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Horenso is a Japanese cultural practice of communication. Very well established in the industry, this practice intensifies the communication between the different actors of a project.


The Horenso, pronounced in Japanese as the word Horensowhich means spinach, is a communication tool culturally used in Japan, and especially at Toyota1. It is a process of communication between several people related to the same project. This is for example used between a team and the management, a client with a supplier…

The principle

At the beginning of the project, the different actors will start by developing together the foundation of the mission and decide together on a communication format.

The team will then start the work, and at the first communication milestone, will complete the communication document to inform the applicant. He will then get acquainted and returns to the team.

This iterative process continues until the end of the project.

At Toyota, the staff is trained and must take the time necessary to develop the Horenso and follow the process. The goal is twofold: ensure that the project responds to the request and ensure that in case of absence of one or more people, the rest of the team can continue the work (the editor in front of make sure that the Horenso is understandable by all).

The term Horenso is a derivative of 3 Japanese terms that we detail below.

Hokoku 報告 – Report

First part of Horenso, the Hokoku. It’s about who we report the information to so they can decide what to do. Most generally, it is the project manager or the management.

The person who will write the report must make sure of the 3 basics :

  • The information must be clear and complete : To ensure that the report is complete, one can use le 5W2H and answer the following questions : « What is needed as information ? » and « What we do not need as information ? »…
  • The information must be dated : each task must be specified with a start date, an end date and a progress level.
  • Any problem should be mentioned, this as quickly as possible.

Renkaku 連絡 – Keep informed

The other members of the team must be kept informed to ensure that everyone is aware of what is happening and potentially take control of the actions. The data must be sufficiently clear, updated regularly on the document, so that at any time a person can continue the actions and / or work in parallel.

Sodan 相談 – to consult

Finally, last point of the Horenso process, consultation. It will be to send the project sponsors or the clients the report so that they can ensure that the project is going in the right direction and how potentially we can improve the results.

This consultation can also be done with experts so that they can give their opinion on a technology, a solution … and thus guarantee that we make the right choices.

The Horenso culture

At first glance, Horenso is a powerful communication tool that ensures the quality of the project results. Anchored in Japanese culture, Horenso is very different from the processes we know and practice in our culture. :

  • First of all, the Horenso is a real written document, duly completed and detailed. It’s not a simple mail with “everyone in the loop ».
  • The Horenso is a pause in the project or without the return of the applicant on the Horenso, we can not advance.
  • In our culture, we usually report to management only when there are ” blocking points ». In Japanese culture, even if everything is fine, we must also say and share it.
  • The frequency of communication is much greater than in a classic process that we know. Horenso is an almost daily return.
  • Horenso requests that the team return to the applicant rather than the applicant asking the team where it is. Here we find an important concept in Japanese culture, the Kikubari, which represents caring for others and anticipating their needs.
  • Horenso is based on a genuine desire to share information, know-how, problems…


1 – D. Magee (2007) – How Toyota became

A. K. Imran (2011)  – Kaizen : the Japanese strategy for continuous improvement

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