Insights from Jim Womack

Jim Womack provides great insights in a recent interview, Thought Leaders — Lean On Me:

All the Japanese car companies did the quality thing based on the Deming Prize criteria and so forth back in the 1960s and 70s. What that meant was, they tried to get from end-of-the-line inspection to inspection at the source. And they did a pretty good job on that, no question about it.

Toyota has a supplier management system that is still the best-in-class, and a good part of Toyota’s recent quality issue has been bringing in a whole bunch of non-Toyota traditional suppliers and trying to teach them the Toyota Management System, and they’re struggling because it turns out — and I should know this better than anybody, it’s what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years — it’s hard to get people to change old ways of thinking.

We’ve got now a nation full of kaizen consultants doing kaizen, and almost all of that kaizen would be unnecessary if the production process had been laid out the right way the first time, which is what Toyota does.

What we see is a lot of partially lean businesses but not much to show in the way of totally lean businesses, and I would say that Danaher probably comes the closest. So the prize is still out there to be gotten by somebody, and of course Toyota as they try to continue this breakneck ramp-up, which in some ways is not all that different from Boeing in 1998, except the problem here is the constraint is not suppliers but management. Can Toyota train enough young managers to understand its management methods to keep managing the way it’s managed that’s put it on top?

Most managers think that their greatest contribution to the business is doing workarounds on broken processes rather than doing the hard work to get the process right so it never breaks down so you don’t need to do workarounds.

Other posts discussing some of these ideas, and more: Management ImprovementFrom Lean Tools to Lean ManagementArticles by James WomackTransforming With LeanDeming’s thoughts on Management by John HunterDanaher Expands Lean Thinking One Acquisition at a Timeposts mentioning WomackNo More Lean ExcusesBetter and DifferentManagement Training Program

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