Harvard Business Review - Toyota Contradictions Article

Great look at the new book recently released, Extreme Toyota. The HBR description:

"Toyota has become one of the world's greatest companies only because it developed the Toyota Production System, right? Wrong, say Takeuchi, Osono, and Shimizu of Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. Another factor, overlooked until now, is just as important to the company's success: Toyota's culture of contradictions. TPS is a "hard" innovation that allows the company to continuously improve the way it manufactures vehicles. Toyota has also mastered a "soft" innovation that relates to human resource practices and corporate culture. The company succeeds, say the authors, because it deliberately fosters contradictory viewpoints within the organization and challenges employees to find solutions by transcending differences rather than resorting to compromises. This culture generates innovative ideas that Toyota implements to pull ahead of competitors, both incrementally and radically. The authors' research reveals six forces that cause contradictions inside Toyota. Three forces of expansion lead the company to change and improve: impossible goals, local customization, and experimentation. Not surprisingly, these forces make the organization more diverse, complicate decision making, and threaten Toyota's control systems. To prevent the winds of change from blowing down the organization, the company also harnesses three forces of integration: the founders' values, "up-and-in" people management, and open communication. These forces stabilize the company, help employees make sense of the environment in which they operate, and perpetuate Toyota's values and culture. Emulating Toyota isn't about copying any one practice; it's about creating a culture. And because the company's culture of contradictions is centered on humans, who are imperfect, there will always be room for improvement."

Order the online HBR article pdf for $6.50 instead of $15 at the newstand.

Everything Toyota does is so that people can deal with contradictions in the workplace. For genba leaders a good example of this is determining if there is a deviation from standard (a contradiction).

Readers of the latest Shingo book, Kaizen and The Art of Creative Thinking - The Scientific Thinking Mechanism, will recognize the "contradiction" theme in the HBR article. Shingo does a great job of simply teaching people how to break complex problems down in to simple parts, so that we can clearly see the contradictions that are at the root of our problems.

One example of contradictions in TWI is found in JM. One key element of Job Methods training is a teaching people how to adopt a questioning attitude through intense, direct observation. Only then is a person encouraged to look at the analyze the facts and finally begin to develop countermeasures to problems that prevent us from meeting standards. This approach contradicts an approach of band-aiding and jumping to conclusions.

Another example is the purpose of Job Instruction. When most people hear the words "instruction", the first thing that comes to mind is OJT. JI is an excellent form of OJT. But even during the war, JI was considered a program that "helped people solve production problems that involved people" OJT, via the JI program, was the delivery vehicle for this problem solving approach.

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