The Most Important (and Most Misunderstood) Part of Success


Crista Perlton

Crista Perlton


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The Most Important (and Most Misunderstood) Part of Success

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There is a difference between success as achievement and achieving success.

If you’ve ever played a game like Monopoly, you know that humans like to win and like to do better and better all the time. But if you’ve ever tried to learn an actual skill—like cooking, skateboarding, playing an instrument or a sport, or really any skill—you also know that successes are the result of a chain of little successes and failures that get you to your goals. 

Organizations that focus on success as Seikō, rather than as “achievement,” are more likely to have happier employees and a healthier, more successful workplace.

This piece is part of our Chōwa blog series.

Achievement versus Seikō

At most companies, success is measured in “KPI” (key performance indicators), like numbers of new clients, sales made, lines of code, whatever. This is a more “objective” model of success because it’s sort of a yes/no measure of what you’ve done. The problem with this is that humans aren’t robots or computers or Neo from The Matrix. You can’t just upload programming to your brain and suddenly be successful at something (but, MAN, I wish you could…). Organizations that fail to take progress into account are short-changing their staff and themselves: First, it takes incremental improvement to succeed at new things. And second, employees who always achieve “success” in their small scope of responsibility stagnate, failing to bring new ideas and skills to their jobs.

The Seikō model of success addresses both of these problems. 

Pronounced “say-koh,” the characters that make this word for “success” tell you everything: Seikō is built from “grow” and “achievement.” As we define success at Inedo, it’s not enough to “get it right”; often, the most important part of succeeding is the push to improve and grow. It’s the most hackneyed cliched to say “it’s not the destination but the journey,” but… that’s pretty much what a Seikō model for success is. And it works. 

Let me show you what I mean. 

Seikō at Work (Literally)

I figure a personal story about Seikō-type success is the best way to explain it, so let me tell you about.

As I said in my post about pulling the Andon cord, or alerting your colleagues and bosses to problems when you spot them:

About two months into my employment at Inedo, I was armpit-deep in a project where I was collaborating with employees across three different teams on a highly technical writing project. For a little context about me: I have eight years of experience as a university educator and about as much tech/DevOps expertise as a radish. So this was a challenge.

No matter how closely the different teams collaborated, the final product kept turning out wrong. The balance between “technical correctness” and “marketing b.s.” was all wrong. No matter what we tried, it just wasn’t clicking. A few weeks into the project, I yanked the Andon cord. I sent an email to my two higher-ups: “Clearly this isn’t working. We need to stop and reassess, because right now we are just wasting time and money (and I’m ready to pull out my hair).”

While this story doesn’t sound like a success, it was Seikō in action in two ways.

Stopping Can Be a Form of Seikō

There is a rather famous (often misattributed) saying in American English that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” As I explain in the Andon blog, organizational leaders that encourage employees to halt failing processes will often see big returns on investment. By celebrating Andon pulls as Seikō, leaders foster a company culture of Anzen (safety) and where employees are more likely to stay invested.

The Journey to a Solution is a Form of Seikō

It took a long (and I mean LONG) time for us to figure out the best way to achieve the goals of this project. But each iteration, each attempt that brought us closer to our goal was an example of Seikō for me and for the team. This project was my albatross. I hated every second of it. But without a doubt, I am a better writer for having gone through the long process to get to this point. When a company’s culture emphasizes Seikō-type success, employees are more likely to travel the path of continuous improvement, which can have amazing benefits to both employees and the company.

Get the Chōwa Book

Seikō 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 (TwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn). Subscribe to these channels and download your copy today to learn about Inedo’s unique cultural philosophy of Chōwa.

Crista Perlton

Crista Perlton