Several of my MBA courses covered the HBR case “Trouble at Tessei”. This case covered the before of an organization turn-around.
The company responsible for cleaning the trains is in a downward spiral of employee mistakes, customer complaints, high turnover, and injuries. The average experience of employees is declining as a larger fraction of employees are part-time. Teruo Yabo is the protagonist who is appointed to the organization around.
What Teruo Yabe did was recently pointed out to me. There were organizational changes made that did not significantly increase operational costs. He took “cleaners”, a low stats vocation, and elevated their position.
Their uniforms became bright red so the employees stood out in the station. They were now responsible for hospitality in the station, which included cleaning. Their interactions with the riders/customers increased. The very demanding cleaning of the trains was branded as the “7-minute miracle”. Employee recognition became constant and commonplace. Suggestions from the employees for improvement were implemented. All of the training and support for employees were operationalized in alignment with these ideas.
The scope of work increased, but the position of it changed how the employees and customers saw the employees. This increased pride and responsibility. It increased engagement with the work along with the outcomes of the business.
Yabe improved the experience of working, and the work done became better. Yabe helped elevate the work, and the work felt more meaningful. He did it with attention and care, not cost.