I have written before about the importance of the structure and physical space in driving the development of right behaviors in an organization. On my last trip to Japan, I was again stuck by the way the japanese use physical space and organizational structure to shape the growth and development of their people. I think examples of their approach to development can be seen in the landscaping techniques they employ. The japanese use physical items such as bamboo, rope, etc. to guide the development and growth of plants. In addition, they tend to contour many of the plants to be an extension of the concrete or other permanent structures around them.
If you look closely, you will notice that there is a surprising amount of shaping and care that goes into getting each shrub to be uniform in appearance. You may also notice that they have created a bamboo structure that guides the development and provides the skeleton upon which they are shaping the growth of the shrubs. Not only am I struck by the care and precision of the use of the bamboo and the twine, but instead of attaching it directly with twine, they use a padding to protect the shrub from any harsh outcomes that may be experienced from attaching it to the bamboo.
I think this care taken for the plant and its development is a good metaphor for the the way the japanese approach the development of people. First, they are keenly aware of the use of space and structure in guiding the development of people. The use of an A3 operates must like the bamboo structure as a tool for coaching and mentoring. Second, when it comes structuring work, they are obsessive about details and demonstrate a high level of respect for each person (like the care taken with each plant). This respect shows itself most prominently in two other ways.
First, the japanese not only use visuals to demonstrate abnormal from normal for processes, but they also use visuals as a sign of respect by openly communicating status to everyone and eliminating potential confusion. Secondly, safety and ergonomic issues are their biggest concern in both daily work and process improvements. As with the approach to shaping and developing each plant under their care, the japanese use organizational structure and management tools to create an environment of challenge and respect for people.