful management and a worshipful company, and if there was going to be loss or profit, let us choose the path of loss. I would no longer build a company for the sake of making money. Day after day, beginning with today both you and I have a chance to begin our lives anew. Whether our lot today be profit or loss, be spiritually ready for loss. As a planter would, let us sow the seeds of joy to every person we meet each day. For everyone, for you and me, may we lead our lives in this world to the fullest, realizing our maximum spiritual and material potential. –Suzuki (2013) Suzuki Seiichi no ikikata [Seiichi Suzuki’s Way of Life]. pp. 116–121


3 The Spirit Underlying Cleaning: How Leading Japanese Entrepreneurs …

This management philosophy of “prayerful management” warns against becoming a company that puts profits first. It also represents a new corporate image that the founder finally arrived at after many years’ struggle. As shown in the previous chapter, companies that value cleaning and organizing do not necessarily try to make unique products or businesses. Rather, they strive to build unique companies. Rather than taking the existing corporate image as a matter of course, seek to break from the corporate view that the company exists simply to pursue profits. Their management philosophy is the verbalization and clarification of this aspiration. Duskin’s “Prayerful Management,” may seem anomalous given the conventional wisdom. However, he continues to advocate prayerful management as his corporate image and approach to management, regardless of ridicule from others, for the sake of the happiness of his employees and society in general. Ultimately, “management philosophy” is not just a series of words that sound good or that you’ve heard somewhere but an indication of a sincere and heartfelt commitment. Businesspeople known for valuing cleaning did not necessarily regard everyone as equally valuable. Their management philosophy emphasized the importance of those who undertake ordinary tasks and make efforts regardless of reward. They developed new corporate images in the name of happiness and articulated their vision in their management philosophies. Suzuki Seiichi has described his “favorite type” in words that indicate the respect he gives to ordinary tasks and to those who undertake them. So, what kind of person is my favorite type? I like someone who silently does the work he or she has been given, even if the person rarely speaks or flatters. Someone who does the repetitive, monotonous task again and again, one and then another, work that is the same and yet not the same, reminding himself with all his heart, and repeating, repeating, doing what needs to be done. That is the sort of person to whom I want to pay my respect. I think that the purpose of life is to devote all your energy to the destiny you’ve been given and to live a good life and one that is without error. I do not want to be a dishonest person but a person of sincerity and not a clever or cunning person but a person who is liked by others –Suzuki (2013) Suzuki Seiichi no ikikata [Seiichi Suzuki’s Way of Life]. pp. 186–187

3.4.2 The Cleaning Principles Underlying Matsushita’s ‘Tap-Water Philosophy’ K¯onosuke Matsushita, founder of Matsushita Electric (currently Panasonic), is known in Japan as the “god of management.” He dubbed his management philosophy the “tap-water” philosophy, based on the following idea: “Our mission as a manufacturer is to create material abundance by providing goods as plentifully and inexpensively as tap water. This is how we can banish poverty, bring happiness to

3.4 Freeing Ourselves from the Profit-First Principle


people’s lives, and make this world a better place.” It is a unique creed that he developed after first growing his company on the profit principle. In his book, My Way and Way of Thinking, Mr. Matsushita says, Tap water is a processed product that comes at a price. It must be paid for. As long as water is abundant, however, one never hears of a tramp being punished for turning on a roadside tap without permission and drinking his fill. Why? Because water is abundant… It demonstrates the mission of manufacturer, which is to produce commodities for daily life as abundantly as tap water (English edition: p. 205).

In other words, Mr. Matsushita’s management philosophy found the company’s social mission in making cheap and high-quality home appliances available to the public. Profits would follow. In fact, it was a visit to the Tenriky¯o headquarters that led to this water-tap philosophy. In his book, “Its awesome size, the quality of its timbers, and the splendor of the architecture were made all the more impressive by the spotless cleanliness of the grounds. I clearly remember the feeling of humility it inspired, causing me involuntarily to bow my head” (English edition: p. 199). In other words, he was especially impressed with the thoroughness of the cleaning. He recalls that he sat in the car at the crossroad, looking back at the view of the temple compound, and gradually came to his tap-water idea. It was the epitome of skillful management. Maybe it is wrong to describe it as management, but that was the way I saw it… The members of the sect devoted their efforts to its cause with gladness and sincerity. Their desire to share that joy with others, moreover, was strong. The thought that what I had seen was a model of superior management filled me with excitement, and I began to think seriously about what true management ought to be like. It was both management for righteousness and righteous management. And then I found myself thinking of business management in our industry (English edition: p. 204).

Business owners who value cleaning do not simply ask their employees to clean. They are also inspired by the appearance of people who clean every day and how thoroughly they have cleaned. When I see people who continue to sincerely work to clean and hone their efforts in areas that are often not appreciated or rewarded, I realize their importance from the bottom of my heart. That is precisely the spirit that resides in the business owner through cleaning, and it is the ethos that forms every part of himself. Management philosophy refers to the words used to clarify this painstaking effort, an effort that cannot in fact be expressed in words. It is the management philosophy of the famous businesspeople who have valued cleaning, the philosophy that the business manager discovers when he escapes the profit-first principle and discovers a new corporate image and a new view of business and of people. Weber pointed out that modern capitalism began in areas of high religious devotion, not in places devoted to business. He showed that large corporations were founded and developed by people who put not profit first, but religion, in other words founders who recognized that there was something of greater value than profit. He also pointed out the danger of falling into the habit of putting profit first.


3 The Spirit Underlying Cleaning: How Leading Japanese Entrepreneurs …

Leading Japanese business owners who valued cleaning also realized that there are times when cleaning is more important than profit. That was the management philosophy that they conveyed from the heart. Such managers are always calm because they are free from the curse of profit-first principles. They are determined to cherish those who carry out the most ordinary tasks with dedication, and at the same time are characterized by a great sense of mission beyond the pursuit of mere in-house profits, such as striving for the development of country and society. What is your company doing to avoid falling into the trap of profit-first principles? Now is a good time to consider carefully whether your management philosophy has become mere lip service and a fantasy based on empty rhetoric or inspired by other models, or whether it conveys a new corporate image and management outlook that you have discovered for yourself. Consider, too, whether your management philosophy really has to be articulated in words.

References Kagiyama H (2011) Keiei mondo juku (Management dialogues). Chichi Shuppansha, Tokyo Kagiyama H, Tanaka Y (2000) Koko ni ichi ari (The path lies here). Fujin Sousho Kankokai, Japan Management Philosophy Succession Study Group (2008) Keiei rinen (Management philosophy). PHP, Tokyo Suzuki S (2013) Suzuki seiichi no ikikata (Seiichi Suzuki’s way of life). Duskin, Tokyo Taylor FW (1911) The principles of scientific management. Harper & Brothers, New York Tsukakoshi H (2009) Risutora-nashi no nenri keiei (Long-Lasting company without end). Kobunsha Publishing, Tokyo Weber M (1904) Die protestantische ethik und der ‘geist’ des kapitalismus. English Edition: Weber M (1930) The protestant Ethic and the spirit of capitalism (trans: Parsons T). Scribner, New York

Part II

Theoretical Research

Chapter 4

Two-Fold Benefits: How to Gain Greater Utility from Cleaning

4.1 Lessons from a Survey of 400 Companies 4.1.1 The Current Status of Cleaning in SMEs Thus far, we have explored the historical relationship between cleaning and management based on historical descriptions of Japanese companies, in-house documents, and the words of famous managers themselves. We focused especially on the specific historical reasons that Japanese companies and leading managers placed such an emphasis on cleaning. As we have seen, companies introduced cleaning when they were in the process of growing economically or addressing management issues such as fostering discipline, diligence, or improved safety procedures. We also saw companies that adopted cleaning as part of their efforts to instill a sense of social mission or to embrace a greater social role. Japanese companies took this step as they sought to discover and embrace values that transcended the profit principle. I will now turn to a theoretical exploration of the relationship between cleaning and management based on quantitative data, qualitative research results, and the latest theoretical perspectives on Japanese companies today. I will especially explore the significance of cleaning and the issues it raises for theory and methodology in management studies. The “Cleaning and Hospitality Study Group” chaired by the author at the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry held a “Cleaning and Hospitality Seminar” on March 26, 2012. More than 700 participants filled the International Conference Hall at the Chamber of Commerce. Our second seminar, held the following year on February 14, drew nearly 900 participants. Both were the largest numbers of attendees since the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) started hosting seminars. Registration rapidly exceeded capacity, forcing us to close registration after just one month in both cases. This chapter will present and discuss the results of the “Questionnaire on Corporate Management and Seis¯o, Seiri, Seiton, and Seiketsu Practices” reported at the © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 S. Ohmori, Cleaning and Corporate Management,



4 Two-Fold Benefits: How to Gain Greater Utility from Cleaning

Table 4.1 Questionnaire (form) FAX:06_6944_6565 Questionnaire on Corporate Management and Seisō, Seiri, Seiton, and Seiketsu Practices hear your opinions and thoughts on the importance of "Seiri, Seiton, and Seisō" in corporate management. Thank


① ②

Thank you for your continued support. The Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) would like to

)2)Where do you clean? 1. On company premises, such as offices and factories

you in advance for your cooperation. ● Please fill out this questionnaire directly and fax it back to us (06-6944-6565) by Thursday, January 19. ●We will publish only the results of your responses and will not publish individual items, including company

2. Roads adjoining company premises 3. The entire area in and around the company (including joining in local cleaning activities)


)3)Please give us specific details about what is included in your company’s cleaning (choose all that

●Please note that we may inquire further about the content of your responses.

apply) 1. Offices, stores, and factories 2. Machinery, furniture, and fixtures 3. Toilets 4. Other

[C Capital]] 1 .

50 million yen or less

2 .

Over 50 million yen, less than 100 million yen

3 .

Over 100 million yen, less than 300 million yen

4 .

Over 300 million yen

[L Listed or unlisted company]

[IIndustry] Please circle the category that best describes your industry. manufacturing








service sector




1. . Listed

2. Unlisted

[N Number of employees] .......O.....