Kaizen - Under Your Nose - Just Stop to Smell the Flowers
Recent article from the New Yorker discusses how Toyota offers up their continuous improvement system to anyone, going so far as to teach GM and UAW employees...and how we have failed to see why it works by failing to redefine how we think about innovation.
Two notable quotes in this article:
"Fortune, which typically praises the company effusively, has labeled it “stodgy and bureaucratic.” But if Toyota doesn’t look like an innovative company it’s only because our definition of innovation—cool new products and technological breakthroughs, by Steve Jobs-like visionaries—is far too narrow. Toyota’s innovations, by contrast, have focused on process rather than on product, on the factory floor rather than on the showroom. That has made those innovations hard to see. But it hasn’t made them any less powerful.
Toyota’s innovative methods may seem mundane, but their sheer relentlessness defeats many companies. That’s why Toyota can afford to hide in plain sight: it knows the system is easy to understand but hard to follow."
This is one of the beautiful things about "old, traditional methods" we find in U.S. management theory. The old stuff works, if only we are relentless in our discipline when it comes to engaging people in the daily identification and elimination of waste. Training Within Industry J-programs are aimed at precisely that task and target the frontline defense in leading the charge against waste.
The unfortunate side of western management is that we take these large steps forward, thinking we are being innovative, when we haven't done the due diligence in operations to insure the process is stable in the first place. Rather, we focus on large financial or technological gains, and then wonder why it all falls apart in the long term.