From the Archives of a Common Sensei – Volume 13: Management that Practices What they Preach – Standard Procedures

As in the previous blog volumes of From the Archives of a Common Sensei, you might notice that standard operational procedures are an integral part of all Toyota operations.  This thinking and practice are foundational in everything done by management and associates.  As has been stated in previous volumes of this blog, and in multiple other discussions (blogs) by people like Katie Anderson and Tracey Richardson (kudo’s to them), the emphasis is on communication and training of expectations for new associates, including an understanding of operating standards.  In the early developmental days of the creation of Toyota Industrial Equipment, we realized that when hiring associates, who had previously been employed in a manufacturing environment, it was going to be difficult to retrain and to get such associates to follow established TPS team-based standards.  To ease the situation, we hired new associates based on making sure the new people had the right personality and an aptitude to work in a team-based environment.  We also wanted to be sure that new hires could express themselves in a positive manner so that we were able to improve upon the standards.  As we progressed in our growth, we quickly discovered that it was difficult to hire enough new Associates with the above team-based attributes.  By working with the local school district, we were able to encourage an educational programming that focused more on “team” building in exchange for guarantees of employment of high school graduates who progressed through the team learning model.  Highly skilled trades (e.g., welding and robotics) were an exception to the team building progression program, but had a separate program focusing on the specific skilled trade and team building.  Parts of these efforts were assisted by grant monies from the community through the city’s educational grants foundation on which we had representation.

The document entitled “Regular Meeting Attendant List” (1992), included in this blog, is a prime example of the management standard rigor and specificity.  It displays the type meeting (subject for discussion) on the left, and the name and responsibility level within the organization across the top of the graphic.  The circles and triangles indicate the degree of attendance (frequency and leadership) of the meeting.  Please ignore the blackout of the participant names.  I did this for privacy purposes.

For those of you who are experiencing a need to encourage leadership consistency in your organization, if you have not already established a disciplined multi-leveled discussion (meeting) standard, I would suggest developing a multi-leveled meeting standard like this example.  It helps establish an organizational management routine that all participants can rely on and an opportunity to discuss opportunities for improvement in a multi-level environment session.  These multi-level sessions we called skip-level session

All this really means is that in every discussion to tackle an “opportunity” for improvement, we included the associate(s) directly impacted by the need for change or improvement, with the direct supervisor, and the Manager.

Look over the example included here and give it a try!  Standard cadence of discussions and “skip level discussions” are an extremely effective way to gain true leadership within the organization at all levels of the workforce.  I often sat quiet as an associate explained a problem and opportunities to the President.  This not only provided the associate a chance to talk about his/her experiences, but it provided a capability building opportunity as well.

 By the way, it is not just for manufacturing!!

Try it and let me know if your organization experiences a greater improvement consistency!

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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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