Sunday, October 7, 2012

Apply the Lean Practice of Yokoten Today!

Standardized work as applied to "LEAN" could possibly be the least understood of all Toyota Way principles. Standardized work is not a document that is stored in the quality department that people need to follow until advised otherwise. It is not at all about conformance to centrally-defined standards. Instead standardized work is the  baseline against which improvement experiments can be compared. According to Taichii Ohno, the  baseline is defined by the teams themselves (not by a centralized group) and is ever-evolving. In fact, Ohno once stated that people were not earning their pay if their process remained unchanged for a whole month!

This is where the concept of yokoten comes in. The term means unfold or open out sideways. Or, as I like to think of it, as spreading knowledge laterally. This spreading of knowledge implies a culture where people continuously share knowledge, not one where people are forced to conform to central processes being forced top-down. 

A3 is the vehicle to build this culture. The role of leadership is to encourage and promote the concept that part of all of our jobs is to continuously improve, through an endless series of experiments that continuously remove the 8 wastes from  the baseline called standardized work. As progress is made, the knowledge is spread by teaching our peers at an event called an A3 closing. Spreading the "knowledge" laterally means sharing with our peers what we did and most importantly HOW we did it. Nothing can be more frustrating than the existence of "islands of excellence". Remember that our customers are investing in great value from our entire value stream. A culture of yokoten will ensure this great value.

Remember that kaizan is an ongoing activity by all people (including managers) to relentlessly and incrementally change and improve practices. Just don't forget to share the new learnings!

(The photo above is Engineer Caitlin McKenna of Dymax Corporation (Torrington, CT) practicing yokoten (teaching her peers)) 

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