Sunday, May 17, 2020

Newsletter #47: Toyota Production System: An emergent system

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Interesting Articles
Toyota Production System: An emergent system

Recently, a short post on LinkedIn about Toyota Production System attracted netizens attention. Here is the actual post

During the earlier days, neither Taiichi Ohno or Shigeo Shingo or for that matter, anyone in Toyota had a vision of Toyota Production System.

As and when they came across challenges, they addressed by applying a set of rules and principles to create a flow and continuously improve.

More importantly, Taaichi Ohno focused on changing the underlying thinking of employees rather than purely building the product. This aspect of building employee's thinking seems to be the key differentiator between Ohno and Honda.

When you look around in organisations, there is more focus on processes, frameworks rather than actually uplifting employees ability to think.

Thought would elaborate this a bit more for the readers of this newsletter.   Fundamentally, the Toyota Production System (TPS) was not a designed system. It was an emergent system.  Neither Ohno nor other leaders at Toyota sat in an Air-conditioned room and drew it on the whiteboard.  Various tools and techniques emerged while trying to solve the problem. It is not the tools that are important, but the thinking that leads to the creation of the tools.

Even though the lean house distils into 2 pillars, respect for people and the continuous improvement, I still believe this is in retrospect.  Personally, I believe that Ohno and others were keenly focused on being at the "Gemba", ensuring that the value is delivered to the customers, teaching the employees to think rather than a specialist knowing everything, respecting the people by helping them on the ground rather than reviewing the reports.

Toyota faced several challenges both good and bad. The second world war pretty much gutted them. The survival made them to come up with practices to find a way to be productive with limited resources. The Korean war, created a good problem as they had more orders. They decided to be productive without hiring more people. The constraints of the war and economies of scale enabled the leaders in the organisation to be innovative.

I don't know if people know this, Toyota in-fact used to have a month-long batch cycle. Leaders called out the in-efficiency associated with the accumulated inventories and the variable queues. So, during each stage and in every different factory, the ideas emerged. It is the culture and the thinking that encouraged the people to think independently lead to the birth of the TPS. This was an emergent idea rather than a designed idea.

The introduction of the ideas was incremental rather than big-bang. The kanban system started only in a small group and within one assembly line. When it worked well, then it was introduced to others as they had dependencies as part of the manufacturing. 

Coming back to the modern world, in the 21st century, most of the western world has no dearth for money nor any constraints. This is not giving enough challenge for the organisations to make employees think.  If they want something, they buy a tool or a process or a framework in the market. As long as the organisations don't enable people to think, there will never be another Toyota Production System.

Further reading: The dagger and gift: Impact of Korean war on Japan

The origin of Lean Production

Interesting article: Why Managers Holding People Accountable Is A Waste Of Time, And What To Do Instead 

Link to the original article

Key snippets from the above article

How often do you hear yourself or someone else complain that this person or that person isn’t “being held accountable?” Or find yourself mustering up the gumption to “hold that person accountable?” It’s really a fool’s errand. At the end of the day, personal accountability is the only real accountability. So that means you can’t really hold other people accountable.

Own your role as a manager. When you take on the role and responsibility of being a manager of others, you have to own what happens on your watch. When a manager points the finger at their employees, they instantly lose credibility with their leadership and their team.

Help people face the reality of the outcomes they are producing. Instead of trying to hold employees accountable, focus on helping them deal with the reality that they are creating. Avoid the lectures that start with a list of “shoulds.” You should do this and you should do that only makes the person feel nagged or lectured. It rarely leads to higher levels of accountability.

Make it safe to surface issues early and often. As a manager, it’s critical to make sure people feel safe to discuss and learn from mistakes. Most issues get blown way out of proportion or are allowed to fester for so long the damage is irrevocable.


Interesting article: Transforming from Projects to Products

Link to the original article

Key snippets from the above article

Agile Transformation is about moving from Management to Leadership

Peter Drucker is an inspiration here, traditionally we put so much effort into getting things right, to be more efficient, or to do this, by that deadline, that we forgot to ask if what we are  doing is bringing value. We put all our emphasis on measuring and monitoring effort, or efficiency, rather than assessing if we are achieving our goal.
If you are considering an Agile Transformation it is likely that you have discovered that efforts to 'manage' projects are leading to the wrong results and the focus needs to move from a focus on effort to a focus on value. To set a direction and 'lead' the way in product development.  Try to stop measuring output and to start measuring outcomes.

Upcoming Events
Look forward to public courses in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and India in 2020.  Possibly expanding to other countries.

I have started online training for Certified LeSS Basics.   If you or your friends are keen, feel free to reach out to me or check this link

Many might not know that I also offer Certified LeSS Executive trainingThis is specifically for senior leaders who might be interested in learning the intricacies of management and structure to influence the culture. 

Please reach out:  venky at for further details.

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