Monday, April 20, 2009

Get Your Boots On!

At the Printing Industries of America Lean Conference in Lexington, Kentucky a couple of weeks ago, I learned a new saying, “Get your boots on!” According to Mike Hoseus, co-author of The Toyota Culture and former Toyota-Georgetown (TMMK) manager, this is how “Genchi Genbutsu” is affectionately known by among the team members at TMMK.

As most of us have learned, Genchi Genbutsu, is Japanese meaning roughly “Go and see the problem”. This values practical experience over theoretical knowledge and places emphasis that we must go and see the problem to know the problem.

During the morning session on “Building and Sustaining a Lean Culture: The Quality People Value Stream” presented by Mike Hoseus, currently Executive Director of the Center for Quality People and Organizations, a little more about the Toyota Culture was revealed. One of the first points is that culture starts with values and beliefs which drive our behavior. Toyota places critical emphasis in establishing its values and beliefs as the foundation of its culture. Another key point was the alignment of company goals and employees’ goals under a common purpose of long term mutual prosperity.

To this point, Mike compared vertical organizations to horizontal organization. A vertical organization focuses on production, budgets and SOPs, just make the numbers, leaders are separated from the work, people’s ingenuity is used to beat the system and supervisors manage people. By contrast, a horizontal organization focuses on the process, the common purpose of long term mutual prosperity, makes problems visible, people’s ingenuity used to improve the system and supervisors work with the people to solve problems.

One of his examples to describe our actions to a goal was weight loss. Suppose we want to lose 25 lbs. Which courses of action do we pursue? Do we buy a digital scale, set up a process to take daily measurements and chart the results on a computer program and call it part of our visual management system? Or do we set up a daily exercise process with a diet program?

Mike also emphasized providing an environment to think and establishing a culture to make problems visible. All the lean tools are primarily focused on making problems visible. We must learn to admit to having a problem and commit ourselves to solving the problem. Mike told us that at TMMK over 6,000 andon pulls occur daily that make problems visible. Even with this incredible number of andon pulls, the line only stops about 7% of the day (93% uptime). The 6,000 daily problems are overwhelming to say the least. When asked how does Toyota go about solving all these problems and Mike simple said “one at a time.”

According to Mike, there are three stages to problem solving.
1. Reaching: Problem solving that results in getting to the goal.
2. Maintaining: Problem solving that focuses on maintaining the goal.
3. Raising: Problem solving that focuses on increasing capability beyond the goal – “kaizen”.

Mike Hoseus described the Toyota leadership model as an inverted triangle with team members as the largest base on top all the way down to the company president on the pointed tip on the bottom. He described the servant leadership approach that leadership develops the capacity that allows team members to improve what needs to be done.

Standards were another key topic of discussion. Without standards, there is no problem. The first question should be, what is our standard? Followed by, does everyone see the problem? And, what are we going to do about it?

In summary, Mike Hoseus stated that connecting the product and people value streams is the key. Lean can only be effective with both and Lean can’t be sustained without both. At Toyota, they believe that their competitive advantage is people and problem solving.

So what values and beliefs do we need to start with to drive our lean culture? Maybe we can start with this: Another problem? Life is good! Let’s get our boots on!

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