From the Archives of a Common Sensei – Volume 14: Learn by Doing

In volume 13 we discussed an example of how management at a Toyota facility standardized their meeting (and communication) scheduling in a standardized rhythm.  The meetings we discussed are inclusive of those with primary responsibility and those who are primarily affected by the decisions. In this blog (volume 14), we show you a “standardized” approach to assuring consistency of safety, quality, and timing in process operations.

Please note that the emphasis here is training verification within a process (operation) whenever either a new Associate joins the team, or when an existing Associate moves from one process to another process they have not previously performed.  Instead of describing creation of a process instruction sheet here, the emphasis is on a method of “instruction and verification of an Associate’s capability” to perform the necessary work within the bounds of safe operation, and with the expected quality and time standards.  This process pulls together the primary team of involved people, Associate, Trainer, Team Leader (TL), and Group Leader (GL).  The form captures the: Date Training step is completed, the initials of the Associate indicating understanding of the process, and the initials of the trainer confirming that the Associate has successfully completed the required training to the standard (including safety, quality, and time).

In the mindset of “train/do, train/do, train/do”, the attached forms provide a place where the trainer can initiate indicating the Associate has successfully repeated the process cycle 10 times with appropriate overall quality.

On the second page of the attached form, in step 12, the Leader decides if the process instruction is complete.  If the answer is “yes”, the Leader will then check the Associates performance twice a day and record the performance, safety, and quality.  This will be repeated for 5 days!  If a problem is found, the Associate will be retrained, and the monitoring will be repeated.  This is followed by confirmation by the Group Leader to make sure the Team Leader has followed all the steps.  If a deviation to the standard training or expected results is found, the problem is to be corrected immediately.

This method of training emphasizes the development of a standard method to achieve process (safety, quality, time) assurance.  Select key processes within your organization and apply this method!  Yes, it takes time in the short term, but saves injury, poor quality, and lost time in the not to distant future.  In addition to raising Associate moral, this type training will also reduce operating expense.

For More Information or help with your transformation effort, contact us at

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!

For More Information or help with your transformation effort, contact us at