A team-building activity that brings innovation to the workplace

~ Team building for increasing work productivity and the quality of work ~

Jan.08, 2021

A team-building activity that brings innovation to the workplace

The AISIN Group is currently working on job satisfaction reforms, aiming to build a win-win relationship between employees and the company by generating synergy between “providing employees with more job satisfaction and a more fulfilling life” and “creating new value for the company.”

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The AISIN Group is currently working to promote digitalization and the introduction of flexible working practices (teleworking, etc.) to enable employees to achieve a better work-life balance. At the same time, we aim to ensure that each employee can identify new value on his/her own and develop a truly competitive edge by undertaking drastic reform of the conventional way of working under the banner of “job satisfaction reforms,” rather than simply implementing “reforms of working practice,” such as reducing overtime.

To powerfully advance our “job satisfaction reforms,” Aisin Active Team Building Activity (ATBA) was invented based on the four steps for the reform of working practices recommended by Work Life Balance Co., Ltd. We asked those responsible for advancing the reforms unique to the Aisin Group about ATBA.

A new type of team created through active communication

Mr. Kurata, Ms. Fukae, and Mr. Yasumoto (from left to right)

ATBA refers to a team-building activity that enhances psychological safety through communication and places importance on increasing productivity and a sense of fulfillment in work through a trust relationship. The underlying idea behind this activity is that with a company being required to create new value and innovation with a flexible mindset, a trust relationship (enhancing the quality of relationships), which enables people to express frank opinions, is indispensable for a workplace culture that can bring innovation.

[Psychological safety] Google “Project Aristotle”
[Quality of relationships] from the “A Core Theory of Success,” proposed by Dr. Daniel Kim, Professor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Four steps of ATBA to build a team that can bring innovation

ATBA consists largely of four steps.

ATBA steps.png

Each team needs to consider what is the ideal image based on what is held as the mission of each department, understand the gaps with the ideal image, and take measures to solve the issues. “Efforts made to create a working environment toward the same direction of pursuing the 'ideal image' determined by all team members by following this ATBA cycle can bring about 'psychological safety,' thereby leading to enhancing the 'quality of relationships' on the team,” says Mr. Yasumoto.

ATBA is not an activity merely to reduce overtime or the number of man-hours needed. “We want employees to use ATBA as an opportunity or a tool to foster communication between superiors and subordinates. The use of ATBA will enhance ‘psychological safety’ and the ‘quality of relationships,’ eventually leading to taking on the challenge of ‘creating new value for the company,’” says Ms. Fukae.

'Kaeru' meetings and one-on-one meetings to foster communication

The important points in ATBA are a “Kaeru meeting,” which is held to close the gap between the ideal image and the reality with the participation of all team members, and a “one-on-one meeting” conducted between a superior and a subordinate.

The term “Kaeru” of a Kaeru meeting refers to three meanings in Japanese: One is to “go home,” another is to “change” working practices, and the other is to change one’s life. The Kaeru meeting is not a meeting merely to share the progress of work but a meeting designed for all team members to determine the team’s ideal image through discussions and tackle the issues facing them by sharing wisdom.

A “one-on-one meeting,” recommended in addition to a Kaeru meeting, enables a superior and a subordinate to talk about a wide range of issues, ranging from challenges in work to a worry in one’s personal life. “The objective of a one-on-one meeting is to enable subordinates to perform tasks more actively by receiving advice, not instructions, from their superiors,” says Mr. Yasumoto. One-on-one meetings contribute to not only enhancing the “quality of relationships” but also decreasing the number of man-hours by reducing do-overs through face-to-face discussion about the way of working, he continues.

“With an increasing number of employees using the teleworking and work-from-home systems due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for superiors to maintain close communication with their subordinates to check their physical and mental health condition as well as their way of working. We hope that one-on-one meetings will be used as an opportunity to maintain close communication between superiors and subordinates,” Mr. Kurata says.

"Every workplace and every employee is the star".

When we started to promote ATBA, we failed to gain full understanding of holding Kaeru meetings and one-on-one meetings and faced opposition from inside the company. However, a survey on the number of man-hours conducted in October 2020 to check the time required for work has shown that a review of operations conducted using ATBA has contributed to increasing work efficiency. It has also been found that the implementation of ATBA, which enables team members to share their ideal image of the team and work toward the same goals, has brought about changes in personal relationships among team members and their way of working. We have started to receive positive feedback from inside the company, including “Since a highly communicative environment has been created thanks to ATBA, we were able to build such a good relationship with other members that we can seek advice from each other” and “Because ATBA has enabled us to check our team’s workload smoothly, we were able to increase work efficiency.”

“Although it is important to review the way of working based on communication, we cannot see immediate visible results. There is no right answer, and different workplaces have different ways of working. I believe that it is our mission to provide support to employees working in such a context by using the broad framework of ATBA,” Ms. Fukae says.

In 2020, we embarked on ATBA as a group-wide initiative. We aim to provide support to individual employees to ensure that they can have a fulfilling life and grow to be a robust organization that can create new unique value by accelerating our efforts to promote “job satisfaction reforms” with ATBA as an axis.

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