Managing work to see problems when and where they occur is a
necessary precondition–one too often overlooked–if an organization
is going to achieve bona fide continuous improvement in pursuit of
Absent an ability to design perfect systems for design, production,
and delivery on the first try, operational excellence depends on
continuous improvement and relentless innovation. As important as it
is to have rigor in solving problems, the necessary pre condition is
managing work so problems—flaws in the current design of systems and
the current approaches to doing work–are seen when and where they
Deming, for example, was a passionate advocate of the ‘Shewhart
Cycle’ of Plan, Do, Check, Act–in effect bringing the scientific
method from the laboratory into the workplace.
However, for all the discipline he encouraged in solving problems,
Deming was exceptionally committed to clarifying when a problem was
Doing nothing was preferable to ‘tweaking,’ –an irrigorous
application of change in response to normal variation, not bona fide
departures. At least doing nothing left the process mean and
variance unchanged. Tweaking makes both worse. Hence, while most
famous for statistical process control, Deming had many other
examples to show how tweaking made things worse, not better.
Toyota too built a management system on the criticality of seeing
problems as precursors to solving them. Pillars of the Toyota temple
are Just In Time, on the one side, and Jidoka, on the other. As I
point out in The High Velocity Edge, Just In Time, widely credited to
Ohno, encompasses a number of approaches to integrating disparate
process-component pieces into a well-balanced, synchronized whole.
Mostly overlooked, in practice outside of Toyota, is jidoka, a
concept with roots back to Toyota founder, Sakichi Toyoda. While
jidoka has acquired a whole host of screw ball interpretations–
automation with a human touch, for instance–the key concept is that
work stop the moment a problem develops both so the effects can be
contained and also so the problem can be investigated immediately.
Toyoda was inspired to develop this approach from seeing women
fruitlessly weave defective fabric, in his hometown, because they did
not know a thread had broken on the loom. The first jidoka was in
looms that would stop, indicating which strand needed to be
rethreaded. The concept was generalized so that all types of work
call at problems.
As I mentioned above, jidoka is an unfortunately overlooked element
of effective process design.
When first researching Toyota and lean in the ’95-’96 time frame, I
found some 28 hundred articles when searching on the key words of
lean, pull, JIT, kaizen, etc. When searching on jidoka,
autonomation, and the like? Less than a handful.
In practice, there seems to be an equally unbalanced approach to
process design and the inclusion of ‘built in tests’ to indicate
where the process design is flawed.
Write a comment
You need to login to post comments!