Team Preparation for a Shingijutsu Seminar

If you are planning on attending (or sending people to) a Shingijutsu Seminar, I have a word of wisdom: Prepare.

Just sending people cold and expecting great things from the experience will, at best, give you a fraction of the potential learning. At worst it can turn people off completely. Here is a little advice:

Read my post on “Getting a Plant Tour

Everything there applies here. Don’t be “industrial tourists.”

Groups are Better than Individuals

Even two people together are better than one alone. Not to say that an individual is going to get nothing, but when there are others to debrief the day and share learnings I think that interaction contributes a great deal to quality of the experience. It also provides a degree of insurance against the possibility of being assigned alone, or with a handful of “singles” to a large team composed of people from the same company. While that is by no means a disaster, it is probably a little easier if there is some assured mutual support rather than counting on finding it there with people you just met – and who may have their own rigorous agendas.

The Basics

It is important to have an certain level of comfort with the basics:

  1. Understand the fundamentals of standard work.
  2. Know how to use a stopwatch and a time observation sheet.
  3. Know how to build a standard work combination sheet, and what it is for.
  4. Understand what takt time is, what cycle time is (and the difference).
  5. Know how to build a work balance chart.

They teach all of these things in the first day lecture, but (trust me) the more you know before you get there, the better you will be able to follow what they are teaching.

A Theoretical Base

Once again, the more you know before you go, the better. Even if you are working a complete implementation, it works well if your team is focused on a specific aspect of learning. Since everything in the system is inter-connected anyway, this does not limit your experience, it just focuses it.

Whatever your chosen topic, have the team members to some research and study, make presentations, and generally gain a level of understanding. This will help everyone make sense of what they see and hear in Japan since they will at least have a context for it.

Touring Toyota

Generally, one of the features of these trips is a tour of a Toyota plant. The tour is the same 50 minute tour everyone gets, there is nothing special. In fact, on this last trip, we were asked to leave our Shingijutsu name tags and any Shingijutsu-specific materials on the bus – not sure why, but I can speculate.

Rather than everyone just getting the tour, here is how to make the most of it.

Assign four sub-teams. Each one is focusing on a specific aspect of what you will see.

  1. Standard work / the flow of people.
  2. Pull and the flow of materials.
  3. Tools and gadgets that make the work easier, assure quality (poka-yoke) – technical kaizens
  4. The flow of problems – the andon system and the response.

It is good to get the theoretical base in these things before you depart, so people have some idea what to expect. This is the Plan of Plan-Do-Check-Act. They are establishing a “should be happening” in their minds. Doing so will focus their observations. Whatever they see will either confirm what they think should be happening, or will contradict it. Either way, they will remember much better.

After the tour, each sub-team should debrief themselves, then report to the larger group what they saw and what they learned.

Note that this doesn’t mean that people focused on, say, kanban would ignore andon and line stops. Quite the contrary. The system is highly inter-connected. But having focus helps people see.

Get a Custom Experience

This is a bit of an advanced topic, and perhaps is a little redundant. I say that because if you know how to arrange this, you already know what I am going to say here. The boilerplate seminars are probably not the best solution if you know what you want. If you have a client relationship with either of the Shingijutsu’s, they have proven agreeable to setting up a custom experience. This is especially true for top-level leadership teams and advanced topical training.

Shingijutsu is not the end-all

It is true – Shingijutsu, especially some senior individuals, can be a challenge to deal with. There are other consultants today who have the connections and contacts to arrange the “Japan” experience. I have no personal experience, so cannot specifically advise, but some have quite good reputations. Still, I would strongly advise performing your due-diligence, and ensuring you still have good preparation. I would also advise having someone on your staff, or someone you trust, who knows the business do some of the vetting for you.

Another option is that there are independent consultancies who have relationships with Shingijutsu. Frankly, mere association with Shingijutsu, and even using “Shingijutsu” in the name does not assure quality or competency, but they are out there, have the relationships, and might be able to get you started.

6 thoughts to “Team Preparation for a Shingijutsu Seminar”

  1. Hi Rob, thanks for reading!

    When I refer to a Shingijutsu Seminar I am talking about their public kaizen events held at one of their clients in Japan. The purpose of these events is primarily teaching the people who pay to participate about the basics.

    It is one of the ways they teach kaizen to a large audience.

    In that respect, a Shingijutsu Kaizen Seminar is a sub-set, a specialized application of the more general art of kaizen.

    Although the thinking is consistent (if it is done well), kaizen takes many forms. Sometimes it is quick, solving a small problem and saving a few seconds.

    Any other readers – feel free to chime in here!

  2. Scott –
    I wish that question had a “yes” or “no” answer.
    First, the quality of “existing US consultants” ranges all over the map from “Very Good” to “Charlatans.” In the middle of the pack are the ones who claim expertise in “lean manufacturing” and set to work teaching everyone the system as “a set of tools.”

    The ones who are very good are the ones who understand the daily management and problem solving processes are actually the system. There are very few of these, and even fewer really make it their business to teach it.

    Why? Because, from a consultant’s viewpoint, actually changing management thinking and behavior is incredibly difficult compared to teaching people the technical, physical aspects of the system.

    So the first thing you have to evaluate is your alternative – the “existing U.S. consultant.”

    As for Shingijutsu – a lot depends on the individual consultant, and even more depends on the attitude and approach of the client. Shingijutsu’s strength is in pushing the team to go beyond their self-imposed barriers and try things they might not have otherwise tried. *IF* the organization takes this as a learning experience, rather than treating each Shingijutsu activity as separate, then the learning can advance very quickly.

    The other aspect to success with Shingijutsu is preparation. The post above talks about preparation to go to one of their seminars, but preparation to host them is probably even more important.

    Sadly, most organizations do the opposite. They schedule Shingijutsu into their site, but apply little or no thought to what they are trying to get done. The Shingijutsu consultant ends up telling the team things that the organization already knows, but has simply chosen not to do yet.

    Shingijutsu consultants, as a rule, will assess your situation (very quickly), and instruct on the next step. It does not matter what you know, only what they can see you have done. If you haven’t done it, they will tell you to do it. So if you haven’t done a good job organizing the work place, guess what? You are going to spend the first couple of days doing 5S. If you haven’t made any attempt to get basic flow into place, you are going to do that.

    Here is the bottom line: All consultants have strengths and weaknesses. But *NONE* of them can do the work for you. Eventually any organization will either reach the point where they have out-grown their current consultant *or* they will reach a plateau and the consultant will keep coming and doing the same thing over and over.

    Sorry this wasn’t a clear answer, but I would really need to see and assess your organization myself (genchi genbutsu!) to give a straight recommendation.

  3. Hi Mark,

    Would love to speak with you via phone regarding your experience. I’m considering something like this for 2008 either with Jon’s Gemba or with Shingijutsu. You have my email, please let me know when you can speak.

    Pete Abilla

  4. Please check us out if you are thinking of doing a Shingijutsu Japan tour. While they do a great job, I believe we offer a greater amount of customization and application. I live in Japan and have access to over 70 companies in many industries. I also know what it’s like to do Lean in both the East and the West. If nothing else your boss would be pleased to see you did the due diligence on cost and quality.

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