The right person for the right job

Carpentry requires “reading” pieces of lumber to achieve best results. The same idea applies to managing people.

Elaborate wooden joinery techniques will catch your eye in Japan’s traditional architecture. You will see these beautiful joints in many temples and shrines, as well as sukiya teahouse-style residences, including quite a few modern homes. Japan’s master builders still value these methods, which require no nails, screws or metal cleats to hold posts and beams together.

For well over 1,000 years the world’s oldest wooden buildings have survived massive earthquakes and ferocious tropical storms, thanks to this technology. The oldest and most famous of these is Horyuji Temple, located in Japan’s ancient capital city of Nara, south of Kyoto.

Reading the Wood

As master carpenters will point out, Japanese joinery requires the carpenter to “read” the wood’s tendencies to warp or twist in one way or another; these tendencies remain even after the timber has been dried.

To assure that a joint will stand the test of time, the carpenter must match the two pieces of wood so movement is counteracted and minimized. Using the right piece of wood in the right place is called tekizai tekisho. This specialized knowledge has been passed down from master to apprentice over the centuries.

A beautiful example of traditional temple joinery

Although tekizai tekisho was originally a carpenter’s phrase, today it usually means “to use the right person for the right job.” Just as pieces of lumber display distinctive tendencies, so too do individual people have unique abilities and habits.

The chief carpenter, therefore, must assign tasks to best utilize each carpenter’s nature. In English, also, the expression “go against the grain” is a carpentry concept applied to a human context. To use nature’s power to our advantage, we must follow, not “go against”, what nature gives us.

Recognizing that “nature is always right,” the master carpenter makes sure that the building’s joints will be optimized by using the optimum carpenter for each job.

This ancient wisdom – a Japanese-style embrace of diversity – can help all of us achieve our goals in the 21st century, just as it was key to creating Japan’s masterpieces of traditional architecture.

How have the Japanese taken this concept and applied it to engineering TVs? Find out here.