Want agility? Try some “Hajimete no otsukai “

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The world and the concept of work is complex and is changing fast. The pandemic in 2020 has shown how much things can change beyond one’s control. Not that we had much control in the first place – but indeed we could get away with that illusion of control and predictability, so far.

Over the last 20 years of the “Agile” manifesto movement from the software development practitioners have ended up with a lot more hot air than real change. If you are wondering why there is no matching utility to all these large transformation programs in your organization, you are typically not alone. And you might have a single Japanese term that explains the reasons for it all – “Hajimete no otsukai”

I got this answer from an Apple TV+ series that I recently started watching – “Becoming You“.

Location: Tokyo, Japan. Three-year-old Ruru looks at the window of his apartment, checking the scene with his binoculars. His dad comes to him and tells him to go pick up some sushi. That’s why we see little Ruru going on “My First Errand” on the streets of Tokyo. It’s a ritual that is commonplace in Japan, to help give the child a sense that he or she can operate independently in the great big outside world. He navigates the buildings, the streets, the road crossings, the train tracks and then successfully comes back home with the sushi.

The concept is to allow the kids to build independence – the ability to be themselves. Here is the big learning from this – how are you going to treat your “adults” working in organizations to be themselves? Don’t treat them like we treat children here in North America. At least treat them like the Japanese treat their children. To be the best of themselves: to be agile, nimble, always learning and contributing their mite to go the extra mile – because “adults” certainly can, and they want to if they are allowed to be. Would you do that? Could you do that?

And yet you won’t.

The cultural barriers and environmental learnings from our early age set us up and have programmed us to respond in fear, in compliance, and to be obedient. No wonder we struggle with the adoption of eastern cultural practices that Lean, Agile, and a myriad of humanistic practices that these are built upon. Only a select few truly will be destined to go beyond in breaking the paradigms by pushing the requisite boundaries of change. Are you destined to be one of them?


Becoming You on Apple TV+

I’m Old Enough (Hajimete no otsukai) on IMDB

Hajimete no Otsukai on YouTube

Why Japanese Kids Can Walk to School Alone from the Atlantic

Anthony’s First Solo Outing

How Japan Prepares Its Children for Independence

Preparing Your Child to Walk to School in Japan Without You

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