Morning routines are great for a lot of reasons: They encourage productive habits, an increased focus on important goals, and motivated people all over the world swear they’re the secret to their success.
But we often hear about productive morning routines that are made up of personal habits: Meditation, journaling, fitness, breakfast choices, etc. If a ritual that sets up the day for success is good for one person, it has to be good for a group, doesn’t it?
Japanese professionals think so, and have developed a morning routine for teams that seeks to do just that.
Called the “Chorei” or 朝礼 (pronounced “cho-ray” for us non-Japanese speakers), it is a daily morning standup meeting that the entire company attends to start off the workday. It can be as short as 10 minutes, but it is a traditional cornerstone of Japanese business culture thanks to its effectiveness at bringing teams together around a common vision and motivation each morning.
Surprisingly simple to set up, a Chorei is not your average meeting. In fact, it might just be the morning routine that your team could use to start every day invigorated and focused on a common purpose.
While the goal of a daily team standup is generally to get status updates on project progress, discuss blockers, or distribute the day’s tasks, the Chorei asks for mandatory attendance from all employees for a number of different reasons:
- To get everyone on the same page about the company’s top priorities
- To share any important organization-wide updates
- To coordinate on schedules and cross-team collaboration
- To repeat the company values or vision and unite on those pillars
- To state goals or intentions, whether from individuals who want to share or as a team
- To get motivated and excited for the workday ahead
The idea is that, by gathering together for a few moments every day, everyone who shares in the Chorei is more successful. One source explains:
“Generally, the manager greets the employees, they recite the company motto and the heads of department look over the schedule for the day. It’s also the time to get a clear picture of current issues.
Chorei is the perfect representation of Japanese companies, where many activities are organised to help team bonding, such as the bonenkai (an end-of-year celebration) or shain-ryoko (company trip).”
Another study done through Hitosubashi University, which interviewed foreign executives in Japan about their observations of Japanese business culture, cites a source as saying:
“There are office routines that are quite uniquely Japanese. Like for instance every morning there is a ‘chorei’ which is like a stand up, quickie meeting, just to get everyone on side, introducing media clippings and that kind of thing. This is a very healthy thing but I think that very few Western companies would have anything like that.”
With a time investment of just ten minutes a day, it doesn’t take much to create a sense of belonging and shared productivity across teams and get everyone comfortable at sharing and interacting with each other. And setting up your own Chorei is surprisingly simple.
A Few Routine Rules
According to one Japanese blogger, there aren’t too many requirements for an effective Chorei save for:
- Being on time.
- Keeping the meeting limited to a set amount of time (say, 10 to 15 minutes).
- Ensuring everyone leaves motivated about the day ahead!
As with any routine, consistency is the most important thing. It might take a few weeks or months to get everyone comfortable and on board. Adding in structure by organizing each day’s meeting with a shared meeting agenda will give it flow and avoid any awkward pauses.
Every team is different, so designing your own Chorei should be a collectively creative process. Take suggestions from your team on what they’d like to try as a group activity in the morning. Here are just a few out-of-the-box ideas:
- Include a 3-minute standing meditation or visualization from an app like Calm or Headspace.
- Nominate a handful of people each day to share a personal goal they’re working towards. In many Chorei, this is considered “speech training” for employees.
- Have a rotating inspirational mini-speech from leadership.
- Crowdsource interesting industry headlines or tips from relevant news to share knowledge.
- Track towards a shared company goal with a daily progress chart.
- Do a team chant or cheer, or maybe just yell really loud!
Since the goal is building team culture and shared motivation, there’s room to experiment and explore different ways to make the meeting a must-have part of everyone’s workday.
Get Inspired By Some Real Japanese Chorei
Chorei has long-standing roots in Japanese office culture, so it does have its traditional elements. However, Japanese companies of all shapes and sizes are showing how their morning rituals are personalized to suit their teams.
Here are a few different Chorei rituals to get inspired by:
Awarded a ‘Great Place to Work’ award in 2017, the daily Chorei at Oishi Accounting Office was captured on video by Lean Japan Study Tours and includes daily greetings, motivational speeches, team kudos, and “number one shouts”—when each person takes a turn to shout out the thing they want to be the best at in their life!
Pasona, one of the largest staffing services companies in Japan, has a very modern office (it even has a small animal farm!) but it still observes the traditional Chorei ritual every morning, both as a whole company, and then as sub-teams:
Remember that earlier suggestion to yell really loud? Lean Japan Study Tours also features Teppen, an izakaya restaurant chain, that aims to make their “Honki no Chorei” extremely fun and energizing with a lot of call and response chanting and, well, yelling:
This positivity-focused morning meeting has become a national trend—one that has some staying power, as there is a ten-year span between the above video and a glowing feature of Teppen’s Chorei ritual by the Japan Times in 2007. Teppen actually started making the meeting public in 2004, attracting more than 15,000 people in the first 3 years, spawning trainings and resources for other business owners in the country.
Kickstart Your Team’s Day With Chorei
There’s so much we can learn from other cultures, and the Chorei is a perfect example of how to get inspired by the success of teams outside our industry or locale.
What are you waiting for? Try something new and different tomorrow morning with your own team-boosting meeting that aims for more than just status updates. It might just be the jolt of energy (in addition to that cup of coffee) your team needs to kickstart collaboration and productivity each and everyday.