From the Archives of a Common Sensei – Volume 12: The Basic Thought Behind Toyota Operations Regarding Associates


While scanning through my archives, I came across the document below that provided a fundamental principle regarding their Toyota Industrial Equipment (TIEM) Associates during its’ start-up (1988-1990’s). This document was created and delivered by one of my most admired Sensei’s (Kanamaru-San) in which he spells out basic thinking of process design, process flow, and the proper utilization of associates.

I would be negligent if I did not emphasize a few CRITICAL points!

  • Customer does not mean only the end user; it also means from one process to the next
  • Production activities are not only direct production activities, also include all OFFICE jobs
  • Reduction of idle time does NOT mean to terminate Associates and/or make any Associates job harder; it DOES mean to use that freed up time to either work efficiently/effectively in another area of need or work in areas to aid in the organization market growth
  • Involve Associates in process analysis and experimentation of change ideas

The document below was not just words on paper, or words delivered in a presentation. These were an expression of the fundamental belief behind building an organization which valued its’ Associates and what could be accomplished as a complete team! Of course, there were debates as process analysis took place, but they always involved those involved Associates and Management. Once agreement was reached, a standard was created to which future situations could be compared. If future variation to the standard occurred, it became readily noticed. If this occurred on the production line, the involved Associate would pull the Andon signal to stop the line so that the appropriate correction could take place. Such correction generally involved the affected process Associate and the Associate from both the feeder process and the Associate from the next process operation. If in the office area, the involved Associate would recognize any noticed deviation to standard and alert the Manager and jointly they would correct the deviation.

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From the Archives of a Common Sensei – Volume 11: Gemba Observation Checklist


In the first 10 volumes of our archive discussions we discussed (with examples) several critical considerations leading up to performing a Gemba walk and observing first-hand where improvements can/should be made. I would strongly encourage those of you who have not yet reviewed the first 10 volumes of this blog to take the time to do so! The first 10 volumes generally help inform the performance needs of your organization prior to diving into trying to use the various Lean tools that are all often pushed and generally premature in their usage. Take the time to gain a clear understanding of where your organization is relative to “world class” in both management and in processes. Once you have accomplished that, you can better analyze and determine where to focus your efforts (it can’t/shouldn’t all be accomplished at one time). I would be negligent if I did not also mention the criticality of gaining the participative support/involvement of the top executive management by using the analytical data compiled from performing the content of the earlier volumes, prior to proceeding!

With the above accomplished, it is time to consider a focused Gemba walk in the area of most concern. In this volume, I have included a document developed in the early 1990’s but remains valid today. Granted, this checklist was developed for primary use in manufacturing but with minor modifications could also apply to a Gemba walk in service organizations as well. All too often, I have heard from clients: “but we are different”! I have yet to find an organization where most of this observation list is unusable for the intended purpose!

Modify it, use it, have fun doing the Gemba walk!