The Efficiency And Accuracy of Japanese Rail Workers

The “Shinkansen” is a Japanese rail system known for its amazingly clean on-time and safety records.  Could a certain technique possibly help us to forget less and be more efficient?

By DAILY TREASURER

INTRODUCTION

About a year ago, I stumbled across an article about the method Japanese rail workers use to maintain a high level of timeliness and safety in their line of work.  The article intrigued me because I had generally known that the Japanese culture tends to exhibit precision and efficiency.  I began to ask myself, “Is there something I can learn from this and apply to my own life?”

“I began to ask myself, ‘Is there something I can learn from this and apply to my own life?'”

AN IMPECCABLE RECORD

The Shinkansen (Japanese rail system) has near spotless records when it comes to on-time performance and safety.

Just how good can it be?  The average delay is less than 60 seconds, and there hasn’t been a single passenger killed since more than 50 years ago.  Oh, and by the way, that average delay figure apparently includes major delays caused by things like earthquakes and typoons.  In a word, incredible.

“SHISA KANKO” (OR, “POINTING AND CALLING”)

There’s a name for the technique that the Japanese rail workers use, and it’s called “shisa kanko.”  The common English translation is “pointing and calling.”  

The basic premise of “shisa kanko” is that you point at an important thing and then call out its status.  Every action is pointed out and verbalized.  For example, a rail worker might point at the track and say out loud that the track is clear (prior to departing). 

WHY “SHISA KANKO” WORKS

By most accounts, “shisa kanko” works by increasing one’s level of conciousness and focus.  Engaging speech and physical body movements (such as pointing) somehow heighten our attentiveness.

In 1994, the Railway Technical Research Institute (in Japan) conducted research on whether the point and calling method was effective in reducing the rate of errors among rail workers.  Amazingly, there was about an 84% reduction in the rate of errors.  This was the result of rail workers pointing and calling out simple tasks!

“Amazingly, there was about an 84% reduction in the rate of errors.  The was the result of rail workers pointing and calling out simple tasks!”

HOW I APPLY “SHISA KANKO”

One of my biggest challenges in the morning is not knowing for sure whether or not I closed the garage door (as I’m leaving for work).  I remember there were a couple of times where I actually had to turn back home to check (while I was on my way to work).  Although work isn’t too far from where I live, it was still an inconvenience (and, quite frankly, just asking for a theft to happen).

After reading about the “shisa kanko” method, I tried applying it to my garage door.  As I was reversing my car out of the driveway every morning for work, I would point at the garage door and say, “Door closing… (and then a few seconds later) door closed.”

This became really effective, and the combination of pointing and calling made me extremely confident that I had closed the garage door.  I kept doing this, and I realized that I no longer wondered one minute later whether or not I had closed the garage door.  The peace of mind this technique offered was amazing and paid off immediately!

CONCLUSION

The concept of “shisa kanko” has been around for decades, but it appears to be a relatively unknown concept for a good handful of people in the United States even to this day.  Although primarily used among rail workers, “shisa kanko” can also have many other industrial and personal applications.

If you tend to be forgetful about something or want to increase your efficiency, consider trying the pointing and calling technique in some aspects of your life!

Kind regards,

Daily Treasurer

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