Especially in the reality of remote work and work-from-home, it’s easy for work to fall through the proverbial cracks, pulling the organization away from its business objectives. On the other end of the spectrum, organizational leadership too often engages in micromanagement (wanting too much reporting). Where is the balance? How can the wrong amount of reporting hurt businesses? Inedo’s story of the 40-hour webpage answers these questions.
This piece is part of our Chōwa blog series.
What is Hōkoku?
Pronounced “hoh-koe-koo” and written with the characters 報 (news) and 告 (inform), Hōkoku roughly translates to “reporting.” Providing new information through reporting is vital to managing Tantō (responsibilities) and maintaining Shintaku (trust).
Hōkoku contributes to Chōwa (natural balance) by “heading off” the impulse to micromanage. When people feel they have enough information, they are less likely to hover. But more than reducing micromanaging behaviors, accurate reporting can preserve company time, money, and effort.
The 40-Hour Webpage
A few years ago, we needed to put together a new “events” webpage. The project leader followed our project management planning process, a precursor to what is now Keikaku (more on that in a future post). He contacted our web designer and asked her to design a page, knowing he needed to consider a project plan, estimates, deadlines, etc.
The project leader, through the designer, sent a report to the CEO, Alex, explaining that the site would take 40–60 hours and could be done in two to three weeks. The page had all the bells and whistles: a searchable calendar, people could upload events with tags, and there was special color coding. It was going to be the best events page in the world!
But did Inedo need that?
Just like you’d be shocked if a contractor got started on re-roofing your house before giving you an estimate, so too was company leadership shocked by the huge expense of this events page. Because there wasn’t adequate reporting from CEO to project leader to the designer, the web designer did not know the purpose of the events page, and hence, just designed the best thing she could. With better reporting—and greater context, or Taikyōku—everyone would have been in better sync to know that a simple events page would suffice. With more context after a clear report, everyone agreed that a 40- to 60-hour expense on this page was totally unrealistic and four to six hours of work would do just fine.
The short version: setting clear expectations early and sticking to them.
Hōkoku transforms into micromanagement when clear expectations for reporting aren’t established from the outset—or at least the outset of the project. Management desiring or demanding reports beyond what was originally negotiated necessarily feels like too much oversight. Executives and managers should reach an agreement on the amount of reporting needed to help both the organization and the individuals who keep it running to thrive. Those expectations must be clearly communicated to managers’ direct reports and, perhaps more importantly, the boundaries of these expectations must be respected. Obviously, things change, and organizations must adapt to address them. If additional reporting is necessary, sharing reasoning and additional context (Taikyōku) should be a top priority.
And never, never forget Shintaku, or trust. Reporting should be both a habit and a courtesy, not a punishment or something to fear. This is only possible when there is an atmosphere of mutual trust. It’s up to everyone in an organization to foster an environment of “healthy Hōkoku.”
Get the Chōwa Book
Hōkoku is just one of the many elements of Inedo’s new cultural philosophy of Chōwa, or “natural balance.” We will be explaining the various elements of Chōwa here on our blog and on our social media (Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn). Subscribe to these channels and download your copy today to learn about Inedo’s unique cultural philosophy of Chōwa.