Have you traveled on the metro and bullet trains in Japan before? Then you must have wondered why their trains are punctual, well-maintained, and consistent.

The Japanese are proud of their products, and it is reflected through “kaizen 改善”, which are Chinese words to mean “improvement”. This “kaizen” philosophy guides them in the design process, in the production process, in the quality control process, and in their people management. The “kaizen” philosophy is pervasive and permeating throughout the nation and in their extended businesses even overseas, whenever it is culturally possible.

Words become poor cousins to visuals. So to understand what the Japanese do in order to maintain their metro trains on schedule every time, with quality cabins and excellent service, let this video speak for itself:

From the video, you can see how relentless the Japanese are in training their employees continuously, and to assess them continuously too. Training is pointless if there is no proof of reception and retention. And the Japanese maintains their trains well. After all, a product failure is far more troublesome in many ways, including increased costs, customer service catastrophes, and invariably, poor employee morale. The Japanese would rather invest time, people and money on a sustainable basis to keep things going well, and to make small adjustments to make things even better. What customer see, is the repeatability and accountability of product quality, and the mutual respect forged with the customer-facing people.

In our Westernized world today, it has become common practice to look for shortcuts whenever possible. To some myopic companies, it would seem far easier to deliver a half-baked product, and simply throw lots of spin, hype, and razzle-dazzle and hope for the best. After all, some might imagine that they can fool many people briefly, or some of the time. However, it becomes an uphill climb to keep up this facade or charade, if the product is half-baked, and the frontline and customer-facing service fails miserably. Then the hyped brand falls to the abyss rather quickly, and may never recover again.

It is not easy to improve continuously as “kaizen” suggests. It requires persistent financial investments, proven and properly articulated processes, and a community of people who puts community before self, with humility and respect, all in the hope to create and deliver consistent product and service quality.

Delivering excellent customer service and product quality are not accidents. It is a deliberate and consistent attempt to keep things moving in the right direction, with people who can humble themselves to think for the common and greater good, and to keep imagining new ways to make things better for the sake of others. It is about respect.