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You can use these tags: We learn about designed experiments, statistical analysis, stratification techniques. Some problems require this kind of work, but not very many. Worse, learning to solve those problems well requires a thorough grounding in the fundamental logic which is best learned by solving lots of problems.
The only way to solve lots of problems is to start with the simple ones, but apply rigorous methods in doing so. We are trying to teach multivariate calculus before we learn algebra. Toyota avoids this issue because they develop these skills from the basics, at the very start of their employment. Teaching the fundamentals — the entry level stuff — to senior people with advanced career positions can be problematic.
More about that later. Even in the rare organizations that have fantastic problem solving and kaizen skills, the development of people often a very weak process.
There is no systematic approach to doing it. Then, at the end of the rating period, the team member is evaluated on his performance against those goals.
And both of these functions are usually delegated to Human Resources rather than being clearly owned and adminstered by line leaders.
Rother, on the other hand, describes a process of mentoring. The boss has skin in the game because he is accountable to his boss for the results.
Yet he does not direct solutions. He guides the subordinate through the process of solving the problem in the correct way. In the end, it is the team member, not the boss, who comes up with the solution, and the boss has to live with whatever it is as long as it works.
What is critical to understand here is a difference in who carries out improvements. In most of our companies, improvements are the domain of skilled staff specialists.
These are the people who plan and lead kaizen events, or carry out black belt projects, or whatever improvement process is used. Those people are probably quite good at what they do, but they are the only ones who do it. The attention is always on solving the problem.
Yes, they go through the motions of developing people — they teach them the principles, they guide them to the correct solution, but in the end, the process of how to improve is the domain of the specialists. This is, in reality, a very traditional approach — a slight evolution from the practices outlined by Fredrick Taylor in The other key point is that in the Toyota-type environment, the entire operation is built around flagging problems immediately. Spear describes how work, information flows, material flows, and indeed the flow of problem solving itself is deliberately structured to always be testing against an explicit intent.
In this environment, the vast majority of problems are discovered and handled while they are relatively small and manageable. Where Toyota deliberately stops the process at the first hint of trouble, other organizations run it until it is so overwhelmed that it is brought to its knees. Following that, in the Toyota-environment, someone other than the production operator responds to the problem. This, again, is a huge contrast. But if you think about it, the only thing the production worker can do is work around the problem enough to keep moving.
Trying to do so is leaving people on their own, without support from the rest of the organization. In the end, not only is the problem fixed, but the profound knowledge of the entire organization has improved. True, but what happens next is critical. The leader is responsible for the issue until the system is not only restored, but improved. With one mindset, things get a little worse. With the other, they get better. Rother describes this process with a few stories and examples that make the point very well.
So does John Shook in Managing to Learn. One thing I like about this book over many others is that Rother goes beyond just describing an ideal environment. In Chapter 9 Developing Improvement Kata Behavior in Your Organization he openly discusses the very real barriers that an organization must surmount to get this thinking and practice into place.
He is, of course, talking about a fundamental change in culture. This is true of a national or ethnic culture as much as a corporate culture. The coaching kata describes a specific way that people interact with one another when solving a problem. Therefore, this is not something that can be taught to individuals.
Rother is clear about a couple of things. First is that nobody has succeeded in doing this as well as Toyota yet. We are cutting new ground here. There is no clear path to the end state.
There is a clear vision for what the end state looks like, and each of us should know or be able to assess the current state in our individual organizations. If this sounds familiar, it is. Rother is describing a process of using the very principles discussed in the book to put these patterns into place. Because when the practices are applied correctly, they work.
Continuous and conscious practice with the oversight of a coach. Every world-class athlete in the world has a coach. Only the coach can observe her performance objectively and see what must be adjusted to improve it. I always wonder why it is that, in business or operations, we believe that once some level is reached there is no need for this.
This is, of course, silly. Rother proposes to start at the top with the basics — not because they end up as the primary coaches. No, that is primarily the domain of the middle managers and below. But because someone has to coach those middle managers , and it has to come from above. I would add that starting in the middle puts those people in an untenable position because they are being taught to behave in ways that their bosses do not understand.
Getting the top level team not only involved, but embedded, in the process is a countermeasure. I am not going to go into a lot of detail and spoil the book.
Get it and read it. Form your own view on this. Just understand that getting this thinking into place is a big deal. Like every book before it, Toyota Kata is targeted primarily at senior leaders. Like most books of these books, its primary readers are going to be technical practitioners.
Those technical practitioners are the ones leading the classroom training, leading the kaizen workshops or black belt projects. They are the ones who are doing most of the things that do not work.
Odds are you are one of those people if you are reading this blog, and odds are you are the only one who will be reading this book. First, practice this stuff on your own. It will feel awkward. Get as good at this as you can. Then start altering how you run your events. Shift them to changing the behavior of team leaders and supervisors.
Teach them to see, clear, and solve problems quickly. Set more clear target objectives. Hold yourself to a higher bar. At the end of an event, where you have traditionally focused on clearing newspaper action items, focus instead on ensuring that this behavior is embedded.
Coach and support those front line leaders until they are habitually employing the kata every single day. That is the only way your results will sustain. The leadership above is going to say and do things that introduce problems.
You have to intervene, but use it as a coaching opportunity. Apply the kata, just like you would for any other issue. Now, though, you are coaching those leaders — gently — through the process of understanding what is really happening, what they truly want to achieve, and understanding what is truly in their way.
Maybe, just maybe a few of them will listen. And maybe you can lead them through a study of this book so they can begin to understand what you are doing. Just to be clear, Rother says that everything I have just said is the wrong way to go about this. It has to start from the top. Perhaps he is right. But sometimes you do what you can, where you can. In the end , these concepts have to overcome huge momentum.
Our business leaders today are firmly entrenched in a management paradigm that was developed, ironically, in General Motors. It is taught by every major business school in the world. Now we are beginning to see that there is a better way. But the better way is very different from anything they understand, and it is a lot of work. Thus — this is a great book. Do what it says. There is still a lot of work we have to do ourselves. I am in middle of this book right now and it has both changed and verified my understanding of lean and lean tools.
This is just too good. We have been struggling with our lean efforts because we are not getting the results we want. And then I read this: I keep thinking that this lean manufacturing stuff is difficult. However, you and Rother have the gift to make it simpler. At the very least you shine the light down the tunnel so we can more clearly see our way.
This is your best post yet. You have really nailed a number of insights about Toyota, improvement, and the deep changes required to even suppose one can emulate Toyota. My key client gained a lot of value out of reading this, even though his lean journey only started recently.
I think that the extract that you quote on pages about the negative comment made by the assembly manager that are supported by the plant manager was handled wrongly. The Manager should have understood the reasons for his beliefs. If the man draws on his experience to support the current method, that is consistent. His views should be respected and the new direction must be realigned by educating him in the new method.
Toyota do not move forward by adopting systems that thier people do not understand. I believe that they keep people as individuals so they do not resist with the strenght of a collective but they do train them well in what they are doing.
Part of their strength comes from not allowing trade unions in their plants. Hence there is no collective resistance to their systems. Unfortunately GM decided to pull out of the JV and left Toyota holding the bag it was a GM plant, ultimately , but that does not change the success they had there in one of the toughest union environments. Of course you are correct that the concepts of one-by-one, etc, are so embedded in the Toyota culture that there is no need to make the case.
Rother points out, elsewhere in the book, that cost justifications are not used to decide whether to make an improvement, but rather, to evaluate which countermeasure is acceptable. So the journey toward one-by-one is not without its barriers, but the focus is on how to break down the barriers rather than whether or not to proceed. Your post provided insight and was a great follow up after I finished the book. My current understanding of target condition is a measurable target which, when missed, provides immediate feedback.
If process cycles vary with each product, what might be a way to produce a target condition? Currently, I am assessing current state standing in a circle hoping I will understand this with time. I think that shows that the UAW won the first battle but lost the war. When the gates closed. You ask what are the people resisting. When you totally embrace LEAN and remove all of the waste, people work physically for a larger portion of their allocation.
It is not hard to see why people resist the change. Work smarter not harder is often quoted. This is why you need both side to buy into the change. It is a cop out to say that you will do this because I say so this is and there is a recession on the rules have all changed.
The people that are leading the company and wanting the changes are the same people that chose and administered the current defunct systems. When you ask people to change then you must be prepared to change yourself and that may mean giving them more information than you have in the past.
To most people the changes will mean them working harder so they have some skin in the process also the NEW systems may fail. The share holders will loose their investment but the workers would loose their jobs and all that goes with that loss.
I totally believe in the rights of the share holders to get the best profit on their investment that is right and correct there would be no company if they did not put up their hard earned cash. However in the new world we must all change and that is part of the reason why we read about plants where LEAN does not work.
The management only want changes in the work force and are not prepared to put any changes into their own ways. Is this fault at your end or mine? I would not ask the leaders who are responsible for profit and loss to take the benefits of any program on blind faith. They have to understand how the total management system works to consistently deliver bottom line improvements, and why continuously driving toward the ideal of one-by-one, etc.
On the other hand, once a direction is adopted, it is counter-productive to have to debate the merits of that direction every time a step is taken.
It was a General Motors plant with a long history. After the joint venture was in place, it went from being the worst General Motors plant, that had actually already been closed, to being one of the best General Motors plants in terms of quality, productivity and financial return. GM moved first on that one, and Toyota was left standing when the music stopped.
Had Toyota pulled out earlier — by moving Tacoma production to Texas as soon as the markets started to waiver for example, then it would have been a GM issue alone as they ended production of Pontiac.
I only brought up NUMMI because it is an example, especially prior to this recent recession, of the principles outlined in Toyota Kata being successfully applied in a union environment. It is not the only one, only the most well known. Not personal, it is quite common, but it is neither a proper noun nor an acronym… fails more often than it succeeds in brownfield environments.
You are also correct about the reasons why. That is reason I believe the book, Toyota Kata, is such an important contribution to the field. As you point out, the leaders are the ones who actually have the biggest changes to make.
This book is the clearest description so far about what, exactly, the leaders have to learn to do differently. The block quote that you originally objected to showed how a leader who had embraced that change the hypothetical Toyota manager would have responded. His response was not a rebuke, nor was it an admonishment, nor was he forcing the decision upon anyone.