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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Utilizing Strategic Innovation to Redefine your Normal

A global health crisis and increasing levels of civil unrest are changing the way that we approach our daily lives, from how and where we work, to our social interactions and how we consume information and entertainment.

Organizations who continue doing business in the same way they always have are going to be left behind in a world where innovation is now being measured in days to market as opposed to years. Chances are that your organization has the people it needs to solve problems but, do you have the tools to pull those solutions out of them?

As you continue to add more technologies, trying to resolve issues, streamline processes, and create efficiencies, how do you know that you will get the results that you are expecting?

For decades organizations have had varying results when trying to emulate the Toyota Production System (TPS). The consistent underlying theme in explaining the levels of variation is that the success of TPS has as much to do with the synchronization of employees and management as it does with the tools and the processes. (Marksberry, 2013)*.

The days of simply taking the next great technology innovation, inserting it into your organization, and sitting back to realize the results are gone. Just because something is innovative, imaginative or disruptive does not necessarily mean that it is evolutionary. If you want to separate yourself from your competition or redefine world-class, your next transformation must qualify as an “I.D.E.A.” (Innovative, Disruptive, Evolutionary, and Atypical), and therefore, it must move your organization to a new level in the value it provides internally, externally, and peripherally.

Prior to any new implementation, transformation, or re-organization, it is paramount that you look at your company, agency, team, etc. as a system made up of management, employees, technology, processes, customers, and community. This requires a new way of thinking to define requirements while your assessing and aligning your organizations strengths and addressing weaknesses as part of your Strategic Innovation process rather than after a decision has already been made.

Are you ready to break out of the current cycle of incremental progress and challenge the status Quo?

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Works Cited
Marksberry, P. (2013). The Modern Theory of the Toyota Production System. Boca Raton, London, New York: CRC Press.