Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Real Beauty of the Toyota Production System

There was an article that was published in the New York Times titled "In Lieu of Money, Toyota Donates Efficiency to New York Charity." The article talks about Toyota's offer to send some of their Sensei into a Harlem food bank & soup kitchen to make some "improvements". Check it out http://ow.ly/nCbVJ

Just a quick review of the four components of Toyota Production System (what I call P4):
1. Live and teach your company Philosophy/Purpose-the WHY you are in business, and it shouldn't be to make money. What do you better than most? How do you serve the world? Your reason for being.
2. Continuously develop your People and Partners-if people are your #1 asset, how much time did you spend working/training/coaching them last week? If you do it well enough, you just might be considered a learning organization.
3. The Right Process will produce the right result-if you don't like the results, improve the process. This is a better way of leading than finger pointing! Do this well enough, and you will see the concept of "RESPECT for People" go viral in your company.
4. Make your Problems visible and the curriculum of your learning organization. Too many companies hide their problems. TPS urges us to rejoice in them, because if they are visible, we can go after them.

Now back to the article. There are several components of TPS demonstrated that re-enforce why I love my job.

First, is the laser-like focus on the customer. One might think that Toyota Engineers would bring great money-saving ideas with remarkable "ROIs" that could immediately be seen on the "bottom line". The article does talk about the financial struggles of non-profits in today's economy, but the focus, as always was on the customer and TIME (the money will take care of itself). Imagine being a single mother with three small children expecting to wait an hour and a half to eat, sometimes in the cold, snow or sleet? Imagine showing up one day, and being inside, nice and warm, being served, within 20 minutes? And that is now the new standard, until the wait is reduced to 15 minutes?  If she depended on the kitchen for meals 300 times per year, with a 20 minute wait, she will now spend 350 less hours per year (2 full weeks of her and her children's life) waiting to eat. Holy Small Changes=Big Results Batman!

Second, is the understanding of the "current condition". The article talks about "from 90 minutes to 18 minutes" and "from 11 minutes to 6 minutes" and "from 3 minutes to 11 seconds". So many times, in the course of my involvement in thousands of A3s, I see the current condition being treated as an obstacle to getting something fixed quickly. We call it jumping to solutions. In the true spirit of nemawashi (proceed slowly, consider many options, gain consensus, implement rapidly), how much time do you think those engineers spent understanding those wait times? Direct observation at GEMBA. No 3 day kaizan event with sticky notes. Direct observation at GEMBA and Plan-Do-Check-Act. Do this well, and the result is Small Changes=Big Results.

Third is the spirit of experimentation. I'm sure the soup kitchen and pantry have been serving people for years, probably decades. Any changes were made with the understanding that "we can always go back". I'm sure there were no new blueprints or a future state map. Can we try something now? In the course of making improvements, a new role was created......a person who would identify an empty seat and notify someone? Can we try "one piece flow" vs. batches of 10? Can we try it, and if it doesn't work, we can ALWAYS go back.  With a laser-like focus on the customer, a thorough understanding of the current condition, and a healthy spirit of experimentation, small changes yield big results.         

And, last, but most important, is what Simon Sinek calls the WHY.  Why are we in business? Simon preaches that the difference between good companies and incredibly great companies is the understanding not only of the WHAT we do and HOW we do it, but the WHY we do it. Toyota has never waivered from their well-publicized long term philosophy. To help. The gift of money is so appreciated and needed. The gift of TIME can be as appreciated and as needed.





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