Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Learning Organization: Silo Busting 101

To do really good lean in your own business, just focus really hard on the 4 underlying principles of the Toyota Production System. They are easy to remember because they all start with "P" (like P4 Lean Strategy!!):

Purpose/Philosophy-don't ever forget why you are in business. How do you serve the world? If you forget, then the reason becomes "to make money". That can't be it!

The right Process will produce the right result-if you don't like the results, improve the process! Notice I didn't say get rid of some people. It's about the 5 whys, not the 5 whos. 

Make Problems visible and the curriculum of your organizational learning. This part of TPS is the part that wears you out. Most of our time is spent learning about root causes of problems and implementing countermeasures. Overburdens, defects, injuries, on-time performance, customer complaints, etc. etc.

Then there is "Develop Your People and Partners." Simple concept. Like most aspects of the Toyota Production System, difficult to actually do. How much time do you spend every day developing your most important investment.....people? People are the fuel that keep your business running. They are responsible for maintaining all of the relationships that keep your business growing. So, again, how much time do we spend developing them? 

I believe there are two main ways to develop structured, standardized learning. First, work to get people to learn together. In my company, I bought 75 copies of the book "Lean Thinking", handed them out, and went about the business of getting everyone to read one chapter per week and do a quiz. It started out like root canal surgery. Learning is hard work, some would argue that it is harder than physical labor. I bought Spanish versions, books on tape, whatever it took. Plus, we invested one hour per week where everyone was together. Then we did "The Toyota Way", then "The Goal", then "It's Your Ship", then "Inside the Magic Kingdom". After a while, it became just something else you did. After all of the crying and whining, people settled in and learned together. This structured learning developed into our corporate university. Remember, if you want results others don't get, you need to do things others won't do.

The second way to develop people is to start doing A3. There is nothing like a list of 20 or 30 improvement projects on your A3 board where most of the people in your company are learning "Company 101" using self directed work teams to bust silos and solve problems. The A3 closing is the opportunity for people to get a steady diet of learning. 

The payback? You will learn who your leaders of the future are and you will smash your silos to smithereens. (silos wear your customers out). Show me a company where people are together often, and I will show you a real fun place to work. Cliques will begin to disintegrate, and a culture of respect for people will take over. 

You don't need to do it like I did. Simply organize a voluntary reading club today, even with 5 people. Do it at lunch time, and do a chapter per week. Do it week in and week out, and make it visible. Reward the folks that participate. Make it visible. Then watch it grow. 

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