Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Japan Lean Tour Fall 2013: Video Project

 One of the responsibilities for the Japan Tour is creating a summary video of the week. Steve has done an amazing job creating this video below:


 We took Japan by storm with our Flash Mob renditions of "Eye of the Tiger". Here are a few links to flashmobs we did this time:
Here are a few reflective insights received from Ian, a current Blackbelt who has just returned from Japan:
Reflections on Japan
A few days have passed now since I departed Japan and I’m finding this to be like ‘stepping back’ from a fine painting.  Up close you see the brush strokes and the attention to detail, from a distance you see the composition and how the whole is more than the sum of the parts.
It's easy to get mesmerized by technology, particularly in a land so abundant with the latest and neatest. But that is not the story, nor the lesson; what’s behind the obvious is what is important.  Here are a few observations:

• The planning, design, training and discipline that go into a system/process before it is ever deployed is at a level far beyond our norm – in other words, there is a process for implementing a process, starting with fully understanding the problem to be solved, not just the symptoms.
• Where we see management as non-value added and have flattened the layers over the past two decades or more, the Japanese have not because they understand the power of leadership.  The ratio of management, as well as the number of layers, is greater than it typically is in North America. For example the car companies we visited typically have one Team Leader for every six operators and one Area Leader for every 3 Team Leaders.  Every manager is considered to have two jobs: Manager and Leader/Mentor.  An individual who cannot do the latter is not suitable to be a Team Leader not matter how technically competent they might be.
•  The power of absolute adherence to standards took me by surprise.  As a Quality Assurance manager and current Greenbelt, I am no stranger to the concept of standards and standard work.  I see now that when standardization is taken to absolute levels, just how effectively it permeates the workplace and becomes self-sustaining.  The enemy of any process is entropy. Entropy increases exponentially as the process moves away from ideal. 95% adherence is not nearly good enough – there is too much doubt but when, for example, absolutely everything has a parking spot, when just one thing is out of place, it is obvious to everybody that something is out of the norm and bears action.  If five things are out of place, that certainty that something is abnormal starts to erode. 
It’s also easy to see that there are cultural differences between Japan and North America, including in the workplace and almost as easy to use those differences as an excuse to aim lower or use alternative methods.  One has to be pragmatic but one also has to challenge paradigms.  A greater degree of respect for others is evident everywhere in Japan and this translates to diligence, alignment, and focus. It is easy to slough this off as not being the way things work in North America but isn’t it really a Leadership issue and not a shortcoming of society and our employees. 

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