Sakura blossoms in the plant are proof of communication

Restoring vibrancy to the workplace through the Sakura Full Bloom Activity

Around 2016, the Seat Manufacturing Department of the Manufacturing Division at the Toyohashi Plant continued to experience unstable production conditions, to the point where people inside and outside the company commented that the workplace was gloomy, lackluster, and lacking smiling faces. Issues were mounting, including stress check results showing that members were in a state of high stress.

To break free of this situation, the Toyohashi Plant first began an analysis of current conditions. This revealed that there was an overwhelming lack of communication. Leaders at the level of team leaders, group leader or above did not have enough time, and members were reluctant to confide in them even if they had a difficulty. Working in a state of worry increases mistakes and leads to product defects. A negative spiral had been created in which product defects would cause the leaders to have even less time.

To restore vibrancy to the workplace, the Sakura Full Bloom Activity was launched, modeled in part on other internal and external initiatives. In the Sakura Full Bloom Activity, company members experiencing problems that they can’t talk about directly write down their problems on sticky notes resembling buds and paste them on a handmade tree set up in the plant. The team leaders then write solutions on pink sticky notes resembling cherry blossoms and paste them on top. Anything could be written down, and the leaders dealt with the members’ issues thoroughly, without rejecting what had been written.

Restoring vibrancy to the workplace through the Sakura Full Bloom Activity

Also taking care of those who deal with the concerns

The number of cherry trees gradually increased from one in each department. In other words, there were that many problems and difficulties in the workplace. Gradually, the burden on the team leaders responding to the issues increased, and there were more and more problems of a type that could not be solved by the team leaders alone. Therefore, a shift was made from team leader-led activities to activities led by the group leader. For problems that could not be solved by a team leaders or group leader alone, senior management such as department general managers, division general managers, and plant general manager would now get involved. A monthly “Ohanami-kai” (cherry blossom viewing party) was also held for team leaders and department general managers to share information on issues they were facing.

As well as the Sakura Full Bloom Activity, a “Caring Activity” was also launched, in which the group leader checks a member’s work status and interviews them. The group leader spends an hour observing the work of one member and then meets with the member to talk about what they noticed. This has provided an opportunity to recognize various issues afresh, including cases where tasks that had previously been taken for granted had actually become burdensome. The team members and the group leaders then work together to make improvements, revitalizing communication within the team and also within the plant.

Let’s reach 1,000 cherry trees! Overcoming the new challenges of the coronavirus pandemic

Since 2020, concerns surrounding the coronavirus have increased. The group leaders also raised the concern that during the Caring Activity, it was difficult to read the expressions on members’ faces because the interviews were being conducted through masks and partitions. Therefore, various suggestions are being made daily, such as paying attention to the tone and volume of a person’s voice.

The Sakura Full Bloom Activity, which began in the Seat Manufacturing Department, has now spread to the entire Toyohashi plant, and company members’ satisfaction (KPI on vibrant work environment) positive rate is increasing. We will continue to promote these activities and increase the number of cherry trees — not just by one tree a year, but by two, and then ten — aiming for our goal of 1,000 trees.

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