Lean Frontiers: Are they differences in getting middle management on board from getting executive management support?
Are there differences in getting middle management from executive management on board for 1) developing the lean enterprise and 2) direct engagement on their part? What are the differences, if any?
Posted on May 9, 2015
Archives by Tag 'liker'
Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Top leaders must go to the gemba to develop leadership in their middle-managers

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, May 9, 2015
The differences between top and middle management are not only in “developing a lean enterprise,” but they are in different positions in all regards. Let’s start with the assumption that a lean transformation is underway because the company is not already lean. In a traditional organization the top is responsible for results, usually to someone else like owners or a board of directors. They are looking at the enterprise level and trying to figure out the knobs and levers they can control to get the enterprise to deliver the results they are judged by. In reality they have only indirect ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: The challenge is to change our thinking and we have learned that this is done by changing behavior

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, April 13, 2015
As Jim Huntzinger notes the question is really about behavior change, which is related to a change in our thinking. There was a reason Womack and Jones called their book Lean Thinking. Lean thinking is a broad concept. It starts with a long-term perspective. Lean leaders believe in their bones that the pathway to building an excellent organization is rooted in developing people. What people have the unique capacity to do is think creatively about how to change the organization to pursue a vision of excellent customer service. The elements of pursuing excellence include ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: How a Toyota leader defines Lean Leadership!

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, April 2, 2015
I heard one of the better definitions of a lean leader from one of the Presidents of the Toyota Technical Center, Mr. Yamashina, and I published it in The Toyota Way: Always keep the final target in mind Clearly assign tasks to yourself and others Think and speak based on verified, proven information and data Take full advantage of the wisdom and experience of others to send, gather or discuss information Always report, inform and consult in a timely manner Analyze and ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Strong coaches are there to develop internal leaders and coaches

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, November 9, 2014
Building on what Tracey said, think of the process of getting to be in a TPS promotion role at Toyota as a funnel with many people applying, a smaller number selected to join the company, and then a winnowing based on performance inside Toyota. People are coached and also watched carefully to understand their strengths and weaknesses. They are given opportunities to build on their strengths and overcome their weaknesses and some do that better then others. Some people have the ability to do a technical job really well, but may lack leadership skills. Others can ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Visual control means displayed information is acted on

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, October 19, 2014
Often we talk about the difference between visual displays and visual control.  Visual displays mean information is shown, while visual control means information is acted on.   One type of visual is the metric board where we represent the actual versus target, another is the andon which physically warns us of an out of standard condition, while a third type is a physical indicator of the state of the operation versus standard such as a kanban square.  In all these cases we are seeing the actual versus the standard and as Jon says we need a system of response to contain the ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: A CEO might be a good at lean but poor at leading change

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Friday, July 4, 2014
The reality is that if you are making a major change in an organization you are bound to create some enemies. You will be clashing with the interests of some people who either have an opposing viewpoint, or some personal issue with you succeeding, or perhaps fear you are going to make their lives more difficult. Lean has the potential to be very disruptive. Reducing inventory is designed to surface problems, but surfacing problems means that people may fear they will be blamed, or even if they are not, fear incompetence in addressing the problems. We are ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Kaizen events are mainly a tool to open the minds of the leadership

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, June 2, 2014
I have personally been involved, along with my associates, in leading kaizen events for over 15 years. We never used a very rigid format. They could range from 2 days to 5 days. I had associates who were formally taught by shingijutsu and preferred 5-day events and were exceptional at leading them. They were quite exciting and were especially so in the early days. There was action. People were engaged. There were results. Management was excited. We still lead events and I never feel they are a bad thing. But I have ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: A sensei lights the fire of the kaizen spirit

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, May 1, 2014
A dictionary definition of a “sensei" is simply someone older then you as age is respected in Japan. It also is a formal title for a teacher of some sort. Most relevant it is a title to show respect to someone who has achieved a certain level of mastery in an art form or some other skill. This definition says it is earned, not granted by a job position like professor or consultant. And a sensei is dedicated to developing mastery in others. It is typical that lean consultants are expected to do some ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: The key is to learn to level the workload for improvement

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, March 30, 2014
The Lean Edge: How do you make time for improvements? As CEO of my company I have a grasp of lean and have experienced it in my career, but now that I'm CEO, I find it difficult to ask my people to make time for improvement work. They’re already completely busy doing their regular work. Moreover, this company is in the outdoor sports industry, and many people join these companies because they want time to climb, backpack, canoe, etc., and I'm reluctant to ask them to work more hours and sacrifice time for these activities. Any advice?" I believe the key to ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: A variable employee base (temps) is necessary to provide stable employment through the major ups and downs of the market

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, March 18, 2014
First off there is no real “lean stand” on this issue and perhaps no lean stand on much of anything as lean means so many different things to different people. Second, speaking strictly about The Toyota Way the two pillars are respect for people and continuous improvement. In order to accomplish respect for people as partners in the business, and invest the time it takes to develop their capabilities to do the job and improve how they do the job, Toyota depends on continuity of employment. It gives them a stable employee base to develop and gives the employee ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: One of the first aims should be to develop people to use a systematic process for improvement

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Many, many people have been in your situation. The top wants lean, which they have some understanding of from somewhere, and they want you to go get it. “Develop a plan. Find a consultant.” You are correct that there are almost as many flavors of lean as there are consultants. And who knows what flavor your management got exposed to from the conference they attended, or the board member, or the COO who had an experience in a previous firm. Who knows what they expect? Operational excellence? Quick wins in cost reduction to please the owners by the end of ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: TPS experts within Toyota will always want to drive in the direction of the ideal of one-piece flow

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, January 6, 2014
Experts within Toyota on TPS will always want to drive in the direction of the ideal of one-piece flow. They believe in this quite passionately. In a Toyota assembly plant this looks like a super long continuous flow line. The plastics plant look like a process island of molding machines though there is a clear flow of raw materials to finished bumpers that are built in sequence to the assembly line. The body shop is mostly flow lines as is paint. The stamping plant is another set of process lines to build up a major ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Outsiders can be insiders if they commit to intense learning partnerships

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, November 11, 2013
Automotive companies differ in how they define their core competencies, what they outsource, and their philosophy of how to deal with inhouse versus outsourced products and services. For example, Toyota makes their own plastic bumpers, makes a substantial number of their own seats, and makes some key components of hybrids such as batteries and switching circuits. As Steve Spear points out the structure of what you make in-house versus outside is less important then how you manage processes within specific units that do specialized work and across these specialty units. Many organizations have terrible trouble with cross-functional ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Basic skills of active listening, facilitating, modeling behavior, giving and receiving feedback and more are all necessary to lead any people for anything and are critical for leading teams to improve processes.

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
In The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership the first step of the model is self development. Even that one step involves more then learning the scientific method. Toyota Business Practices, their scientific method for problem solving, is intended to not only solve problems but develop people to learn to follow the foundation of the Toyota Way--Challenge, Go to gemba to see first hand, kaizen methods, teamwork, and respect. These each involve a set of skills. As the leader of an improvement process learns these skills are all essential to successfully leading a team of people toward ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Start witht he IT implications of a model line, and get expert coaching

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, August 5, 2013
My first reaction is that if this is a new lean effort, e.g., less then 2 years into it, specific action by IT can easily do more harm then good. This happens when the core processes have not been well defined, and therefore their information needs are not well defined, and IT starts developing "lean software" that is a distraction and not what the value-added workers need. For example, IT jumps in to develop an electronic kanban system when the company does not have the discipline or understanding to run even a basic manual kanban system. This ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: The people in the organization must learn a new way of thinking and acting, what also means unlearning, which is more difficult then learning for the first time

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, July 1, 2013
There is a lot of good advice from my colleagues. I would like to be the voice of reason and suggest that you are correct that this is a big challenge. The way I learned to deal with a challenge is to break it down into pieces and deal with it piece by piece, the basis of Toyota Business Practices. The problem is as follows: You have many different organizations with their own functional leadership spread across America. We know that to significantly transform a single organization, like a plant or a software organization, takes dedicated senior leadership, ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: The challenge for a startup is Sales

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, May 21, 2013
I am not sure there is a special category or set of circumstances that make a start-up a unique organizational form for lean. What does make it different? 1. The company is brand new so there is a chance to start to build a lean culture from scratch. 2. People can be hired who fit the culture and philosophy the company is striving for. 3. It is a time of unique challenges to make the business viable, and if successful a time of tremendous growth which has pluses and minuses for lean. I am on the board of directors for ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: hoshin kanri links the kaizen activities of leaders and work groups at all levels so they are working toward common goals

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, April 27, 2013
In "The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership" we have a 4 step model of leadership development.   We place Hoshin Kanri fourth, after self development, developing others, supporting daily kaizen, and finally hoshin kanri.  What hoshin kanri can do is link together the kaizen activities of leaders and work groups at all levels so they are working toward common goals.   In a sport, for example, basketball, a game plan can do that.   But imagine the perfect game plan with a bunch of novice players going up against professionals.  It will be a blow out.  The novices do not have a chance ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: A problem can be a treasure if leaders make efforts to eliminate fear of failure

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, April 6, 2013
Certainly any tool or approach, technological or social, can be used for good or evil and people with power generally make the difference.   In a positive environment, that is fertile for lean, leaders makes a great effort to eliminate fear of failure.  It is often said that "a problem is a treasure."  This does not mean that you want to generate problems for the sake of creating treasures, but that finding one that is occurring and surfacing it is a treasure because now you can solve it. I was in an office ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: When standardized work is changed, every one who performs the job needs to be trained

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, March 17, 2013
By standards I am assuming you are referring to standardized work.  There are many kinds of standards,   When standardized work is change everyone who performs the job, or audits the job, needs to be trained to follow the new standards--no question.   Presumably the change is for a reason in which case you would not want to ration out the changes over time based on the capacity to teach.   You need to make the changes and do the teaching.   There are many ways standardized work can be changed. For example, ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Lean engineering tools can be lifeless or brought to life with exceptional leadership and teamwork

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, March 16, 2013
With my associates at Liker Lean Advisors we have been working with product development organizations for the last ten years ranging from $1 billion businesses to Fortune 50 businesses.   As in all of my published work we believe in an organic approach, rather then an mechanistic tool-based approach.   There are many tools that Jim Morgan and I talk about in The Toyota Product Development System, such as a chief engineer's concept paper, value stream mapping, know-how databases, the big room (obeya) for project meetings, and the use of A3 reports.   These are all tools which can be ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Metrics create a focus for the company so changes lead to meaningful business results

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, January 28, 2013
I agree for the most part with the observations of my colleagues.  Summary:  "You get what you measure" translates into "Let's measure what we think we want and we will get it."  There are two problems.    First, we often cannot measure what we want.  We want engagement, we want people to pay close attention to quality and safety, we want engagement, we want people to produce more in less time, we want people to product just what the customer wants, etc.  Each of the measures is a proxy for what we really want.  With many measures and pressure people work ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Develop deep capability, don’t assign people to jobs in an office

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Friday, January 4, 2013
It is always difficult to add value when I wait until someone else has answered on the lean edge, particularly someone with the thoughtfulness and eloquence of Steve Spear.  I could simply say:  "I agree," but I will add a few thoughts.  Steve talks about the two alternative purposes which I will summarize as quick and dirty one-off projects compared to creating a high performance learning organization.  Few executives are interested in spending lots of time and money to be mediocre, but in fact that is exactly what they end up doing.  So ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Ringi is a formal process of writing up a proposal and getting it approved

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, December 23, 2012
This question is a little different then some in that it asks about the connection between a group of Japanese words.  Not every organization is enthusiastic about learning new Japanese words as the lean lexicon is complex enough.  Actually these are really very old words, and both ringi-sho and nemawashi are not specific to Toyota, but to Japanese management more generally.  Anyone who was studying Japanese management back in the 1980s when the quality movement was in full gear learned these concepts--though in the abstract apart from a system. As you will see from the answers from some of my colleagues ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: We must think of the whole enterprise as a continually evolving system

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, November 26, 2012
If you look at the comments of several of my colleagues about bringing lean to sales they point out how important this is--to really connect the value streams of design-build-sell--and Wiremold was brought up as a company that in its heyday had made a lot of progress at the lean enterprise level.  Personally if companies have an immature lean system in manufacturing I suggest they start there.  It is visible, involves physical changes, and the typical tool set of lean applies in a clear way.  Wiremold started in manufacturing.  Companies that try to ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Don’t confuse JIT shipping with a JIT system

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, September 24, 2012
We did work for a JIT seat assembly plant that shipped in sequence to automotive.  They were proud of the plant for being "lean."  After all it shipped JIT.  Walking through the plant it was obvious it was far from lean.   Yes they had an assembly line for the seats and yes they shipped in the exact sequence of the auto assembly lines.  But in reality they were sequencing out of a large inventory in an automated storage and retrieval system, the standardized work and training on the assembly line were awful, the line was not well balanced, built-in quality ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Nemawashi is about genuinely being interested in the ideas of others

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Nemawashi was one of the distinguishing characteristics of Japanese management written about a great deal in the early 1980s when the Japanese seemed like an unstoppable business force that could do no wrong.  Over time as the "Japanese miracle" led to the lost decade, and it was no longer fashionable to imitate Japanese management fads it seemed to have become lost from discussions about business best practices.  At Toyota it has remained very important. For example, in the 1990s at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan they became aware that the American managers did not have a deep understanding ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Self development leads to developing others

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, July 15, 2012
Based on your description I cannot tell what you have done in the 5 years, and know nothing about your processes.  As a general rule focusing on training people in visualizing, analyzing and solving problems is a great thing, particularly training managers.  In our new book on Developing Lean Leadership the Toyota Way we describe how to develop leaders and we are arguing that they need to be trained in just what you describe.  The model begins with "self development of managers."  They must want to become leaders of change toward concrete goals and to learn the problem solving approach.  ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Changing the structure doesn’t change the work – don’t reorganize, teach teamwork

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, June 23, 2012
I often think that questions like this suggest a misunderstanding of the problem.  Simply stating the problem is we have silos and we want to turn the organization sideways to focus on business processes is not a  good problem statement.   Presumably there is a process that cuts across silos and the silos need to work together to solve specific problems to achieve specific objectives. The reason they currently do not work together to solve those problems is because of the history of the company, what they were taught, how they are evaluated, and how they have been led.  Organizations often ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Standards might stem from an individual’s suggestion or it could be the result of a group discussion

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
In the Toyota Way the purpose of standardized work, or any standards for that matter, is to provide a baseline for kaizen.  If 5 people do the job differently than any individual with an idea will only apply the idea to her own work.  The individual will learn something, but the group will not.  In order for a group to learn they have to agree on a standard and then when a new idea is tried and confirmed it becomes the new standard.  If only one individual was doing the job they might be able to learn in their head ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: We look at single variable explanations in isolation to get us the quick fix

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, April 9, 2012
The best way I can explain this is with an analogy to physical health.  We know what it takes to be healthy--exercise and eating right.  Yet America, as the wealthiest in the world, is one of the unhealthiest.  Obesity runs rampant and the large majority of Americans are overweight and out of shape.  We could ask the same question.  Why are we letting our future deteriorate without doing anything about it?  But we are doing a lot.  The wellness industry and diet industry and diet drug industry are investing  tens of billions of dollars if not trillions.  But we cannot ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: A Lean Leader strengthens the business by developing people through coaching process improvement at the gemba

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, March 3, 2012
A Lean Leader strengthens the business by developing people through coaching process improvement at the gemba. When we think of a traditional leader with adjectives like charismatic, decisive, visionary, inspiring, tough, bold, and transformational.  This is a western interpretation of the leader as the individual who changes the game, turns the company around, makes the tough decisions, and gets results, results, results.  When we see results, and especially when we see a turnaround in the performance of a company, it is the CEO who gets interviewed and talked about.  It is understandable that Western leaders have big egos since they are ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: You must balance the principle of “build to takt” with the principle of “heijunka,” and the principle of “respect for people.”

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, February 7, 2012
I appreciate this question from Jean-Baptiste Bouthillon who himself has become a serious student of lean and had to make decisions like this for his construction company.  I will start with his assumption that "production must follow the takt of customer demand."  It is always dangerous to take an ideal principle and turn it into a prescriptive statement.  "The ideal is working to achieve production to takt" is different then "thou shall always build to takt."  The ideal is a True North direction that you are working toward and you want it engrained into your DNA as it is a ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: What are they trying to achieve, what is the process to get there, what concrete actions are they taking

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, December 17, 2011
The obvious answer is that it depends.  Any of us who have had Japanese sensei had heard that a lot.  So what does it depend on.  First, it depends one the strategic business purpose of the organization--external.  Second, it depends on the organization's goals for people and culture development-internal.  Third, it depends on the current maturity of the organization to meet the business objectives.  In other words I would want to know what the executive is trying to achieve, how they are thinking about the process of getting there, and what concrete actions they are taking--the hows.   It is critical ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Developing the next generation of leaders

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2011
As Steve pointed out succession planning is the key, except that succession planning means different things in different organizational contexts.  Many large companies pride themselves on succession planning and have elaborate IT systems and human resources has developed formal career paths.  In a lean organization, if Toyota is any guide, these types of systems are only superficial for screening.  One of the problems with trying to transform a traditional organization to lean is in fact the way the senior management was developed.  They are often focused only on results and pay lip service to developing leaders who can follow a ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Lean provides the “hows” to the pursuit of perfection

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, September 11, 2011
In our recent book, The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement, we start the book by talking about the pursuit of excellence.  We came to the realization that talking about "leaning out processes" gives a mistaken image.  It is a mechanistic view of the world that gives the impression that lean is like going through a field with a weed whacker and cutting down the weeds.  Actually that is a good analogy because if you do this to your weeds they will simply grow back, and if you go around with tools and "lean out processes" entropy will set in and ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Dispel the myth of “lean will not work here”

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Friday, July 8, 2011
In our newest book,  The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement, the bulk are seven case studies of organizations very different from auto--health care, iron ore mining, heavy machinery, nuclear submarine overhaul and repair,  product development, nuclear fuel, and more.  Each tells the story from the sensei perspective of the process they went through to help the organization understand lean and develop the skills to make significant improvement.  Success ranged from a model line to a model mine to a model department.  These were all large organizations and none so far led to a transformed total organization on the way toward ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: there is no end point to lean success, only transformation leading to increased performance

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Friday, May 27, 2011
Great question!  We thought we might sneak in over the fence unnoticed with that one.  The reality is an Industry Week survey like that one, that purportedly measures achievement of results, is purely subjective and depends highly on what the "anticipated results" are as the question suggests.  It tells us little about the actual success of the lean programs.  We were using it as it was one easy to understand factoid that shows companies are struggling with their lean programs because of the way they view them and approach them so it was convenient.  Let us assume that they are ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Teamwork is not “work teams”

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, May 10, 2011
I had in interesting experience about fifteen years ago when we were doing research for a book about Japanese manufacturing in the U.S. (called Remade in America).  We were studying a Japanese auto supplier with overseas plants in the U.S.   One question we had was how the Japanese would bring teamwork to the American culture.  At the time there was a lot of discussion about the use of work groups in Japan--work groups that were part of quality circle programs, natural work groups on the shop floor with team leaders, collocated cross-functional teams in product development and so on.  In ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Resist your machine thinking!

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, April 2, 2011
One of the most common questions we are asked is how to sustain the gains once we have improved the process. A lot of work went into getting the process right in that carefully planned kaizen workshop, and it is certainly wasteful to see it slip back to where it was before the change. Unfortunately, the most common outcome of process improvements is slipping backward. Why does this occur? The problem is actually a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to sustain the gains. It goes back to our old friend machine thinking. When you make an improvement to a machine, you expect it to operate in the new ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: The lean philosophy for new technologies is simple, thin and flexible

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, March 12, 2011
Toyota thinks long-term about capital expenditures.  Not every expenditure has to have a specific payback and some may be pilots that are expected to have a long-term payoff.  For example, there were a lot of expenditures in the case of the first Prius for battery technology in a joint venture and for integrated circuits that did not have an immediate payback, but were investments in a core competence for the future.  Building a new plant, like the plant in Mississippi in the U.S. is also a long-term investment.  A new plant is considered a "child" and only has one simple ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Toyota’s response demonstrated the Toyota Way at its best

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, February 13, 2011
The events that led up to the Toyota recall crisis and all the false accusations about Toyota's ethics, concern for safety, and specific defects that cause sudden unintended acceleration were nothing short of bizarre.  As we look back at this ten years from now it will be interpreted as an Audi-like witch hunt that seems to happen mostly in the United States.  It had many of the same elements:  no underlying defect causing runaway cars, news investigations that stage sensational-looking acceleration events, ambulance-chasing attorneys licking their chops, and a foreign auto maker that was free game for the government and ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Lean opens new avenues for business results, but it sometimes hard to know in advance what those benefits will be

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, January 19, 2011
First, I want to reinforce Orry's points that there are short-term gains and long-term gains.  The most obvious short-term gains that many companies will accept are labor reductions and then only if you send these people out the door on layoff.  That is self defeating and will kill the incredible potential for operational excellence to change the business strategy.  In reality, even in companies that reduce labor significantly in percent terms it usually happens in scattered areas of the company so for the bottom line it does not have a big impact on total cost of the company.  Unless you ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: The essence of the Toyota Way is respect for people and continuous improvement

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I read Mike Rother's response and he gives an excellent  detailed explanation beyond which I will undertake.  I think there are two problems suggested by the question  First, the definition of lean as "eliminating waste" is inherently limiting.  Second, there is an implicit assumption that everything one should do should eliminate waste, and no activities should be undertaken that actually are not considered "value-added activities." These are both limiting assumptions.  Here are some examples of wasteful activities one would eliminate if we make these two assumptions: --all maintenance, especially preventative maintenance -- any inspection --any material handling --any accounting I could go on but you get ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: You set your objectives on what you are trying to accomplish

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The simple answer is based on the business needs.  A more complex answer is it depends.  Depends on what you ask?  What you are trying to accomplish.  That may sound tautological--you set your objectives based on your objectives.  Let me give an example.  When we started working with one furniture retailer it soon became clear that the CEO would judge lean based on ROI pure and simple.  Show him the money and we continue... or else game over.  In this case we worked on an operation that repaired damaged furniture and by doubling productivity saved the equivalent of $300,000 per ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Communicate clearly improvement expectations, with specific objectives and work with each manager to develop a plan

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, October 11, 2010
You said four very positive things in this question.  1)  You are the manager of the pilot site and you are taking responsibility for lean, 2) you are using a pilot site to gain experience and deep learning, 3) you have a lean sensei to teach you, and 4) the lean sensei is pushing you to delegate downward to get better sustainment.  Just by virtue of those four key points you are ahead of many companies that assign lean to a lean six sigma department to deploy broadly across the company with minimal ownership by management.  A good sensei will ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: the right IT system will bring us closer to one piece flow and support kaizen

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Friday, September 3, 2010
If we think of the material and information flow diagram then IT is dealing with the information flow.  When we physically transform a process by moving things around we are acting on the material flow. When we transform the information presented to help make decisions we are dealing with IT whether it is in the form of an empty space on the floor, a card, or something from a computer. The concept of value stream mapping is to design the material and information flow intentionally based on defined principles to achieve a clear business purpose.  One principle isthat one piece flow is the ideal.  Another is ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: The key to Jidoka: small span of control and a disciplined method of problem solving

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, August 21, 2010
"Jidoka" is not a single thing you implement.  It is one of the two main pillars of TPS.  Just-in-time is a complex set of tools, principles, and disciplines and Jidoka is certainly nothing less.  The original concept came from Sakichi Toyoda's loom that stopped itself when there was a quality problem, which also separated the operator from the machine, allowing operators to run multiple machines and do more value added work.  In modern Toyota plants it is often translated into the andon system of line stopping and quick response to problems one by one.  I think of it is building ...

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Jeff Liker: There are no particular tools that are better than others to get to continuous improvement.

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, July 18, 2010
In my new book in progress we talk of three levels of lean (inspired by David Meier).  The outer level of the sphere is proliferation of tools by the experts which by itself is a "lean facade."  This level is not sustainable.  If the experts teach managers the tools and they embrace and apply them they can get to the next level of "management as lean implementers."    This level is sustainable, but typically managers tend to be sporadic in making improvements "when they have time."  The best companies then advance to "continuous improvement by the work group."  The final step ...

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Jeff Liker: Can we positively influence Short-term transactional thinking?

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, July 11, 2010
Let's consider a company that we are working with that has already decided it needs lean to improve quality, productivity, and timeliness of delivery to the customer.  It happens to be a major retailer and they brought in an outside CEO to “professionalize” the business. The outside CEO is a financial guy who grew another similar business by several times.  He claimed to use lean, but it quickly became apparent that it was what we might call "fake lean" focused only on the tools.  What we mean by that is that he had a bunch of black belts certified ...

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Jeff Liker: Act Your Way To A New Culture

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, June 19, 2010
I always feel a little uncomfortable when a question begins with:  "How do you build a culture that does ____?"  As far as I know there is no lego set for building culture.  In the last chapter of our book Toyota Culture we quote Edgar Schein as saying: "Never start with the idea of changing your culture.  Always start with the issue the organization faces." Why would a leading cultural guru suggest we avoid changing culture?  I do not think he is saying culture does not matter or even that culture cannot change.  He is saying that culture is extremely difficult ...

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Jeff Liker: Lean Has a Short Half-Life Without Intense Involvement Of The CEO

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, June 10, 2010
One thing we know about lean is that you learn it by doing it, not by sitting in the office.   With all of the different types of organizations I have worked with I must admit that it has been rare to go with the CEO to the gemba.   They have not participated in kaizen activities, our meetings are in offices and board rooms, and in other cases I personally never met the CEO.  For the most part our contacts have only gone as high as the vice president level (engineering, continuous improvement, quality, operations).   That is a problem.  We have ...

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Jeff Liker: Lean is an Innovation in Thinking Which Will Foster Many Other Innovations

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I agree that many people get confused on the relationship between lean and innovation.  Steve Spear explained very well that underlying this is a confusion about what innovation is.  In reality the greatest innovators are disciplined thinkers who try incremental experiments one by one learning from each.  Thomas Edison was famous for his discipline and for learning from all his failed light bulbs before finally finding something that worked.  The something that worked represented accumulated learning from years of smaller experiments that proved incremental principles and that showed what does not work.  Unfortunately when we see the results of a ...

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Jeff Liker: Inventory Reflects Variation In the Process

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, April 22, 2010
One way to think about it is like a tight rope walker.  You would not want an amateur trying it without a net.  It takes a great deal of talent to earn you way to increasing the height and eventually eliminating the net.  The equation for calculating inventory in lean is pretty conventional--enough inventory to handle the replenishment time plus safety stock.  The amount of safety stock needed depends on how stable the consuming operation is and how stable the supplying operation is.  In other words, more variability means more need for inventory.  The goal of TPS is not zero ...

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Jeff Liker: Is Quality Central or Peripheral to Lean?

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, April 11, 2010
The most stunning accomplishment of Toyota over the last fifty years is their turnaround from making “junk” to virtually redefining quality in the auto industry.  They were influenced to the core by W. Edwards Deming and quality is evident everywhere in the company.  The objective of the Toyota Production System is presented as Quality, cost, delivery, safety and morale and any metric board in Toyota will include quality indicators. Every “lean consultant” or lean training course I know emphasizes quality.  In this sense I disagree with the questioner who claims lean focuses only on cost and efficiency.  On the other hand ...

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Jeff Liker: All Companies Need Problem Solving Tools Based On Deming’s PDCA

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, April 4, 2010
The relationship between lean and six sigma  is one of my favorite topics....Not!  It is fitting that this question came at Easter time which is famous for the Easter egg hunt.  Let's assume that lean eggs are red ones and  six sigma eggs are blue ones.  If you gather only the red eggs you will have an imbalance.  It will allow you to gather the eggs very quickly and efficiently but the red eggs are all different sizes and therefore there is a lot of variation.  On the other hand the blue eggs are very uniform so gathering some of ...

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Jeff Liker: The value of Trust – without safety in Toyota, nothing else matters

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, March 15, 2010
It is interesting to get a question as direct as this, especially coming from a management icon like Edgar Schein.  Notice that the question implies Toyota is not concerned about safety regardless of how one answers. In the current recall crisis certainly the stories formulated by the press paint a picture of an arrogant company that is secretive about safety test results and has put profits before safety.  That message has been reinforced by many outside observers citing secret memos and mountains of data about sudden acceleration incidents over a decade that were ignored until the U.S. Department of Transportation had ...

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Jeff Liker: Managers Should Be Teachers, Not Simply Controllers

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Friday, March 12, 2010
1.  Clearly define the work as much as possible In the Toyota Way I discuss the concept of standardization to enhance innovation.  A core idea in kaizen is that you cannot improve a process that is not stable.  If an individual makes changes on their own nobody else benefits and if that individual moves on the improvement is lost.  Group learning (as opposed to individual learning) depends on standardization.  I also refer to Paul Adler's distinction between enabling bureaucracy (assists those doing the work and engages them) versus coercive bureaucracy (like Taylorism poses outside constraints to control the person).  In Toyota ...

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Jeff Liker: Five “Why?” Not Five “Who?” – start pointing fingers and engagement is over

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Interestingly I just spoke to a Canadian manufacturing company today that supplies Toyota and has several years of experience implementing TPS. He said his biggest disappointment was the the culture still does not support surfacing problems.  People are afraid they will be blamed and they hide problems.  So this seems to be a generic problem across manufacturing and service.  When I interviewed the first head of human resources for the Georgetown, Kentucky plant (Japanese) he said what was most startling to him when he first came to America was that Americans did not like to say they had a problem.  ...

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Jeff liker: Can the Toyota Way become Self Sustaining?

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, February 10, 2010
You have some overweight friends and even children who eat junk food and do not exercise.  You discover a new fitness program that is the perfect blend of exercise and diet.  You enjoy what you are eating and you feel better than ever in your life.  You wish to share the wealth and convince your children and friends to follow that fitness program.  You manage to convince them to come to a “blitz” event at the fitness center where they introduce the training regime and you have a healthy meal.  They will then prescribe a diet and schedule biweekly exercise.  ...

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Jeff Liker: Toyota Recall and the Lean Movement

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, January 30, 2010
According to some reports there have been issues of unintended acceleration over a decade and Toyota should have responded much earlier.  According to my Toyota sources they have reports of unintended acceleration all the time and need to focus on systematic causes that they can actually verify and fix.  When customers complain about unintended acceleration the dealers check a code on what they work on (e.g., fixed pedal) and then if there is some pattern (e.g., a larger than expected number) Toyota will investigate. When they investigated earlier incidents they were not finding specific engineering design problems but complex interactions ...

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Jeff Liker: The Struggle to Inject Passion for Learning into Senior Executives

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, January 17, 2010
As one might expect from one of our most admired intellectual leaders of the learning organization movement, Peter Senge asks a penetrating, and in some ways painful question.  All of us who are writing for this lean blog are also lean advisors to organizations in some capacity.  We huff and we puff and we try to reorient the behavior and thinking of the organization to what we think of as the lean ideal.  In fact the one core principle that has brought us all together is that lean is about leadership and daily behavior, not a set of tools and ...

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Jeff Liker: Goal setting through Hoshin Kanri

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, January 7, 2010
The answer is a qualified yes.  In fact Toyota has an annual goal setting process called hoshin kanri and the office of the CFO is very involved in setting the financial targets for the corporation.  They are then cascaded down throughout the world at all levels and there are regular reviews of progress through the year.  They almost always hit the targets.  My qualification is that Toyota has worked really, really hard to develop the capability to deliver on those targets.  The key is the capability of the people and the process to deliver.  Toyota has invested heavily in that ...

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Jeff Liker: If the goal is excellence then people will be stretched and it will not always be pleasant.

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I just happened to be working on yet another book in the Toyota Way series when I got this question. The book, called The Toyota Way to Excellence, is about the journey to lean by organizations outside Toyota. Believe it or not I was in the midst of writing a section called "managing change is political." Politics is the use or abuse of power. Whether it is viewed as use or abuse depends on the perspective and interests of who is doing the viewing. To lean change agents who are trying to help the organization ...

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Jeff Liker: lean is not “mean”

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, December 6, 2009
In some ways the word "lean" was an unfortunate choice and in other ways a brilliant choice.  The intention was that a lean person is healthy in a holistic way--muscles in the right place, all organs functioning properly, able to hold up to intense exercise and even hostile environmental conditions.  It is a great metaphor for what the flexible, adaptable, solid to the core company should be like.  Company executives that treat lean as mean and use the tools to shed people, the source of the company's health, are either delusional or do not really care about how the company performs in ...

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