Two pillars of lean
Toyota president Gary Convis:
The Toyota Way can be briefly summarized through the two pillars that support it: Continuous Improvement and Respect for People. Continuous improvement, often called kaizen , defines Toyota's basic approach to doing business. Challenge everything. More important than the actual improvements that individuals contribute, the true value of continuous improvement is in creating an atmosphere of continuous learning and an environment that not only accepts, but actually embraces change. Such an environment can only be created where there is respect for people hence the second pillar of the Toyota Way.
And from Toyota CEO Katsuaki Watanabe:
The Toyota Way has two main pillars: continuous improvement and respect for people. Respect is necessary to work with people. By "people" we mean employees, supply partners, and customers. ...We don't mean just the end customer; on the assembly line the person at the next workstation is also your customer. That leads to teamwork. If you adopt that principle, you'll also keep analyzing what you do in order to see if you're doing things perfectly, so you're not troubling your customer. That nurtures your ability to identify problems, and if you closely observe things, it will lead to kaizen continuous improvement. The root of the Toyota Way is to be dissatisfied with the status quo; you have to ask constantly, "Why are we doing this?"
Lean Goal: Sustainably Deliver Value Fast
Broadly, the global or system goal of lean thinking at Toyota is to go from "concept to cash" or "order to cash" as fast as possible at a sustainable pace to quickly deliver things of value (to the customer and society) in shorter and shorter cycle times of all processes, while still achieving highest quality and morale levels. Toyota strives to reduce cycle times, but not through cutting corners, reducing quality, or at an unsustainable or unsafe pace; rather, by relentless continuous improvement, that requires a company culture of meaningful respect for people in which people feel they have the personal safety to challenge and change the status quo.
Lean Foundation: Lean Thinking Manager-Teachers
One of the most important things is that most new employees first go through several months of education before starting other work. During this period they learn the foundations of lean thinking, they learn to see 'waste' and they do hands-on work in many areas of Toyota.
In this way, new Toyota people...
• learn to "see the whole"
• learn to see how lean thinking applies in different domains
• learn kaizen mindset (continuous improvement)
• appreciate a core principle in Toyota called Go See and gemba
Go See means people especially managers are expected to "go see with their own eyes" rather than sit behind desks or believe that the truth can be learned only from reports or numbers. It is related to appreciating the importance of gemba going to the physical frontline place of value work where the hands-on value workers are.
From this, we came especially to appreciate that for successful adoption of lean, there are management qualities needed for any meaningful, sustained success the leadership team cannot "phone in" their lean support.
Toyota is one of few companies that seems to demonstrate these qualities; to summarize
• Long-term philosophy—many in the company are educated in lean thinking through courses and mentoring from manager-teachers.
• Long-term philosophy—virtually all management, including the executive level, must have a solid understanding of lean principles, have lived them for years, and teach them to others.
• Long-term philosophy—manager-teachers have cultivated systems thinking and process-improvement problem-solving thinking skills, and they teach it to others. The culture is imbued with the mentality and behavior, "Let's stop and understand the root causes of problems."
Pillar One: Respect for People
Respect for people sounds nebulous, but includes concrete actions and culture within Toyota. They broadly reflect respect for and sensitivity to morale, not making people do wasteful work, real teamwork, mentoring to develop skillful people, humanizing the work and environment, safe and clean environment, and philosophical integrity among the management team.
The 11th agile principle and a theme in Scrum is self-organizing teams (self-directed work teams), supporting this pillar
Pillar Two: Continuous Improvement
Continuous improvement is based on several ideas:
Go See is a principle not found in many management cultures. This principle is described as critical and fundamental. In the internal Toyota Way 2001 it is highlighted as the first factor for success in continuous improvement. Go See shows up repeatedly in Toyota manager quotes, in Toyota culture and habits, in education on the Toyota Way, and in the research done by Japanese analysts of lean thinking. All that said, it is missing from some derivative 'lean' descriptions and so unfortunately some are unaware of its vital role. In a lean-thinking culture, all people, but especially managers including senior managers should not spend all their time in separate offices or meeting rooms, receiving information via reports, computers, management reporting tools, and status meetings.
Rather, to know what is going on and help improve (by eliminating the distortion that comes from indirect information), management should frequently go to the place of real work and see and understand for themselves. This "real front-line place of work" (gemba) does not mean proximity to the building where work happens, nor does it mean going to visit other managers. It implies to be as physically close to the real front-line work as possible—not sitting in an office nearby, but "breathing the same air." 'Work' in lean does not primarily mean the overhead or secondary work of accounting and so on, but the value-adding work that the customer cares about—engineering, designing a car, producing things, delivering customer service.
Kaizen is sometimes translated as simply "continuous improvement" but that confuses it with the broader lean pillar of "continuous improvement" and does not capture the full flavor.
Kaizen is both a personal mindset and a practice. As a mindset, it suggests "My work is to do my work and to improve my work" and "continuously improve for its own sake." More formally as a practice, kaizen implies:
1. choose and practice techniques the team and/or product group has agreed to try, until they are well understood
2. experiment until you find a better way
3. repeat forever
Five Whys (usually written 5 Whys) is a simple and widely used tool used in kaizen. It helps develop problem solving and root cause analysis skills. In response to a problem or defect, a team considers "why?" at least five times.
In Scrum there is a retrospective workshop each iteration. This is an excellent time for a team to try 5 Whys. The important point of 5 Whys is not the technique or the number 5, but that it is part of the "stop and fix" root-cause problem-solving mindset and culture pervasive at Toyota. People are taught to become deep problem solvers; to not live with problems, but to think things through deeply. There is also a connection between Go See and 5 Whys: It is easy for people to guess wrong or weak answers unless they see the facts at the real place of the problem.
Value and Waste
What to improve during kaizen? In lean thinking the answer requires an understanding of value and waste.
Value— The moments of action or thought creating the product that the customer is willing to pay for. In other words, value is defined in the eyes of the external customer. Imagine a customer was observing the work in your office. At what moments would they be willing to reach into their pocket, pull out money, and give it to you?
Waste— All other moments or actions that do not add value but consume resources. Wastes come from overburdened workers, bottlenecks, waiting, handoff, wishful thinking, and information scatter, among many others.
No Final Process
The implication of kaizen and spread knowledge laterally is that there is not a final or correct 'defined' process to follow everywhere that is communicated from a central process group. Kaizen does include learning and mastering working agreements, but they travel and evolve by the spread knowledge laterally model.
People who have the mindset "let's define (or buy) the central process, write it down, and then we should focus on conformance to it" will not be comfortable with lean thinking. To quote the Toyota CEO, "The root of the Toyota Way is to be dissatisfied with the status quo; you have to ask constantly, "Why are we doing this?"
Lean and agile values and the Scrum method are based on the idea of empirical process: there is no fixed or final process or cookbook that people can follow given the reality of dynamically changing systems, and given the goal of continuous improvement. Instead, in Scrum we are left with the hard work of kaizen—to relentlessly, every two-week iteration, inspect and adapt the process and create yet another "two-week process experiment." In Toyota and in Scrum, the idea is to repeat this cycle until retirement.
- Ohno, T., 1988. The Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-scale Production, Productivity Press
- Poppendieck, M., Poppendieck, T., 2006. Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash, Addison-Wesley
- Craig Larman and Bas Vodde,
|Scaling Lean & Agile Development: Thinking and Organizational Tools for Large-Scale Scrum , 2008, Addison Wesley Professional|