VSM Pitfall: unnecessary process | Chris Hohmann

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is probably the main analysis tool and the most used in the lean toolbox. Easy to understand and handle, VSM is the starting point of improvement workshops and kaizen eve...

Source: hohmannchris.wordpress.com

Michel Baudin's comments:

Thoughtful comments, as usual from Chris Hohmann.

However, we need to go further and question the wisdom of reducing Lean implementation to Value-Stream Mapping and kaizen events when neither tool is central to the Toyota Production System.

"Value-Stream Mapping," which is really materials and information flow mapping, is a minor tool at Toyota, used only with suppliers who have delivery problems. And "kaizen events" don't exist at Toyota.

See on Scoop.it - lean manufacturing

Toyota Cutting the Fabled Andon Cord, Symbol of Toyota Way | Automotive News

Toyota is retiring the fabled “andon cord,” the emergency cable strung above assembly lines that came to symbolize the built-in quality of the Toyota Way and was widely copied through the auto industry and beyond.

Source: www.autonews.com

 

Michel Baudin's comments:
The point of having a cord rather than buttons was that the cord could be pulled from anywhere along the line, whereas buttons require you to be where they are. It is the same reason many buses have cords for passengers to request stops rather than buttons.

Toyota's rationale for moving to buttons, according to the article, is the desire to clear the overhead space. Another advantage, not stated in the article, is that the alarm from a button is more location-specific than from a cord.

Another reason to use a cord was that you didn't have to change it when you rearranged the line, whereas relocating buttons required rewiring. But the wireless button technology has made this a moot point.

See on Scoop.it - lean manufacturing

What is "Operational Excellence"?

Who would not want something called "Operational Excellence"? "Excellence" is superlative goodness, and "Operational" suggests a scope that includes not only production, logistics, and maintenance in Manufacturing, but also administrative transaction processing like issuing car rental contracts or marriage licenses. The boundaries are fuzzy, but Marketing and R&D are not usually considered part of Operations.

Hearing "Operational Excellence" for the first time, everybody takes it to mean whatever they think is the best way to run operations, which makes it unlikely that any two people will have the same perception. If marketers of consulting services can prevail upon a profession to accept such a vague and generic term as a brand, they can sell pretty much anything under this label. By contrast, the Toyota Production System (TPS) specifically refers to the principles, approaches, methods, and tools that Toyota uses to make cars. When you first hear it, you may not know what those are, but you know that you don't know. Another difference between "Operational Excellence" -- also known as "OpEx' or "OE" -- and TPS, is that the first is a goal, while the second one is a means to achieve the unmentioned but obvious goal of thriving in the car industry.

Chevron OE

OE at Chevron

It is an increasingly popular term, perhaps because of its very lack of precision. Google it, and you find, for example, that, Chevron "has spent more than 20 years expanding systems that support a culture of safety and environmental stewardship that strives to achieve world-class performance and prevent all incidents. We call this Operational Excellence (OE),..."  So, at Chevron, OE is about avoiding accidents that directly hurt people and oil spills that ruin the environment.

It is certainly not what it means to the  Institute for Operational Excellence. Its website has a glossary that contains exclusively terms from TPS or Lean, like Andon, Cell, Chaku-Chaku, 5S, Kanban,..., which strongly suggests that Operational Excellence is just the latest avatar of TPS when applied outside of Toyota. For 25 years, "Lean" has reigned supreme in this role but may finally be getting stale after so many botched implementations.

Shingo Prize for OpExThe Utah State University website, on its Jon M. Huntsman School of Business page, has a directory entry for The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence. The Shingo Prize site itself, however, while using "excellence" in almost every sentence, does not refer to operational excellence. The theme of this year's Shingo Prize conference, in Sandusky, OH in May, was "Enterprise Excellence," which sounds like a further generalization. But, digging deeper, you find that the Shingo Model Handbook contains "operational excellence" 31 times, "Lean" 7 times,  "Toyota"  twice, and "TPS" never.

 

Shigeo Shingo

Shigeo Shingo

stuck_gear-teeth

Stuck gears on the Shingo Prize page

The Shingo Prize page uses as a banner a picture of three gears with the teeth enmeshed in such a way that they can't move, a picture that would have seemed odd to an engineer like  Shigeo Shingo. His legacy is primarily contributions to production engineering like SMED, Poka-Yoke, and line/work station design. On these subjects, you cannot see daylight between Shingo's work and the Toyota Production System (TPS). Therefore, when you see a document called "Shingo Model Handbook" that refers repeatedly to Operational Excellence and never to TPS, you can't help but conclude that Operational Excellence is just another name for TPS.

UC Berkeley OE Program Office Team

UC Berkeley OE Program Office Team

UC Berkeley has an Operational Excellence (OE) Program Office. Based on the family picture in its Spring 2014 Progress Report, it has 12 members. UC Berkeley has a total workforce of 29,000, of which 2,000 are full and part-time faculty members, and about 36,000 students. It works out to 1 member of the OE Program Office for every 2,417 members of the work force and 3,000 students. They present themselves as  internal consultants, with access to funding and expertise in "project management, change management, strategic planning, campus engagement, financial analysis and planning, business and data analysis, and communications." The director of the office has been on the administrative staff for 13 years and reports to the university's chief administrative officer. This is yet another take on it.

Do the proponents of Operational Excellence do a better job of capturing the essence of TPS than their predecessors in Lean, World-Class Manufacturing,  Synchronous Manufacturing, or Agile Manufacturing? The above-mentioned institute has a page defining Operational Excellence as "the point at which 'Each and every employee can see the flow of value to the customer, and fix that flow before it breaks down.'” 

At first, it sounds like another version of True North, as explained by Art Smalley. Taking a closer look, as a general statement, it does not make much sense. It implies that every employee of every organization is involved in something that can, at least metaphorically, by described as a "flow of value" to customers. It is no stretch to see how this applies to a hot dog street vendor, but how does it work for, say, a firefighter? A firefighter serves the public by putting out fires, but the value of a firefighter resides in the ability to put out fires when they occur, not in the number of fires put out. A firefighter "seeing a flow of value to customers" is a head scratcher. As for "fixing the flow before it breaks down," it conjures up the image of a plumber repairing a pipe that doesn't leak.

Even Wikipedia editors are uncomfortable with their article on Operational Excellence. They denounce it as "promoting the subject in a subjective manner without imparting real information." The definition is indeed short and confused:

Operational Excellence is an element of organizational leadership that stresses the application of a variety of principles, systems, and tools toward the sustainable improvement of key performance metrics.

Much of this management philosophy is based on earlier continuous improvement methodologies, such as Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, and Scientific Management. The focus of Operational Excellence goes beyond the traditional event-based model of improvement toward a long-term change in organizational culture.

It says what Operational Excellence is an element of, what it is based on, and what it goes beyond, but not what it is. And much of what these few words say raises eyebrows:

  1. The emphasis on metrics is a throwback to Management-By-Objectives, an approach that has historically not led to excellence at anything but gaming metrics.
  2. Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, and Scientific Management are emphatically not continuous improvement methodologies. Continuous improvement is a component of Lean but by no means all of it. Six Sigma is not continuous improvement at all, and Taylor's "scientific" management was about preventing operators from colluding to curtail output, not improving processes.
  3. Continuous improvement is not event-based.  Contrary to what the name suggests, "Kaizen events" don't do continuous improvement. This format was actually developed in the AME in the 1990s based on the realization that just continuous improvement could not accomplish changes of the scope that was needed.
  4. TPS/Lean, when correctly implemented, has always been about a long-term change in organizational culture.

Next frontiers for lean | McKinsey

See on Scoop.it - lean manufacturing

"...Quietly, though, in Nagoya, Japan, Taiichi Ohno and his engineering colleagues at Toyota were perfecting what they came to call the Toyota production system, which we now know as lean production. Initially, lean was best known in the West by its tools: for example, kaizen workshops, where frontline workers solve knotty problems; kanban, the scheduling system for just-in-time production; and the andon cord, which, when pulled by any worker, causes a production line to stop..."

Michel Baudin's comments:

This article implies that the "Kaizen workshop" is a tool of the Toyota Production System, when in fact it is an American invention from the 1990s and what it does is not what is meant by Kaizen in Japan

Then the article describes Kanban as "the scheduling system for just-in-time production." It is really only a a tool of scheduling among many, including heijunka, just-in-sequence, consignment... The last example, Andon cords, had been observed at Ford in 1931.

Even if this choice of examples is unfortunate, Toyota people invented many tools while adopting and refining existing ones, and it is true that each tool, taken out of context, is of limited value. Toyota's merit is to have deployed them in a uniquely effective way as part of a system of production.

This is, however, not what the article says. It jumps instead to management disciplines, like "putting customers first," an idea that bazaar merchants worldwide have had for millenia.

"Enabling workers to contribute to their fullest potential" and "constantly searching for better ways of working" is in fact something that Toyota has done better than its competitors. And these are sound management objectives, but you could pursue them and still not be competitive.

The article implies that the technical content of the Toyota production system is a detail. All that matters is focusing on customers and treating people right. Is it? I don't think so.

This attitude is the root cause  of the failure of so many "Lean implementations." Until the technical content of the Toyota Production System is understood and properly valued, the Lean movement cannot claim "Mission Accomplished" in manufacturing.

See on www.mckinsey.com

Business Intelligence and Jidoka | Toyota's Simon Dorrat | PEX

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Simon Dorrat is Manager of Toyota’s Business Intelligence function where he is responsible for defining and delivering all services relating to Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing including BI, ETL, Data Quality, Master Data and OLAP. [...] Simon shares his thoughts on how Business Intelligence fits with the Toyota Way, suggests three ways for IT to provide better value to the business and even explains why doing a kitchen renovation helped some illuminate important aspects of software development.

Michel Baudin's insight:

For the IT-phobic, a Data Warehouse is a database that makes historical data from multiple sources accessible for analytics. It is commonly used to provide management with Business Intelligence (BI). The process of periodically feeding a data warehouse is called Extract, Transfer and Load (ETL).

Of course, analysis is only worth doing on data that is complete and accurate, hence the need for tools to ensure Data Quality. The different sources usually have different nomenclatures for products, processes, or facilities, and you need your Master Data to integrate them in a single, consistent model. Finally, "OLAP" stands for Online Analytical Processing.

The first sentence in the article describes Toyota as "creating the precursor to Lean Manufacturing" and nearly made me stop reading further. It would have been a mistake.

See on www.processexcellencenetwork.com

Are Silos The Root of All Evil? | Bill Waddell thinks so

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"Functional silos – the idea that all engineers have to work in an engineering department, all sales people have to work in a sales department and all procurement people have to work in a purchasing department – represent the over-arching deficiency in just about all companies.  They are at the root of enormous amounts of wasted time and money and they are at the root of most lousy cultures. "

Michel Baudin's comments:

We all know bureaucratic horror stories associated with functional silos, like the manufacturing company where Sales, Engineering, Manufacturing and Accounting all had different product nomenclatures. Not only did they have multiple names for the same products, but they grouped them into families differently, so that it was impossible to get aggregate measures of anything.

In light of this, it is tempting to just dissolve these departments and reorganize along the lines of what Wickham Skinner called "focused factories," Hammer and Champy "business processes," and Womack "Value Streams." The idea has been around a while.

1996 Ford Taurus

1996 Ford Taurus

According to Mary Walton's account of the development of the Taurus 1996 in Car, this is what Ford did at the time.  and it cut the development time down to 30 months. According to Sobek, Liker, and Ward, however, this is NOT what Toyota did, and it was developing cars in 24 months with functional departments exchanging memos!

1996 Toyota Camry

1996 Toyota Camry

In addition, the Taurus 1996, while undeniably an artistically unique design,  did not set the market on fire and included body parts that were difficult to stamp out of sheet metal, Walton's book suggests that the marketing and manufacturing members of the team, having completely transferred their allegiance to the team , failed to make it give due considerations to the needs of the groups they came from.

This suggests that, while often a good idea, collocating all the participants in a business endeavor and breaking all the functional departments is not a panacea.

Sometimes it is technically impossible, because, for example,  the functional department is operating a monumental machine that you don't know how to break down into smaller units that could be distributed among different "value streams."

Sometimes, you can't do it for operational reasons. For example, you don't distribute Shipping and Receiving among the different production lines in the same building, because it would require more docks and access roads, and it would make truck drivers deliver to different organizations at multiple points around the same building.

Sometimes, you end up having specialists report to managers who have no understanding of what they need to be effective, and can't evaluate their requests for equipment, training, or permission to attend a conference.

Sometimes, you locate an engineer who needs a quiet space to concentrate on technical issues next to a boisterous sales rep who speaks on the phone all day...

Unfortunately, I don't think all evil has just one root. It's a bit more complicated.

See on www.idatix.com

The GM Toyota Rating Scale | Bill Waddell

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"In a survey of suppliers on their working relationships with the six major U.S. auto makers – Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, Chrysler and GM – GM scored the worst.  But of course they did.  They are GM and we can always count on such results from them. [...] Toyota scored highest with a ranking of 318, followed by Honda at 295, Nissan at 273, Ford at 267, Chrysler at 245, with GM trotting along behind the rest with an embarrassing 244."

 

Michel Baudin's comments:

While I am not overly surprised at the outcome, I am concerned about the analysis method. The scores are weighted counts of subjective assessments, with people being asked to rate, for example, the "Supplier-Company overall working relationship" or "Suppliers' opportunity to make acceptable returns over the long term."

This is not exactly like the length of a rod after cutting or the sales of Model X last month. There is no objective yardstick, and two individuals might rate the same company behavior differently.

It is not overly difficult to think of more objective metrics, such as, for example, the "divorce rate" within a supplier network. What is the rate at which existing suppliers disappear from the network and others come in? The friction within a given Supplier-Customer relationship could be assessed from the number of incidents like the customer paying late or the supplier missing deliveries...

Such data is more challenging to collect, but supports more solid inferences than opinions.

See on www.idatix.com

13 pillars of the Toyota Production System |Toyota UK corporate blog

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"Underpinned by thirteen core processes and philosophies, The Toyota Production System pioneered modern manufacturing as we know it. Here's what each one is and how each one works. The Toyota Production System is the blueprint for modern manufacturing, and is employed in Britain to build the Toyota Auris and Avensis models. Here, we take a look at the thirteen philosophies that underpin it."

Michel Baudin's comments:

Thanks to Mark Graban for drawing my attention to this blog from Toyota UK and this article in particular. It is always useful to know Toyota's official line about its own system. Corporate blogs are perversions of the concept of a blog, which is intended to be a conversation between an individual human and the rest of the world. When you read a post, you know who stands behind it and who will respond to your comments. Corporate blogs lack this authorial voice, and are a public relations exercise.

The first "pillar" in this article is the Konnyaku stone. I had never heard of it The only kind of Konnyaku I am familiar with is gelatinous slabs found in Japanese dishes. I didn't know the name was used in polishing sheet metal, and I am still not sure what kind of a pillar of a production system it may be.

The picture illustrating the Andon paragraph does not appear related to the subject. An Andon board, on the other hand, is shown as an illustration of Kanban.

The picture on Jidoka shows automatic welding by robots, but the text only describes equipment "designed to detect problems and stop automatically when required," without saying that it happens to be automatic. The paragraph also describes operators stopping production "the moment they spy something untoward," which, while important, is not jidoka per se.

"Kaizen" is described as "a mantra for continuous improvement." I thought it was just continuous improvement, not a mantra for it. The paragraph also states that it achieves "efficiency optimization." If it did, however, you would be at an optimum, and continuous improvement would no longer be possible.

See on blog.toyota.co.uk

'Gods' Make Comeback at Toyota as Humans Steal Jobs From Robots | Bloomberg

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"Inside Toyota Motor Corp.’s oldest plant, there’s a corner where humans have taken over from robots in thwacking glowing lumps of metal into crankshafts. This is Mitsuru Kawai’s vision of the future..."

 

 

Michel Baudin's Comments:

According to the article, Toyota's management feels that maintaining the know-how to make parts manually is essential to be able to improve automated processes.

See on www.bloomberg.com

More on Toyota's "Respect for Humanity"

Much has already been said on this topic, including an extensive discussion in this blog. So, when Frederick Stimson Harriman launched one in the TPS Principles and Practice group on LinkedIn, I was wondering whether I would learn anything. 62 comments later, I would say yes.

The contributors include Toyota alumni  Bob BennettDave CondinhoLuis Javier Sosa Gomez, and Christoph Roser, as well as many others who shared their personal experience outside of Toyota, including Jay Bitsack,  John Davis,  Kris HallanRachel InmanEmmanuel JallasRam ParthasarathyPaul QuesadaŁukasz RogatkaPatrick RossWilliam Ryan, and Stuart See.

Frederick's question was:

"How have you experienced the TPS Principle: 'Respect for the Person?'" in the context of "criticism [of Toyota] in Japan and in other countries, with complaints of unfair treatment of labor, and a domineering stance towards suppliers that limits their growth and attempts to deprive them of their right to negotiate prices."

In response, there is what has already been said but is worth restating, personal stories from the shop floor, and new perspectives on the topic. Below are  the excerpts from the discussion that I found most enlightening, as well as my own, edited inputs. I still recommend checking out the complete thread on LinkedIn.

Following are a few themes around which I felt this material could be organized:

gavelTestimonials of Toyota Alumni

Christoph Roser

During my five years at Toyota I was never blamed for anything, and rarely was anybody else. When I worked for other companies in Europe, not a week went by without someone trying to blame me (or anybody else but them) for something. But then, I also had a very good boss at Toyota, which probably also makes a big difference.

Two observations:

  1. During my last visit to Toyota (Motomachi Plant) I was told that there are very minor differences in the uniform according to employees position, e.g., a regular operator has a gold rim on his cap, whereas his team leader has not. But I don't know if this is for all Toyota plants or only Motomachi. In any case, the difference was minor. BTW I found it interesting that the "lower" position got the gold rim. In the Military it is usually the other way round ;) I guess that already tells something about the value of the shop floor operator at Toyota.
  2. According to literature, at Toyota it is quite possible for employees to convince their managers away from their preferred option A to another option/solution B. However, a contact close to Toyota told me that this is changing. If the manager opposes a project, the project leader now prefers to wait 2 or 3 years until a new boss comes around in order to start the project anyway. This is even worse at other Toyota Group companies. My source said that it seems that Toyota is hiring more "selfish" people. The exception seems to be Denso, which for that reason reduces its exchange of managers with other Toyota groups. But as I said, this is not a personal observation of mine, but of a contact close to Toyota.

Just remembered something else I read about Ohno: In my view Ohno is the main driver behind TPS. Regarding respect for humanity, however, according to Reingold (Toyota - A Corporate History, 1999, pg 41f) Ohno terrified his colleagues, gave impossible tasks, criticized, yelled at them, and kicked them. Many tried to avoid him as much as possible. Initially nobody wanted to cooperate with him, and he got lots of resistance. He caused people so much trouble so they could not sleep at night.

Maybe you could call it tough love.

If Ohno would have been a nice sweet guy, there would not be a TPS as we know it (or maybe not even a Toyota at all). In my view, respect can still be demanding, but this takes skill. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about Ohno to say if his approach was skilled and respectful or more towards abusive. In any case, he got results.

Bob Bennett

In my 29 year Toyota career we generally used the term "mutual respect." We respected people by giving them meaningful work that challenged them to work hard, creatively, and with a sincere dedication to the satisfaction of their external and internal customers. We expected them to be engaged in their own capability and career development by identifying and working with colleagues to solve problems that helped us strengthen our competitive advantage. We expected that people work during assigned working hours, adding value in return for the very competitive compensation and benefits we provided.

Mutual respect also requires mutual obligation. As a group vice president and officer, my strongest obligation was to ensure that our company continued to survive and prosper so that every employee had the opportunity to spend their career in Toyota, and their children and grandchildren could have the same opportunity. Therefore I have important leadership responsibilities to chart a clear path to our vision, to facilitate effective cross-organizational collaboration and cooperation to develop the process improvement action plans necessary to deliver superior business results, and to create a safe and nurturing environment that enables every person at every level to participate in effective problem-solving to both improve our business results and develop their full human potential.

If things do not happen as I expected my first responsibility is not to blame, but rather to humbly reflect (hansei) and ask questions such as, "How have I failed to help them understand?" or "What can we as management do to solve problems or make improvements so that it is easier for people to do the work the way that we desire?" or "What can I do better next time?" (This is how people and organizations learn and improve. Pointing a finger of blame provides no learning.)

If my company got into a period of financial difficulty, my compensation should be reduced first before we ask our subordinates to sacrifice, as management has the greatest influence on the performance of the company.

Yes, expectations are very, very high at Toyota. With a kaizen spirit, we often describe a "permanent state of dissatisfaction" always seeking a better way. This is our duty to our society, to our customers, and to our employees. Mutual trust and respect are mutual, with strong obligations on both sides of the relationship. And for me "leadership his heart" and the values and behaviors I describe above must come from the heart as well because the brain. And what a thrill it is for the entire team to build such a great legacy, and to have achieved it with the integrity, and humanness, and value to society that we can be proud of!

Luis Javier Sosa Gomez

I worked for Toyota from 1998 to 2008 , Toyota always manifested a personal interest in people and the protection of the environment and of course, to generate profits for its shareholders

Although times change and now, I'm not working with Toyota, I am working with Nissan - Renault Alliance , Toyota made ​​a legacy very difficult to forget , especially if we talk about human resources.

As for the relationship with suppliers, like any business , always looking to achieve profitability and a least we are talking about business , there will always be some degree of pressure from the bargaining unit , handle low prices, after all is a struggle to be more competitive , to sell a car in good quality, environmentally friendly and reasonably priced compared to those offered in the market.

So is that Toyota , surely ; will maintain its philosophy that has enabled it to position itself in such a high place, everyone wants to imitate , when you see things from the outside , perhaps, even could say something, but when you're in and work for Toyota, things look different.

"Respect for Humanity" versus "Respect for People"

Aretha Franklin about Respect

Aretha Franklin demanding Respect

My first reaction was that, as explained before, the TPS principle is not "respect for the person" or "respect for people" but "respect for humanity" (人間性尊重, ningenseisoncho). To me, this means paying due consideration to human nature when designing work in order to take full advantage of employees' brains as well as muscles, while protecting the output from operator fatigue, forgetfulness, or the power of habit. This is very different from being polite.

Frederick pointed out a 2008 article by Jon Miller on the subject, where he essentially makes the same point:

"The phrase 人間尊重 is not rare within the CSR (corporate social responsibility) statements of major Japanese corporations. The word 人間 means 'human', 'humans' or 'people' and 尊重 can be translated as 'respect.' But the phrase used at Toyota is a bit different. It is 人間尊重. The observant reader or student of Asian languages may recognize the extra character making 'human' or 'people' into 'humanity' or 'humanness.' [...] So our current understanding of "respect for people" must be broader than simply respecting the rights of every person within a free society or to honor and respect our elders or our peers. To be wordy, the literal meaning of Toyota's phrase 人間性尊重 is 'holding precious what it is to be human' and once could say 'valuing humanity' or even 'respect for humanity' but 'respect for people' in my view is pithy but does not convey the full weight of these words in the original language."

Kris Hallan took a stab at clarifying this distinction as follows:

"The difference between these two definitions/translations might boil down to this: I can be very respectful to an individual person and everyone can agree on the amount of respect I show...while I lay them off for a lack of work. In that situation I can show tremendous respect for the individual by listening, being honest, forthright, and sincere. At the same time I completely disrespect what makes that person human by ignoring all of the diverse capabilities and potential that person inherently possesses. By laying them off, I disregard the potential for that individual to earn their pay, while being oh so respectful about it."

The following was advice to factory managers: "to assure good feeling and good understanding, while guarding against too much lenity on the one hand, to be careful to avoid too much severity on the other, to be firm and decisive in all his measures, but not overbearing and tyrannical -- not too distant and haughty, but affable and easy of access, yet not too familiar." This exhortation to show respect for people is from James Montgomery's "The Carding and Spinning Masters" (Glasgow, 1832), quoted by Alfred Chandler in The Visible Hand.

The language is quaint, but the substance is not far from the kind of advice today's would-be managers receive on working with subordinates. You have to show them respect as people, but that is not what I understand Toyota's "respect for humanity" to be about.

Being human means being able to learn skills, sense your environment, apply logic to solve problems, and create. Showing respect for humanity means being aware of the unique capabilities of people and putting them to use. Courtesy may be a means to this end, but it is not the end.

Generic corporate philosohyCorporations and Philosophy

Mission statements and other expressions of corporate philosophy need to be taken with a grain of salt. Philosophy is best written by individuals with no commercial stake in the way their ideas are received.

What is really behind the emphasis on "respect for humanity"? Clearly, the practices of US car makers post World War II did not fully leverage the potential of the work force. They have been variously described as "check your brains at the door," command-and-control, or "management knows best."

And what resources did tiny Toyota have to compete with these behemoths? The brainpower of its people is high on the list. Finding a way to leverage it was a key to competing with organizations that didn't value their own.

It's nothing philosophical; it's only business.

Respect for Humanity and Management Practices

A management style

As a manager or as a consultant, you don't implement or recommend policies labeled "respect for people" or "respect for humanity." Instead, you make changes to the way work is being done and organized that are aligned with these values and needed for your business.

It goes beyond the obvious realization that the effectiveness of the Stalin/Darth Vader model is limited. It also means taking a critical look at current fads, and, in particular, putting a stop to counterproductive, demoralizing practices like 360 evaluations, Rank-and-Yank, or Management-By-Objectives, and replacing them with others that are tailored to the business at hand, including, for example, policies that are part of TPS like career planning for permanent employees, a pay-for-ability component in the wage system, and Hoshin Planning. But the list is not limited to TPS. It can include, for example, the Balanced Scorecard developed in the US.

To be more specific, following are a few differences between management practices that I think are relevant to this topic, as discussion starters:

  • Supervision: I have seen many factories where one first-line manager is in charge to 90 to 100 operators, with 4 or 5 work leaders as intermediaries. In Toyota car plants, you have one first-line manager on the average for about 17 operators. The operators are further organized in teams of 4 to 6, with one member acting as team leader.
  • Career planning for operators: Major American companies used to offer career plans for their professional staff. Today, these plans are mostly gone, and are sometimes replaced by Rank-and-Yank. They never existed for production operators. I know Toyota has them for operators in the past, and I assume they still do.
  • Response to safety concerns: An operator complains about finger cuts caused by sharp edges on a fixture. Does the manager respond immediately, by adding rubber guards while organizing for the tooling department to smooth the edge on the fixture? Or does he ignore the issue?
  • Fashion: At Porsche, you can tell employees' positions from what they wear. At Toyota, you can't; when on the floor, the plant manager is dressed much like an operator. At Honda, everybody wears white uniforms. At Boeing, there are no uniforms. A dress code, or the absence of one, is a management statement on the way it views people.

Emmanuel JALLAS

As far as I am concerned, I never met respect for me when I was employed. I was fired 4 times. Not because I wasn't doing the right things, nor because I and my teams had no results. But because I didn't behave the way the King and his court wanted me to behave. I also raised some (a lot of?) jealousy. I have also no love for company politics which always end in a human disaster for the team members. Nor did I jostled for my position. So I also left when the job wasn't fulfilling. Simple respect for me, my values and beliefs.

On the other hand I can remember myself answering to one of my operators, shortly after being hired myself, 20 years ago. This operator, Jean-Pierre was his name, came to me with a dismantled welding mask. "Can we have this mask replaced sometime ?" did he ask. "Here are the keys of company's car. Go right now to this shop. Ask for Alain (vendor's name). Ask him to provide you the mask of the latest technology that fits your need, and to send me the bill. By the way, if you need some other tools, please buy them."
Jean-Pierre remark was "I've been here for four years, and never had a tool bought to help me do my job. I can't believe It."

My belief is that respect is shown in small details of working life. Your teamates are behaving the way they do, not because they want to annoy you, but because they are who they are. (just try to change yourself or your behaviors !). If you consider them smart enough to do the job, so you shall consider them smart enough to know what they need, to try what they want to try, to say what they think they need to tell you, and to know what's good for your company from their point of view. After all, aren't they making your living?

flagsIrrelevance of National Culture

We cannot over-stress the irrelevance of national culture to this issue. Japanese traditions, for example, are short on respect for people in many ways. Young people who married against their parents' wishes, for example, were not viewed as courageous but selfish, because they were shirking their duties to family. Sons of small business owners were shunned in recruitment by large companies, based on the assumption that they would eventually leave to take over the family business. And women's talents were simply ignored...

Conversely, the culture in which I have seen the greatest respect paid to people who do menial jobs is the US. I think the reason for it is that doing these jobs is considered a normal part of education. For all you know, your waiter tonight may be the teenage child of a high-level business executive. Later in life, this experience is the basis for claiming to have been "born in a log cabin he built with his own hands."

Yet the national cultures do not translate into consistent practices on manufacturing shop floors or in offices.

Ram Parthasarathy:

Michel, to take your very valid analysis a step further, the challenge is to turn this "negative" into a positive. These different people from diverse cultures have different strengths and weaknesses. It is important to understand these and leverage these strengths.

In a small town in India, we used girls just out of high school, with minimal English speaking knowledge, to manufacture engine valves which were accepted in Europe by Daimler, Audi, VW, Fiat, etc. These kids were like a blank slate, but the advantage of that was that you could mould them any way you wanted to. Results were simply amazing.

humanismFaith in People

What is necessary for managers to even attempt to put to use their people's ability to sense, learn, analyze, and create is a belief that these abilities exist. It is an act of faith. It is easy to have faith in people when living a comfortable life with many opportunities; it is much harder when you have been living in misery or subjected to injustice, discrimination, or persecution.

Having faith in the abilities of factory workers was also a challenge in the American Midwest of the early 20th-century, because communications were severely limited. Many were non-English speaking recent immigrants from farming economies and with limited education, like the heroes of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.

The management practices that we inherited from that era are based on not taking up this challenge, relying exclusively on managers and engineers to do the thinking, and simplifying jobs. In recent decades, however, the experience of TPS implementation in California has shown that you can compete in manufacturing by leveraging the brain power of a multi-cultural, immigrant work force.

The challenge can be overcome, but it requires faith in people, which I like to call humanism.