Learn From Success and Failure

Toyota’s Win That Wasn’t, an interview with, Matthew E. May, author of The Elegant Solution: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation:

Toyota had a goal of 15% of the U.S. market by 2010. They’ve exceeded that number three years earlier than anticipated. The assumptions didn’t include the Detroit implosion. I know that hansei–the Japanese word for reflection–is being conducted to better understand what happened. At Toyota, exceeding an expectation often receives the same treatment as missing an objective. There’s a need to understand why a gap occurred between what was supposed to happen and what actually happened. So the internal advantage is deeper learning and newly set goals, goals you can be certain will stretch the organization even more.

This illustrates an important point in how the PDSA improvement cycle should be used: results are studied to increase knowledge. If results exceed expectations that should not be a reason to avoid learning. If you only study what results tell you when results are unsatisfactory you can fall into the trap that “you only learn from failure.” I guess many people only learn from failure, since that phrase is so popular, but that method leaves plenty of room for others to learn faster than you thus gaining an advantage (a more effective method of learning). Don’t wait to fail to learn.

Related: Toyota Targets 50% Reduction in Maintenance Waste

One thought on “Learn From Success and Failure

  1. Having recently read “Getting the Right Things Done” PDCA is mentioned extensively in the planning cycles at Toyota and how the PDCA follows into the work area. Shingeo Shingo in “Continuous Improvement (Non-Stock Production)” said, “As Deming’s plan-do-check cycle demonstrates, the control function of management is missing in Western Management philosophies. Management functions must encompass plan, control, and check; the do function lies beyond the control function, and it is precisely in this process of control and do that many production problems arise. The lack of awareness of the control function is a major defect in production management in Europe and the United States.”

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