Banish Sloppiness by Paul Akers
How I fell in Love with Precision While Working in Japan
Paul’s videos and books are truly motivating and they have inspired me to make many improvements in my own life and at work.
“If you’re ok with looking like everyone else, then the essence of this book will be lost on you.” – Paul Akers
His company tour is one of my favorite videos and I’ve embedded it at the end of the summary.
My Favorite Quotes
- It is best to seek to understand and not to be understood.
- Life will present unbelievable opportunities for those who are crazy about continuous improvement.
- The essence of this book is how I identified my life of sloppiness and used Japanese thinking to transform my life into a new level of precision and quality.
- Sloppiness is robbing us of countless opportunities.
- Today I am on a course of excellence that gives back to me like a perfectly placed investment.
- If you train yourself to see the small things, there’s no way you’ll miss the big things.
- When there is tension among team members and poor communication, it can often be traced to a lack of trust and respect.
- If we are diligent, most of us think about the next five years, but the Japanese think about the next 100 years.
- Being wasteful benefits no one, but good thinking benefits everyone.
- Do you want to fall in love with precision?
- Do you see waste everywhere?
- Are you sloppy?
- How aware am I of the current standards both in my industry and with competing businesses?
- Are you open to the idea that you are not the best?
- Is there room for you to be more aware and conscientious?
- Are you aware enough to be aware that you are behind?
- What is the point of hiring someone and then having to struggle against them because they don’t agree with the way we organize our company?
- The difference in their thinking should cause us to pause and ask, what is our real purpose on earth? What are we thinking about? Today, tomorrow, or 52 generations from now?
- Why would I waste the precious resources of my country? Why would I be so careless with the time and thoughtfulness of another human being on my behalf?
Paul’s goal in this book is to have you “fall in love with precision.”
- The first step is to recognize just how sloppy you really are.
- The next step is to commit to banishing sloppiness from your life.
- The final step is to fall in love with precision because of the joy and abundance it will bring to your life.
For the Japanese:
- Precisions leads to quality
- Quality leads to trust
- Trust leads to survival
Paul’s hope and prayer is that this book might begin a journey in your life that creates greater fulfillment and respect for the abundance and blessings we have all been given.
The One Thing: Do you want to fall in love with precision?
Chapter 1: Nande
Why should you read this book? If you’re interested in learning about one of the most sophisticated and thoughtful cultures in modern history, this book could interest you.
Why Paul wrote this book:
Coalesce his learning.
Experience the pure enjoyment that comes with enlightenment.
To say thank you to the Japanese culture for all they have taught him.
The One Thing: Pure Joy
Chapter 2: Don’t Be Critical
On Paul’s first study trip to Japan, the teacher warned him that if he went around finding all the faults in the things the Japanese did, he would inevitably miss all the smart things they were doing. The goal of the trip was to learn and adapt to smart principles. This book is about all the positive things that the Japanese culture has to offer.
It is best to seek to understand and not to be understood.
The One Thing: suck from the tit and be a sponge…don’t criticize!
Chapter 3: My Story
Paul has included several videos on the chapter 3 resources page, please check them out. I didn’t take any notes on this chapter.
The One Thing: Do you see waste everywhere?
Chapter 4: Japan Study Mission
Improve on improvements for further improvements.
See the chapter 4 resources page for more videos.
The One Thing: Life will present unbelievable opportunities for those who are crazy about continuous improvement.
Chapter 5: I Am So Sloppy
The precision that the Japanese people display is beyond extraordinary.
The Japanese people are always focused on the details and being thoughtful to everyone around them. They are precise from start to finish.
Not only will doing the little things with precision pave the way for a life that flows, but I will also no longer be impeded and encumbered by my sloppiness. My heightened respect for the small details translates into a deeper respect for others and the resources I have been afforded.
In Japan, they were obsessed with getting it right so they didn’t have to do it over. It seems that almost every other culture in the world accepts the do-over as part of a good day’s work. We are pros at managing chaos. In contrast, the Japanese are pros at executing great processes that naturally banish sloppiness.
So you want to banish sloppiness?
- First, you must be disgusted with the sloppiness in your life.
- Second, you must fall in love, emotionally and intellectually, with precision.
The One Thing: Are you sloppy?
Chapter 6: Quality
There are only a few absolutes when it comes to human beings:
- First, we are all imperfect.
- Second, we all have a keen predilection to be selfish.
The Japanese are so precise that it allows them to see problems sooner. They see precision as a way to see and eliminate problems sooner. The sooner you find the problems the faster your quality will improve.
The essence of this book is how I identified my life of sloppiness and used Japanese thinking to transform my life into a new level of precision and quality.
Recognize you are a slob and banish sloppiness from your life.
Most of us are sloppy: our closets, our workspace, how we clean up after ourselves, our timeliness, and our willingness to do things multiple times. We are sloppy in the way we greet people, the way we answer the phone, the way we respond to emails, the way we leave the bathroom for the next person, the way we manage our daily to-do lists and allocate our most precious resource…our time!
Most people are inattentive to the small details that lead to do-overs and rework.
Want to know how to get rid of the sloppiness? Fall in love with precision.
Fall in love with the idea of getting it right and reject the idea of close enough. You don’t just stop everything and get it right and then move on. You pursue getting it right every day, over and over, driving closer and closer to perfection, all the while putting the product out the door and accomplishing your daily targets.
Before applying Japanese quality standards, we [Fastcap] just looked like everybody else…pretty good. If you’re ok with looking like everyone else, then the essence of this book will be lost on you. But if you’re interested in moving to the next level, perhaps this is what you have been looking for.
Precision is not just a vehicle to eliminate problems, it is a rocket ship ride to innovation! Not only will innovation thrive, but you will develop a brand that the world is clamoring for…quality, quality, quality!
I am often asked, “why are you not expanding?” The answer is simple: I’m more interested in an organization that has operational excellence as it’s core objective.
Sloppiness is robbing us of countless opportunities.
For anybody smart enough to recognize that quality is the ultimate target, the odds of creating a sustainable future will be significantly improved.
The One Thing: Quality is the target.
Chapter 7: My Three Favorite Things
How aware am I of the current standards both in my industry and with competing businesses? Even more revealing is how aware am I of standards of my industry in Europe, Asia and beyond?
The concept of omotenashi is an openness to people of different backgrounds and supporting the idea of awareness and consciousness.
The Japanese are masters at holding and balancing two opposing ideas at the same time. For instance, there is harmony and diversity in Japanese culture.
Conscientiousness is a very interesting word. It is defined as the personality trait of being careful or diligent. Similar to how Dr. Les Parrott talks about being mindful like Jesus in chapter 1 of Love Like That.
While day by day it can be difficult to see an appreciable change, when I look at my progress over the years, the improvements are breathtaking.
Are you open to the idea that you are not the best? Openness begets new ideas that lead to new innovations. Is there room for you to be more aware and conscientious?
Today I am on a course of excellence that gives back to me like a perfectly placed investment.
The One Thing: Are you aware enough to be aware that you are behind?
Chapter 8: Coordination
Recently, in Japan a train left the station 25 seconds early, and the announcer made a public apology because of their sloppiness.
The Japanese realize it is better to cooperate than to compete. I think the idea of competing, in many regards, is a base reaction that humans have. However, the idea of cooperation is a slightly elevated way of living life.
Some definitions of coordination:
- The organization of the different elements of a complex body or activity so as to enable them to work together effectively.
- The ability to use different parts of the body together smoothly and efficiently.
- Changing from one-foot position to another requires coordination and balance.
The kanban system is one example used to show Japanese coordination.
The One Thing: How do you like living in Japan? What’s not to like? It’s easy!
Chapter 9: Big Eyes & Big Ears
If you train yourself to see the small things, there’s no way you’ll miss the big things. If you become sensitive to the words you use, I would venture to say that your life might go a little smoother. When you are speaking, there is no need to use a machine gun of words when a single round, properly aimed, would do the trick.
You must have big eyes and big ears and a small mouth. Sometimes we spend so much time talking that we completely miss the art of listening and seeing.
The One Thing: Big Eyes, Big Ears, Small Mouth.
Chapter 10: The Big Twins
The Japanese culture has a deep respect for people and a deep respect for resources. Paul calls these ideas the big twins.
Respect is present in almost everything that happens in Japan.
Paul tells the story of the cleaning team that takes care of the Shinkansen high speed train, which is meticulously cleaned in 7 minutes when it arrives at the station.
Mr. Yabe is the executive that developed and implemented this cleaning system. He understood the importance of bringing dignity and respect to all work.
Mr. Yabe accomplished this by:
- He told the workers they were taking care of not just a train, but the Shinkansen, a national icon.
- He got workers to come up with creative ways to make the job more efficient and enjoyable through daily kaizen and team meetings.
- He allowed workers to abandon the work clothes that cleaning people traditionally wore and to dress up in seasonal costumes. This made cleaning the train like a theater …people (including dignitaries) came from around the world to see the extraordinary performance of the Shinkansen cleaning crew
- He got the press to cover the exceptional performance of the workers. Now, it is referred to as the “7-minute miracle” and the team that made it happen is being celebrated in magazines, newspapers, and television newscasts. They even made a musical!
Whether it is a waitperson, a cab driver, a flight attendant, or a hotel housekeeper, I strive to treat them with deep respect and honor.
There is a spiritual element to having a deep respect for people and resources and I believe it connects us back to creation.
When there is tension among team members and poor communication, it can often be traced to a lack of trust and respect.
Are you respected by your fellow workers? It would behoove you to take an honest inventory of your consistency. If we were to drill down even deeper, lack of respect can be the result of lack of education, illumination, and thoughtfulness.
When I see a struggling organization, it can often be traced to a low level of understanding of the principles of deep respect for people and resources.
I have found it even easier to embrace the two twins because they have a deep congruence with my own faith. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, there are two very important things that we are instructed to do. First, “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31). This commandment is thousands of years old and it very clearly demonstrates the importance of respect. We are also instructed to be good stewards of the gifts that have been given to us. These beliefs are still as true today as when they were first given.
Paul references How to Win Friends and Influence People as one of his all-time favorite books. The author, Dale Carnegie, clearly understood the importance of respecting others.
When we don’t lead with respect, we are only going to punish ourselves with a “dumb tax.” Paul learned about the “dumb tax” in the book The Road Less Stupid by Keith J. Cunningham.
Unfortunately, in many cultures, ego has subverted common sense. A lot of us make our decisions based on emotions instead of critical long-term thinking.
The One Thing: A deep respect for people and resources.
Chapter 11: Uniquely Japanese
Never force anything. If something doesn’t seem right, stop and think about it!
Paul asks every houseguest to give him one thing to improve that would make their stay more enjoyable.
The One Thing: Winnie the Pooh loves a clean and tidy room!
Chapter 12: Rice Culture
When Paul asked the president of Maultech, Mr. Matsumoto, how he selects new employees, he responded, “people who will not break the harmony.” In other words, people who believe what we believe and value what we value.
What is the point of hiring someone and then having to struggle against them because they don’t agree with the way we organize our company?
If we are diligent, most of us think about the next five years, but the Japanese think about the next 100 years.
The difference in their thinking should cause us to pause and ask, what is our real purpose on earth? What are we thinking about? Today, tomorrow, or 52 generations from now?
“I’m not thinking about just one generation from now. I’m thinking 10 generations from now.”
Paul toured a precast concrete company in Japan. He said there was not a single person on their cell phone or distracted by anything, including them. Total focus, total dedication, total attention to the details and quality.
It is not the size of my bank account that brings me joy. It is the size of the network of thoughtful people around the world that I know and call my friends.
When Paul was in a Tier 1 Lexus supplier, he was watching them measure a sixth of a second out of a process. He asked the president if it stressed him out to have to pay attention to this level of detail? He told Paul, “as Japanese we don’t know the word stress. If we don’t do this, we don’t survive. China is one day away from us. It is weeks away from you (the United States). There is an entirely different level of urgency for us.”
Paul organized a US tour of businesses for Ritsuo Shingo (son of Shiego Shingo). He asked him what company he was least impressed with. Ritsuo explained that one of the companies he visited had shot a nail through a piece of wood and it came out the other side. He asked them why there was a defect and they replied it didn’t matter, no one would see it. Ritsuo said that is not correct, quality is seen and unseen. Quality should extend through the entire project. He then went on to ask why did the nail come out of the wood? Because there was a knot in the wood. Why was there a knot in the wood? Because they didn’t see the knot before they installed the wood trim. Why do you order material that has knots in it? Because the supplier gave them wood with knots. Ritsuo said you must go upstream, go to the source of the problem. That is where quality starts and precision can flourish.
Think of the creativity that can flourish in an environment when you’re not obsessed with surviving, but you’re obsessed with the details about how you will survive. The details of the processes have created abundance.
The One Thing: Sloppiness is a sure guarantee that survival is no guarantee!
Chapter 13: My Favorite Word
Paul ends the book by discussing his favorite Japanese word, the word that has made the most profound impact on his thinking: mottainai. It simply means to have a deep sense of regret when you waste anything. If they leave a grain of rice on the plate, that is mottainai.
Why would I waste the precious resources of my country? Why would I be so careless with the time and thoughtfulness of another human being on my behalf? This is the mottainai thinking and Paul says this thinking has changed him forever.
The One Thing: Mottainai…what a pity to waste anything!
Chapter 14: Paul’s Conclusion
Being wasteful benefits no one, but good thinking benefits everyone.
The One Thing: Good Thinking…Good Life!