The Japanese word Shibumi translates roughly to "effortless perfection", but this is not the definition of Shibumi as much as it is the goal of Shibumi.
Shibumi is an ancient discipline that disallows stress when obstacles appear—“Worrying is a sin”, grandmother used to say.
Students of Shibumi inspect problems, then improvise and adapt to the best solution presented. If a better solution presents itself later, the students inspect, then adapt again. This cycle continues until one reaches the infinite goal of effortless perfection.
For years, I have described what I termed "The Perpetual Team" and considered this methodology to be my own, but Japanese artists and Jujitsu masters have been teaching the fundamentals of this philosophy for centuries.
If an idea works, you stick with it.
On the Perpetual Team, office politics and the blame game are non-existent. Team-members are committed to the same goals, enabling each member to hold themselves—and each other—accountable for missteps. Each admits mistakes and weaknesses immediately in order to get team advice and address problems by leveraging the collective wisdom of the team.
For a team to achieve Shibumi, they must become Perpetual Teams.
Members of Perpetual Teams push each other to deliver on their commitments. Members are constantly inspecting team makeup and processes, diligently asking, "What can we do to deliver better, faster?"
Like the disciples of Shibumi, Perpetual Teams are constantly identifying inefficiencies and adapting to improve.
If you are reading this and thinking that Shibumi actually translates to "pie in the sky", then you have much to learn about the potential of Perpetual Teams in an organization or even in a family.
If everyone on a team is truly committed to the goal, that team can move mountains.
Commitment happens when team meeting attendance actually synergizes team members.
This synergy manifests when goals are clear and prioritized, and when everyone on the team trusts everyone else to do their best to achieve those goals.
This kind of trust develops when the team believes that everyone else—management included—is being truthful about motives, goals, and obstacles as they arise.
Establishing transparency throughout the team is the key to fostering truthfulness. Everyone must clearly see who is doing what, where, and when, and what problems have or may arise. Teams with fewer than a dozen members achieve transparency with little effort, but dividing larger teams into multiple Perpetual Teams works just as well, if the goals of each team support the goals of the organization.
To ensure this support, Leaders form Perpetual Teams of their own. Just as each member of a team pushes the other to reach the goal, leaders of teams can push other leaders, driving the organization to reach the organizational goal.
The trust introduced by transparency solidifies when leaders stop punishing teams for missteps and learn to improvise, working with teams to find solutions that correct mistakes and to define processes that prevent those mistakes from reoccurring. As Akio Morito, co-founder of Sony Corporation, once said, “Don't be afraid to make mistakes, but make sure you don't make the same mistake twice.”
Does Shibumi translate to “Pie in the Sky”?
At Decade Software, the Perpetual Team concept originated in the Development Department, and then spread to the Design Team and Customer Service. Our company tripled production and elevated quality to the fourth power in less than two years. Where we once released a product annually, today we release new features eight times per year, and we release every product upgrade with zero known defects—a feat previously unheard of in the software industry.
Seriously evaluating the rewards of effortless perfection, a stress-free work and home environment, together with committed trust and transparency between peers and management, another definition of Shibumi becomes clear.
Shibumi is little more than “common sense”.