With apologies to Charles Dickens, but the opening line is just too good to resist…
The Best of Times
In this plant, the advance team is chaired and actively led by the most senior manager on the site. He is actively coaching, he is actively being coached. He is questioning his own learning, seeking council, and acting on it.
They are clear that, while there may be general guidelines, they must learn by trying and experimenting. They cannot simply deploy a roadmap because they can only see the next mile on a 1000 mile journey.
They see it as a method to shift their culture away from its “tell me what to do” legacy and toward one of an empowered workforce that takes initiative and works on the right things, the right way.
There is no doubt among the leadership team that this is the path forward.
They are starting to apply the language of the Improvement Kata informally in their meetings and discussions.
Overall, it seems a bit messy. But learning is like that.
The Other Site
The “implementation of Toyota Kata” is a directive from the corporate Continuous Improvement team.
The corporate team spends much of their energy developing and deploying templates, PowerPoint presentations, setting standards for the forms and the layout, lettering and colors on the improvement boards, and setting milestones.
They have published a step-by-step procedure for a site to implement Toyota Kata, based on their assumptions of what ought to work. None of them has actually led a change like this.
They are, in turn, working through the site continuous improvement team who is expected to execute to these standards.
The site leader receives weekly reports on progress. Training the managers and “implementing Toyota Kata” is the responsibility of one of the site’s continuous improvement staffers. The site leader questions him using the 5 Questions each week, and issues direction in response to the answers.
It is the continuous improvement practitioner who is responsible for motivating the members of the management team to challenge their own processes and develop their improvement boards. A significant number of them are questioning the need or purpose of this exercise.
Unfortunately I run into the second case far more often than I see the first. But the story is decades old. That is how we did Six Sigma, kaizen events, Theory of Constraints, Total Quality Management. In each case we have separated the deployment of a core change in the way we manage operations from the responsibility for actually managing.
This TED talk by Tim Harford actually sums up the difference pretty well:
But beyond what works, and what doesn’t, we also have to ask “Which approach is respectful of people?”
What are the underlying assumptions about the people at the gemba when “standards” are established thousands of miles away, published, and then audited into place?
Why do they feel they must tell people exactly what to do?
What do they feel is lacking on the site? Competence? or Clarity?