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Jeff Liker

True North: Find the gap to the ideal state to stretch yourself

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: dimanche, octobre 9, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

“True North” is used quite a bit around Toyota, though the hard-core TPS folks do not like it preferring “ideal state.”  Either concept has a similar meaning which is that you should understand the gap between the ideal and the actual so you can see how far you need to go.  Toyota Business Practices, which replaced practical problem solving, has an explicit step to define the ideal state.  Then the gap between the ideal and the actual is broken down to manageable steps and an explicit target for the kaizen activity.  Then root cause analysis proceeds for the gap relative to the target.  The reason for adding in the step of defining the ideal state is that there is a tendency to set your targets too low unless you can see how wide a gap there is.  I often ask clients how they think they rate compared to Toyota Way principles and they score themselves  7 or 8 out of 10 on some of them and lower on others. If they had a concept of the ideal state they would not score over 3 on any of them.  Thus there is a tendency to think too highly of ourselves.  Garrison Keillor in his Lake Woebegon tails ends with “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”  Studies show that the large majority of people think they are above average so self deception is very common.  To combat that take the time to define the ideal state and compare yourself to that and all of your weaknesses should be evident.  As an example, in my book with Gary Convis, The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership, we talk about Gary’s time as CEO and then vice chairman of Dana which was in a very sorry state just emerging from Chapter 11.  Gary tapped his network of TPS talent and one of the best would run kaizen activities explaining he did not want specific productivity targets, but rather just compare the current condition to the ideal state and eliminate as much waste as possible.  Whereas the managers would generally set productivity targets of 5 – 10% they were routinely more than doubling productivity.  Now they could have set a target of 10% and achieved 15% and felt very good about themselves, but they would have left so much waste on the table.  The concept of “challenge” in the Toyota Way is to never be satisfied with less than striving for perfection. Perfection is never achievable, but it provides a compass to direct each step and to prevent complacency.

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