by Greg West, Farthing West Chief Brilliance Officer
“Brilliant process management is our strategy. We get brilliant results from average people managing brilliant processes. We observe that our competitors often get average (or worse) results from brilliant people managing broken processes.”
– Mr Cho: President Toyota)
Over numerous assignments, we have observed that many managers spend a considerable amount of their time “firefighting” in an attempt to deal with the poor “outcomes of the process.” To break this cycle of “time poor” management, it is vitally important to work on the process.
What Develops the Worker Problem Solvers
In the Toyota Production System (TPS), work is designed to make problems visible. Work is standardised so that the content, the sequence, the timing and the outcomes are clearly defined. That is, the inputs to the process are specified in detail and workers are trained to follow the process.
If the worker cannot deliver the work to this standard then there is a problem. It is then the worker’s and management’s responsibility to not only identify the problem but to help solve it. This continual process of following the standards, identifying problems and refining the standards develops “worker problem solvers”.
- Plan carefully and execute exactly.
Early involvement of the workforce in detailed planning creates a sense of ownership and is significantly better than assigning the best people to fight fires in the later stages. The alternative undisciplined approach is typically slow, expensive and delivers unpredictable processes that impact adversely on system outcomes.
- Development of “Standard work” should be embedded in the plan
Standard work promotes innovation, makes training easier, improves safety and can be audited to prevent slippage of improvements gained. Standard work processes should not be limited to the “workers”. Many of the activities of Managers can and should be standardized.
Developing “standard work” for managers assists in clarifying roles and aligning their potentially disparate efforts to the strategic vision. The development of standard work allows explicit auditing and promotes meaningful dialogues. It also greatly improves the likelihood of the improvement culture evolving and the effective use of tools to grow better over the longer term.