Almost every change Yabe-san introduced risked decreased efficiency and quality of service in the short term. Having the cleaners distracted from their jobs by talking with passengers, decreasing measurement and oversight. Even making the cleaning crews more visible to the customers went against the hospitality and travel best practices which hold that this kind of work is to take place out of sight and all friction for the customer is to be removed.
But everything Yabe-san did increased the possibilities for human connection. Not the usual, scripted staff-customer communication or the usual manager-staff meetings, but inefficient, unnecessary communication not directly related to completing the task at hand.
Rather than managing for control and compliance, he was managing for transparency and connection.
Internally this not only resulted in a skyrocketing of morale but an outpouring of creative ideas. The Tessei staff not only came up with innovations that improved their own jobs, but helped design the shape of the bins on the new Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, and they came up with the idea for the nursery and baby areas in Tokyo Station.
And, of course, it was this feeling of human connection that resulted in passengers cleaning up after themselves because they did not want to create extra work for someone they had just seen working so hard.
It led to people realizing that we are all on this train together. Yes, it eventually made processes more efficient and less expensive, but more importantly, it actually made life a little bit better for everyone involved.