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Sebastian Fixson

Sebastian Fixson: How does an organization build the appropriate culture such that problems (failures, mistakes, …) are seen as opportunities for improvement of the organization rather than opportunities for individuals to lose face, their job, etc.?

By Sebastian Fixson, - Last updated: Sunday, June 13, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

The negative press that Toyota recently received in association with the recalls, made me think about an issue that on one hand seems to be central to lean, but on the other is very difficult for many organizations to actually do.  That is: confronting ‘problems.’  As earlier blog entries discussed, there are two ways of looking at something like Toyota’s plant closure announcement: (i) It simply is the extension of Toyota’s commitment to ‘stop the line’ when a problem is detected to find the root cause no matter how expensive, or (ii) the size of the expense for the plant closure is a signal of the equivalent size of the problem, i.e., an admission of equally sized guilt.  Toyota’s culture (“No problem” is a problem) seems to take the first  perspective, whereas the press in the West clearly took the second view.  While this incident suggests that even Toyota faces a difficult challenge when it needs to convince its external audience that attending to problems (even if at high costs) is actually the right thing to do, many other organizations have a very difficult time to establish this attitude even just internally.  Thus, my question to the expert community on The Lean Edge is this:   How does an organization build the appropriate culture such that problems (failures, mistakes, …) are seen as opportunities for improvement of the organization rather than opportunities for individuals to lose face, their job, etc.?  In other words, how do you convert an organization from searching the five ‘who’ to searching the five ‘why’?

I am looking forward to reading your comments. Thank you.

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