First-Class Cleaning Service on Japan Rails Transforms Into a Science

Loved my tour of the Tessei Angels under the Tokyo Station Tracks

Recently selected as a required course for all 900 students in the Harvard Business School MBA program, TESSEI makes cleaning and keeping the Japanese Shinkansen in mint condition for every single passenger, the new textbook benchmark for efficiency and teamwork.

Check out this video report on what the Tessei Team achieves.

Keeping motivation high is not as easy as you think.

So how many times have you wanted to kneel down in a public train toilet and polish the floor into a freshly smelling shine? Can you expertly wipe 100 table tops and make sure a whole 100-seat car is spic and span in five minutes? Well, guess what, I sure you Would want to shine that floor into a sweet smelling luster or Could achieve the 100-pus seat phenomenon if you were a part of the enthusiastic, friendly and highly motivated team known as the TESSEI Shinkansen angels.

So what is it that makes this team special? Actually, on a recent tour I took, I learned dedication, leadership and a healthy dash of pride are what make this cleaning machine function.

A few hints behind this Shinkansen Science

This is not some business model that no one else can achieve… it just takes an arrangement of priorities that places people at the center of the science. Every single detail of the packs carried in an out of the cars, and the thinking behind the actual cleaning or how the teams’ motivation is upheld, centers on one single thing. Yes….put simply….it is all done for that one smile or word of thanks from the passenger. With a guest’s need in mind, here are a few background facts on how the Tessei team thinks:

1. They decided to use one towel for table tops and a separate towel for windows. Why? They felt using a towel for a coffee drip or stray rice kernels on a surface so close to the next passenger’s face was uncouth.

2. They re-designed the broom from single stick traditional style to a funky retractable. Why? A retractable broom can fit in the bag and free up the hands. It also has the benefit of hiding dirt and dust from the next passenger ready to board the train on a fresh new adventure.

3. They have seating arrangements in the team space under the tracks to encourage transparency and cross team communication. Why? To build a good team, they believe customer focus and the removal of cliques is the only way to go.

4. They wear Aloha shirts in Summer and have a cute little mascot named Chiritori (“chiritori” means clean up rubbish so it is a play on words because “tori” also means bird. Why? They’ve miraculously turned what used to be considered a three “K” job (kitsui (hard), kiken (dangerous), kitanai (dirty)), into a fun and friendly hospitality job. The team enjoys interactions with guests and wants to let people know that efficient, fast and perfectly clean is an achievable, sustainable state.

Techno Heart or TESSEI offers actual tours of the under-side of Tokyo station so you can take a look for yourself at how this epitome of sustainable clean is actuated at Tokyo Station. Make sure to get an appointment ahead of time and bring along an interpreter if you really want to get the details.

Either way, on your next Shinkansen trip to or from Tokyo, make sure to notice the swift, friendly, efficient cleaning team in the smart uniform or Aloha shirts and say a word of thanks for all the effort they have given for your pleasant train experience.

If you have a moment, stay to watch the whole amazing spectacle and join in the impromptu applause that erupts from the platform as the team bows crisply before heading down under the tracks to prepare for their next 7 minute miracle.


Former Deep Japan Writer

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