“You are a fool if you do what I say. You are a greater fool if you don’t do as I say. You should think for yourself and come up with better ideas than mine.”
The best examples of Lean in healthcare are examples where leaders and organizations learned, but did not blindly copy. Sami Bahri DDS (the “lean dentist”) read Deming, Shingo, Ohno, etc. and had to figure this out himself, rather than copying some other dentist.
ThedaCare is the first to say “don’t directly copy what we do.”
We can learn from others, run our own experiments to see what works, and keep improving to make it better than even Ohno or Shingo would have imagined.
Toyota nearly went bankrupt near 1950 and had to lay off a third of their employees. A huge focus of the Toyota Production System as envisioned by Taiichi Ohno was to secure the long term success of the company. The priority of doing so is easier to see when you respect people and are in danger of witnessing the destruction of their careers.
I can’t find the quote (maybe Jon Miller, or someone else, can provide one), but I recall one along the lines of the first priority of management is providing long term viability of the company (my sense is this is first due to the respect of the workers and also for all the other stakeholders). The respect for people principle requires executive put the long term success of employees at the top of their thinking when making decisions for the company. I don’t believe it is a ranked list I believe there are several things right at the top that can’t be compromised (respect for people, safety of society, support for customers…).
This means innovating (Toyota Management System, Toyota Prius, Toyota Robots, Lexus brand, etc.) and seeking growth and profit with long term safety that does not risk the failure of the company. And it means planning for the worst case and making sure survivability (without layoffs etc.) is nearly assured. Only when that requirement is met are risks allowed. You do not leverage your company to put it at risk of failure in dire economic conditions even if that would allow you to be more profitable by various measures today. And you certainly don’t leverage just to take out big paychecks for a few short term thinkers.
The economic situation today is extremely uncertain. The whole eurozone financial situation is very questionable. The government debt burden in the USA and Japan is far too high (and of course Europe). China is still far from being a strong economy (they are huge, fast growing and powerful but it is still fairly fragile and risky).
The failures in the current financial system have not been addressed. Band-aids were applied to provide welfare to the largest 30 financial institutions in the form of hundreds of billions or trillions in aid. The system was left largely untouched. It is hard to imagine a more textbook example of failing to fix the causes and just treating the symptoms. This leaves a huge financial risk poised to cause havoc.
The difference between respect and disrespect is not avoiding avoiding criticism. In fact often if you respect someone you can be much more direct and critical than you can with someone you treat as though they don’t have the ability to listen to hard truths and improve. I think we often have so little respect for people we just avoid dealing with anything touchy because we don’t want to risk they won’t be able to react to the issues raised and will instead just react as if they have been personally attacked.
he had such a high expectation of the staff and managers under him. If they were not doing something the right way, he would explode. And when he exploded, he really would explode.
But for those who came to him and really asked for help, he was very patient. He wouldn’t give them the answer, but preferred to provide them with enough of an understanding of the situation, as well as help on how they could deal with the problem. So he was very much a teacher and a leader.
I would say that while Taiichi Ohno was truly remarkable that doesn’t mean he did everything right. And he might well have failed to communicate in a way that conveyed respect for people fully, when he exploded. He was great, but his methods could also be improved. At the same time some extent showing some fire may be helpful at times to get people to take things seriously (avoiding the need for this is even better, but not everything will be done as well as it possible can be). Continue reading →
I understand that most managers feel that their employees should not bring them problems. Instead, expressed in the most positive way, employees should fix things or bring possible improvements. However, I think that is poor management.
I understand there may well be more detail than you provide that adds a more sensible (but more complex) reaction that stated in your post about your situation. However, there are many example, of bosses that expect their people not to bring them “bad news” not to bring them “problems” and that attitude is exactly wrong in my opinion.
What they are saying is: if you know of a problem but don’t know of a solution I would rather have my company continue to have that problem than admit some of my staff don’t know how to fix it (and then have to deal with it myself – maybe then having to accept responsibility for results instead of just blaming you if I am never told and there is a problem later…). I think that is setting exactly the wrong expectations.
Employees should fix things. They should bring solutions to managers to improve things that might be out of their ability to fix. But if they know of a problem and not a solution and a manager tells the employee they don’t want to be brought problems then I don’t want that manager.
If an employee never learns how to find possible solutions themselves that is not a good sign. But it is much, much better to bring problems to managements attention than to fail to do so because they know the manager thinks that doing so is weak. It is the attitude that problems are not to be shared that is weak, in my opinion.
Workplace Management by Taiichi Ohno is an excellent management book. Taiichi Ohno is known as the father of the Toyota Production System (TPS), also called lean manufacturing. He dictated the text to the Japan Management Association (in a series of interviews in 1982), which gives the book a sense of listening to him talk about the ideas. I found the conversational tone made it very easy to read and reminiscent of Dr. Deming’s tone in many places.
Ohno focused a great deal on the faulty perceptions derived from cost accounting thinking. He discussed the importance of not letting your understanding be clouded by thinking with the accounting mindset. “If you insist on blindly calculating individual costs and waste time insisting that this is profitable of that is not profitable, you will just increase the cost of your low volume products. For this reason there are many cases in this world where companies will discontinue car models that are actually profitable, but are money losers according to their calculations. Likewise, there are cases where companies sell a lot of model that they think is profitable but in fact are only increasing their loses.” page 32
Another area covered in the book is the whole concept of one piece flow (with quick changeovers of equipment, just in time, small lot production…). This is one of the true innovations within the Toyota Production System. I don’t think this book alone can convey how it works and why it is important but this book does a good job of giving another take on these ideas, from the person most responsible for making it work at Toyota.
The book is full of wonderful quotes including:
“There is a sequence for implementing automation that must be followed, even though it is hard. Automation just for its own sake is a problem.” page 81
“If you are observing every day you ought to be finding things you don’t like, and rewriting the standard immediately. Even if the document hanging here is from last month this is wrong.” page 125 Continue reading →
Jon Miller has been posting thoughts on chapters of Gemba Keiei by Taiichi Ohno for quite some time. His latest post in on chapter 23 (of 37): Producing at the Lowest Possible Cost. The series of posts provide great doses of management wisdom. As he said in the first post: “As I re-read this book in the original Japanese, I will summarize the nuggets of wisdom from each chapter in Mr. Ohno’s book.”Some great examples, If You Are Wrong, Admit It:
If you fancy yourself a Lean thinker go ahead and test your beliefs the next time you think you are right. If you are wrong, admit it. Make Mr. Ohno proud.