Monday, March 1, 1993

Jing Wen Zhun Xi

I get exasperated and frustrated with my friend from Asia. He has many endearing qualities. For example, he is loyal, generous and unfailingly supportive to his friends. He has one major fault. He starts many projects with great enthusiasm but brings hardly any to a satisfactory conclusion. After many discussions and exhortations, I have reduced the issues to four Chinese characters: jing, wen, zhun and xi (精稳准细). My hope is that the slogan would become entrenched in my friend’s consciousness and thus helps him toward becoming a more effective person.

Everything starts with jing. To be jing(精) is to be focused and organized, to have a purpose in life, to know one's abilities and limitations, and to concentrate the energy and resources for maximum effectiveness in achieving those goals. No wasted motion, no dabbling and no day dreaming, so to speak. An organization is jing when it has a clear mission and objectives consistent with that organization's mission, strengths and capabilities. This means they do not chase after impossible dreams. They do not waste their time or energy on tasks of no value or with no chance of success. They are realistic. They know where they want to go and what they are capable of and want to accomplish. They do not waste either their time or energy.

People without focus tend to pick up tasks and interests on whim without any aforethought. Organizations without clearly defined objectives are easily swayed by outside stimulus and tend to change their direction as easily as the shifting wind. The consequence is that the person will waste a lot of time and energy and not accomplish very much. He/she will launch into projects carried away by external factors such as latest trend without seriously considering whether the project has achievable rewards and whether this person has the qualifications to reap the rewards. The organization will take on to many projects, thus dilute the efforts and fail to bring any to commercial fruition.

Many organizations from China show another aspect of lacking in Jing. These organizations know that they need foreign partners for their ventures, but they have no focus. They have not defined their own strengths and resources, and therefore they do not know what kind of partner(s) they need and should pursue. They ended up pursuing any and all opportunities equally. Prospective partners, seeing that they have no focus, do not take them seriously. The result is that these organizations do not succeed in attracting any outside investment and or cooperation.

Next is wen (稳), meaning stability and steadfastness. Those who know the meaning of wen have their feet firmly planted on the ground. They are able to think objectively and realistically. They select business, product, or career path based on realistic assessment of their capability, of their relative advantage vis a vis their competition, and of the market conditions and prospects. They actively seek facts and is able to separate fiction from the actual. They do not indulge in flights of fancy or wishful thinking and their assumptions, when they make them, are solidly grounded on actual conditions. They see reality for what it is and not what they would wish it to be. When they make decisions, it is based on rational analysis of hard data and information.

The merit of zhun(准) is probably easiest to understand and perhaps most difficult to achieve. To me, zhun means precision and exactness. While perfection is nearly impossible to achieve consistently, I believe to be successful in life, a person must practice being zhun, i.e., must strive for perfection. To an organization, success and long term survival must be equated to flawless quality, i.e. being zhun should be a habit. A person who is sloppy and is frequently guilty of getting by马马虎虎will soon be known as unreliable and not trustworthy. An organization that continues to put out shoddy goods will soon lose credibility in the market and go out of business. Alas for China, many organizations have not felt the full brunt of competition and have not yet appreciated the importance of quality to their long term survival in the world market.

Xi means fine, detailed and meticulous. In other words, the fourth component of qualities to succeed is attention to details. Only with a habitual attention to details, can a person avoid mistakes from oversight and anticipate problems and the action of the competition. Xi is a person or organization that thinks of everything. While at first glance this seems to contradict the first tenet of jing, it is not. Jing emphasizes that one should concentrates ones attention to its core objectives. Xi is to make sure that the attention is carefully spent and implementation flawlessly complete. Chinese sayings are full examples that pair jing with xi, such as jingda xisuan, (精打细算) meaning careful calculations and strict allocation; jinggeng xizuo (精耕细作) meaning intensive and meticulous farming.

I believe that if my friend would practice jing wen zhun xi, he would become more effective and productive and he will take greater pride in his work and thus improve his self image. An organization that subscribes the same principles will be more productive, more likely to survive and grow. The Chinese are partial to slogans and I hope jing wen zhun xi could become a battle cry for the betterment of its people and raise its competitiveness. Surely, anyone practicing jing wen zhun xi, and can perform his or her allotted tasks promptly, must be on the road to success.