Superman Saves the Day!

What does this headline that appeared in the Daily Planet (a fictional newspaper appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, commonly in association with Superman) have to do with our workplaces?

Well, after about a year of working with my Japanese colleagues in India, when I asked one of them what is the biggest workplace-associated difference between Japan and India, he simply replied that in Japan “we have no Superman!”

At the time, I did not give his response much thought (maybe because I didn’t fully understand what he meant), but as time passed and I encountered various situations at our workplace (including those of our customers and vendors) in India and in Japan, I better understood what my colleague meant all those years ago.

Most of the businesses that I have encountered (especially the MSMEs) are not process dependent and though some of them have well-documented Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) or Work Instructions (WI), it’s seldom well implemented, thus achieving efficiency and success not as a natural outcome of the processes, but rather through the ingenuity, hard work or superhuman efforts of a select few Supermans! ( this could apply to a team, a department or the company as a whole).

On the contrary, firms that I encountered in Japan rely heavily on the implementation of the documented SOPs and WIs and on the trust that each person will carry out their roles & responsibilities diligently and accurately. In such a scenario, the entire organisation is not dependent on any specific individual for its success (no Superman to save the day), but rather by delivering on the notion of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Though having Superman in your organisation might speed up decision-making, and action and even result in fast-paced success in the short term, the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages in the long term. Think about it!

If you are interested in reading more on how to turn around an organisation that is currently dependent on 1 or more Supeman’s, leave a comment and until then let’s all Shoot to the Top!