Standardization, Simplicity and Supervisors

In response to my post, "Message to Gov't: What the...?", Anonymous said:

"For JI you are correct that Toyota does not use much "high" technology but when I toured the place w/ Mike Hoseus I saw a little training area where each work station had a laptop w/ a video and work instructions in place to teach basic skills like using an air gun. I understand they have 3000 such videos standardized across the organization. Technology has its place but should be used with wisdom."

Well said, Anonymous, could not agree with you more.

And where did that wisdom come from? What you describe in that workstation is the result of an evolution of standardization and improvement spanning decades within Toyota. In contemplating the possible side effects of having 3000 standardized training videos in a typically large western organization, the possible downsides are countless. Why? Because many jobs are not standardized to begin with. Yet, for some reason, we try this standardized training approach without first considering if standardization and stability exist in the first place.

Why doesn't standardization exist? Your airgun example is a good one. In some organizations, the choice of tools is up to the person doing the job. So, what purpose would a video serve in this situation? More problems would arise out of the use of the video of an unaccepted standard. Angst, grumbling, distrust, contempt, safety, etc., would result from the passive aggressive (sometimes just aggressive) behavior people have towards those imposing standards on them. The same problems would appear if we were talking about materials, machines and methods.

Many organizations have engineers and supervisors who will make the decision about standardization. A common problem here is that these people do not understand the job to begin with, so their choices regarding stability and standardization are faulty, compounding the problem above.

So let's assume the management expressed their desire to have stability in the process through standardization of tools, materials, machines, methods, etc. Who will carry out these wishes? Ultimately, the people closest to the job know it best, but the good practices they create must be shared with others. A supervisor is in the best position to facilitate this effort. Together, they can decide what is best today, and standardize it. And the determinations they make must be done with purpose: What problems (QCDS) are solved through standardization? We gain stability.

But does your supervisor have the capability to do so? This is what the three J-skills aim to provide. A simple way to get at the problem of standardization.

Assuming some level of standardization is gained, what is next? The supervisor needs to check results. Why? Because standardization has an enemy - chaos. Its like matter and anti-matter. Oil and water. Superman and Bizarro-World Superman. Any effort to create order is eventually countered by disorder - the workplace and process degrade over time - for an infinite number of reasons. Basic natural laws exist in the workplace as well - if anyone can put their finger on this formula - well - congratulations, you are a genius!

The only way to counter chaos in the workplace is to throw oneself into the improvement cycle - ultimately, it is the only way. And if you have non-standardized methods, tools, and workplace practices - JI is a great place to start - DON'T start with videos of non-standardized things.

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