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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: Without work standards there can be no kaizens

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Saturday, June 23, 2012 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

This is a very interesting and complex question but one Im drawn to answer based on my experiences at Toyota on the production floor, a current instructor at Toyota, and as a consultant over the past 14 years.  I’ve had the opportunity to be very close to this situation with a couple of my clients who could be categorized as silo based organizations.

It’s difficult at times to have a linear approach to such a nebulous type situation in trying to change a way of thinking that has been in place possibly for many years.   To say there are 5 major things would be eluding to a list from 1 to 5, but I will share how I’ve approach this before and to some extent how we were taught at Toyota in the beginning when we were being taught the infrastructure necessary for this thing we now tag as “Lean” or “Culture”.

My way of addressing this situation would be to ensure that senior leadership and executives were on board with the need for change.   I think the risks involved with trying to change an organization comes when initiatives are given but it may start in the middle and the buy-in from above in minimal at best.   When I teach I tend to expound on the necessity of top management to explain the “why” or “purpose”.   I believe many improvement initiatives fail because top management isn’t an intrical part of the process, without their direction and support it normally comes across as a flavor of the month mentality.   I was lucky enough with one particular client to have the owner at the table, I explained to him how important it was to attain buy-in and to explain why there is a need for change within the organization and how it will begin to take place.  Or what is the purpose?  I think that is a key point if you want one of the 5 major things.   People need to know and they need to see that management is on board as servant leaders to support the change(s) that will be taking place.
Once I feel that senior management/leadership/executives have explained the purpose and people have a good sense of where they are going then I feel its important to have a mission/vision or as some call a “True North”.   This provides a guiding beacon for the organization to see through the same lens, as well as have a measure for success which comes from setting key performance indicators that link across the functional areas.   For example Toyota’s True North / Vision was – Customer first, while making the highest quality product, at the lowest cost, in the shortest lead time, in the safest manner all while respecting people.   This is an evolutionary type vision which cascade to indicators that should cut across vertically and horizontally within the organization.  This I believe sets the stage for eliminating silo based thinking and creates an environment for teamwork and the need to understand how all the functional areas are connected to create an output.
If a company can agree on this vision and cascade that throughout the organization then I believe the 3rd major thing would be to clarify a set of values and principles that can be translated to every leader in the organization as a set of tangible actions they can “live” so to speak.  When was at Toyota those actions were things like – Go See, Respect for people, Continuous Improvement, Teamwork, and Challenge, these were values that could be translated into an action a leader could show from top management down to a team member level, this creates the consistency for the values and principles to become the belief system for the organization that its more than just words on the wall in the lobby.   The risks are if you create these values and principles and do not live by them or management thinks they are exempt then people tend to create the “we and they” environment which is usually a characteristic of a silo based organization.  Our goal is to become “us”.  So if companies are asking for guidance this one is very important to determine what are we about and how are we going to do business.

I believe once these 3 things above are being practiced as best they can they its time to implement standards.   In my experience with many organizations this is probably the number one thing I see as most often and that is lack of standardization or standards within the processes from order to customer.    I ask if you dont have a standard then how are you controlling what is being created?  How do you know if there is a discrepancy, where it started?  How can you maintain quality?  There are so many factors to standards being in place.  As my trainers often said – without standards in place there can be no kaizen.   The risks involved with creating standards are if leaders are not involving the people who do the work and just telling them what to do because they can.  This gives off the impression of the “robot” at work- meaning we dont want thinkers we just want you to do what you are told.  So they often see standards as confining them to a certain way and its quite the opposite.   That is why its so important to ensure the items above are explained as you begin this journey, if the “why” isnt explained then its open for individual interpretation and that is where cultures have the potential to become negative, or lack of trust begins.  If you involve people with creating the standards then there is an empowerment that gives them the ability to create new ones if there is a better way.   The important part of standards being created is that people at all levels need to see “abnormality at a glance”, with that in place you can recognize where processes have flaws and pinpoint the point of occurrence then ask why and fix the problem.

With standards in place it takes me to the 5th major thing I feel would be the next important process to reach your goal and that is to embed PDCA thinking throughout all level and areas within the organization.  If your organization can easily see gaps then its safe to assume we should arm our people with the ability to deal with them in a systematic approach.  If an organization has the thinking of “everyday everybody- problem solving” then if our standards are in place we should be able to live out the continuous improvement process on a daily basis, this was how I was taught and this is how I teach.   I believe that the 4P’s (Purpose, Process, People and Problem Solving),are essential to do business in a manner that creates an environment centered around the development of people through the guidance of leadership asking questions and being present at the gemba.  If you focus on these “things” then I feel you can have the best chance for success in breaking the silo pattern that has been formed by traditional mindsets.  I think the biggest risk of all is to start something and not finish through with the intensity it needs to sustain.   Many companies start out with a bang but when tough situations come about then they revert back to the “comfort zone” and that gives off the message that this is only something we do when we have time.   I will end with a quote from the late John Wooden who said – “If you dont have time to do it right the first time, then when are you going to have time to do it over?”  Something every company should think about when trying to change a culture.  Tracey Richardson – thetoyotagal.

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