"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change!" - Charles Darwin

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

3 things we can learn from TPS

Last week I mentioned my participation to a seminar organized by the Industrial Association of Salerno on Lean Management and Continuous Improvement.
This week I would like to share more about that event, by highlighting what I think we could learn from experiences of organizational transformation and Lean management in other industries together with some (hopefully) powerful questions to facilitate further reflections.

1) Visible problems do not exist: they have been solved already!
One more interesting insight I got from Minoru Tanaka, CEO of JMAC Europe, in his speech about Toyota Production System (TPS) was his classification of problems into 3 categories: potential, invisible and visible. It’s important that potential problems to the desired target are identified as well as invisible problems are made visible and improved immediately. Instead, visible problems do not exist actually, because they have been solved already
  • How many clearly visible problems are you still stuck with in your organization?

2) Most efficient way becomes standard: standard must be improved every month!
Then Mr. Tanaka discussed about Continuous Improvement, describing that, once a process has been improved in one department, than the most efficient way becomes a “standard”.
When hearing this word, I got disappointed wondering how hell the definition of a standard process could fit into a Continuous Improvement approach.
But then he added: the “standard” must be reviewed every month!
And more: the “standard” is visualized and each manager is accountable to improve the “standard” every month

  • How much are you still striving to find one-size-fits-all "best practices” to make you move quickly to the next rigid and comfortable status quo?
  • What are your managers accountable for? 
  • How much are they encouraging the “stop the line” principle?

3) Measure organizational capacity of solving impediments to generate trust
Last enlightening reflection to me was from the local director of a cans manufacturer with around 1500 employees.
You might wonder how cans may be relevant for high-tech industries, but let me continue.
Well, he was describing their transformation journey to Lean and talked about the importance of impediment handling in his organization to be trustable. They have a graph, clearly visible to everybody, with 2 curves: the accumulated number of raised impediments per month and the accumulated number of fixed impediments per month.
The 2 curves must always be parallel, because he said: “If the curve of fixed impediments goes flattish, all my employees will understand I do not believe in what we’re doing and I’m just cheating them”
  • How is your organization serious with fixing impediments from teams?
  • How much are you living the values you’re preaching?

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