Following my previous post about manpower reduction 省人化 & flexible manpower 少人化.
When I try to understand the concept of Shoujinka, 少人化, which I translate as “Flexible manpower,” I always imagine a Japanese board game called Shogi (将棋).
This game is like Chess, yet it has one rule that differentiates it from any other game. The rule is called “Mochigoma (持ち駒),” basically, the captured pieces remain in hand. They can be brought back into play under the capturing player’s control.
Manpower reduction 省人化 is Chess.
Flexible manpower 少人化 is Shogi.
The game of Shogi dates back to the 10th century. It started as a board game imported from India or China. As it spread, the game began to develop many new rules. The unique rule is the “Mochigoma (持ち駒).” You can keep the piece when you take it out from the opponent. And you can redeploy the piece whenever you want to. It is not clear why we developed such rules. Some say this was not a war-based game but a game of merchant fighting over assets. Some of the names of the pieces are Gold, Silver, Horse, and Spice (Although other pieces have generals & infantry).
I think like I am playing this game against the “Waste.”
I observe that many pieces are under the “Waste” control. How many pieces are under the “Waste” control is not essential to me. 80% of the pieces might be under the waste’s control. The important thing is that I make every move to release those pieces. Once released, the piece is my ally. We can deploy it to strengthen our defense or offense. The business needs to increase machine capacity, but I reduced the operator. Is this bad? No. I redeploy the operator and maybe promote them as a team leader or Kaizen person to attack the machine capacity. Every piece that you gain gives you strategic options. You, as a manager, need to constantly observe the board or the shop floor and develop a strategy to reach the King or the goal.
Just like Ohno mentioned, it is essential to note that there are no partial pieces. 0.1 piece is not re-deployable. We always focus our Kaizen on being one person free. In the case of a machine, instead of having 20% unplanned downtime, we convert it to 20% planned downtime. At the strategy level, what does this one “piece” means? It may be very militaristic thinking, but having a definition of a strategic unit does help in thinking about strategy. The objective of Kaizen is always to release an asset that can be redeployed strategically.
Of course, the actual human is not a piece without emotions. We need to respect their feelings or time to be trained. But the more pieces you have in your hand, you can treat people better. It does provide additional care or time for the next move.
Obviously, both Chess and Shogi are board games. Both will not fully represent the concepts. But I always think like Chess to take out the pieces, which is the manpower reduction. On the other hand, Shogi liberates piece so that it becomes strategic assets.
By the way, I learned recently that there are online Chess games with this “Mochigoma” rule. They call it “Crazy chess” or “Crazyhouse.”