Fives on the Mind

Five is your new favorite number. Add a Y, S or N after the five. Trust me on this.

Lets start with the five whys (5Y). Do I need to elaborate on the importance of this? Read the section of Toyota Way Field book on causal chain and then go use it. And please don't stop at five just because it is five.

How about the five esses (5S)? The 5S' embody the very simple basics of workplace organization, improvement and building self discipline.

But don't start with either of these, they will come soon enough. You need to start with the Five Needs of every leader (5N).

What are the 5N?

The 5N can be separated into two basic needs: knowledge needs and skill needs. The knowledge needs can be parsed again into:
  1. Knowledge of the Work
  2. Knowledge of Responsibilities
Leaders must acquire this knowledge. By acquiring this knowledge, leaders can earn respect, grasp the situation more easily when problems do arise and can take prudent steps that are aligned with the organizations culture.

I mention these first needs because I have recently taken on a new role as Director of Quality in a manufacturing company. To say that I need to acquire these two packets of knowledge is the understatement of the New Year. But acquire them I must. The next question is then, what to do with the knowledge that I acquire over time?

Experienced leaders know that they have three other needs:
  1. Skill of Instruction
  2. Skill of Improving Methods
  3. Skill of Leading
In the TWI approach, the skill of instruction is learned through Job Instruction. In my new role, I've asked people in the genba to train me in the job in order to better understand the work and problems that they encounter (knowledge need). Since I've been practicing Job Instruction for several years now, I can also evaluate the company's training effectiveness, its efficiency and other strengths and gaps. Interestingly, there is a direct tie between the 5N and 5S. In Job Instruction, we learn about the "Get Ready" steps of instruction. Two of the steps are to determine if everything is available for work: 1) machines, materials, tools, etc., and 2) is the workplace organized the way the person is expected to maintain it - even during work. Sounds like 5S to me!

Next is the skill of improving methods. It is said that Ohno wasn't satisfied with Job Methods when it was introduced to Japan in the 1950's but that he retained the "questioning method" that was learned in the program. You may be surprised that another "five" reveals itself in Job Methods: 5W1H. Perhaps this odd five-plus-one is best expressed in Rudyard Kiplings' poem:

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
O.k., there is a sixth wheel here! But, the answers to 'how' often lead to many improvements. The Job Methods questioning method of 5W1H will bring the leader to many systemic improvements. It is the 5Y questioning method, however, that can allow deep insight - in probably the simplest manner ever devised - to millions of workplace problems today. Incidentally, there is a definite order to the questioning method in Job Methods, it starts with a simple question: "What is the purpose?" and then is followed by a relentless stream of why's until the questioner is satisfied. This gets people thinking about elimination (not needed if purpose is irrelevant) rather than streamlining waste and jumping to false conclusions.

Interestingly enough, the many little jobs I'm learning through Job Instruction can be snapped together like legos and eventually build up into a bigger process that can be analyzed and improved through Job Methods. In other words, as we learn the TWI job skills first, we begin to see how the five needs begin to work together with the five whys and the five esses...

With the skill of leading, learned through Job Relations, leaders aim to maintain and improve cooperation and workplace relations. This is done through the lens of improving problems of production, quality, cost and morale. It is not a stretch to see how improving workplace instruction, methods, organization and increasing problem solving skills can tackle all four problems listed. Where does Job Relations come into the picture? There are a few ways. First, by acquiring the knowledge of responsibilities we are better equipped to lead and maintain good relations. Second, when we talk about stabilizing the process through better instruction of standards, improving methods, machines, materials and environment - what we are really doing is changing the culture of the organization. Job Relations helps the leader help others through the change.

Do we need a huge toolbox to operate daily? Sure, there are a lot of nifty tools out there, but if everybody had a case of the fives - whoa, look out! Yep, I've got a bad case of the fives - and thank goodness there isn't a cure!
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