From the Archives of a Common Sensei volume 32: WALK-ABOUTS – Plant Staff Goes to the Gemba

“Walk Abouts” do not have to be difficult nor time consuming! In this volume, we emphasize three key considerations of your “walk abouts”:

If the first bullet is not present in your organization, start there! This element is essential for continued success! At various clients, a technique we used to help establish the commitment of management was to have the responsible individuals take a Walk-About with us so they could explain what they were seeing. We would then explain what we were seeing and document that in a list of action items (as in the example included here). We would use any key measurables that existed within the Walk-About area (cell).

Walk About points #2 and #3 above often go together. In some cases, standards may not be established yet, or they need refinement. In this article, we discuss point #3 prior to point #2. This is assuming that the Walk About actions will include the checking for the need for standards or improvements to enable standards attainment. As we performed the Walk-About, we would discuss any points of improvement with the leadership (Manager/Supervision) and the person(s) performing the work, plus we would record those points to improve, action required, responsibility for action, short term and long-term actions, and incremental progress (see LIST OF ACTION ITEMS form).

To establish a more finite capture of variation to standards (expectations), you might find it useful to use a form like the Weekly Team Leader Critical Wastes and Gaps form. This form (included below) will help you capture the issue, when it occurred and monthly total, plus any comments you feel are important to capture. The form is also structured to help you capture and record any short-term actions that have been taken, who took the action, and consequences/results. The purpose of this template is to help first line supervision and associates in their efforts to focus on issues which exhibit the greatest wastes and therefore could generate the greatest return (value) in the quest for highest quality, customer satisfaction, and reduction of cost.

Give these methods a try in your organization and be sure to be inclusive when discussing improvement opportunities and improvements. I am sure you will experience significant value creation regardless of what type of organization you are in.

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From the Archives of a Common Sensei volume 31: Differences Between Other Factories and Toyota Industrial Equipment

By volume 31 of this blog series which discusses the history of Toyota Industrial Equipment (TIEM) and as of recently, Toyota Material Handling, you might think that I have run out of content to write about. You would be wrong! This Common Sensei dug deeper into his archives and discovered even more to write about and content examples to convey.

In today’s volume, I have attached a copy of a simple one-page document that we used in the early TIEM days to help new associates better understand, in simple terms, the difference between “Other Factories” and “TIEM.” The message was targeted to convey essential differences between other factories and TIEM in the areas of:

  • Focus
  • Line/Staff Role
  • Data Collection
  • Source of Information/Action
  • Standard of Comparison
  • Role of Management

In a recent LinkedIn article entitled “Work Improvement before Equipment Improvement (October 5, 2021 by Christoph Roser), the discussion of the importance of associate training and the changing of standards when needed, is an example that expresses the need for a shared focus on the above listed items.  The journey from how “Other Factories” operate to how “TIEM” operated, is not an easy transition, but that journey has been and can be traveled with high success by the shifting of leadership mindsets to one that includes openness to associate inputs (you know, the people who actually do the job every day), and letting those inputs help shape improved standards and improved outcomes.  Yes, the ”Role of Management” is still there to set direction, establish commitment, marshal resources, measure results, and encourage improvement, but do so through training and mutual/shared responsibilities. I was fortunate enough to be a part of TIEM form pre-startup and for approximately eight years of the buildup years. We used the approaches mentioned in the attached list to start the creation of a business that has turned out to be a world leader in the industrial equipment market. From these early beginnings, many businesses have benefitted from how Toyota culture and practices work. The organization does not have to be manufacturing (as in the example), The same concepts have helped banking, Wall Street trades processing, hospitals, multiple governmental organizations (State, Local, and Federal), where and when the leadership was/is open to diverse ways to improve the organization, they serve in. By this I mean when the leadership takes it on themselves to internalize the need and act on the solicitation and integration of ideas (at all levels) to better serve their customers, while improving the processes and quality, cost and profit benefits will follow.