The foundation of the house of gemba Part 1

The foundation of the house of gemba Part 1

According to Toyota, there are two pillars in their strategy to maintain its culture of sustained excellence, which it calls the Toyota way. The two pillars are KAIZEN™ and respect for people. I have introduced, written in length and spoken around the work about kaizen, and I also have tried to make abundantly clear that gemba KAIZEN™ is a human system that works only when it is people centered.

However I have seen that many company initiatives such as Lean manufacturing have emphasized the tools and techniques of KAIZEN™ and the TPS, but have forgotten the vital importance of the people foundation. To all students and teachers of kaizen, I encourage a careful reading of this chapter as it deals with the role of supervisors, managers, and the CEO.

The house of gemba rests on a solid foundation of employee involvement activities such as teamwork, morale enhancement, self discipline, quality circles, making improvement suggestions, and related pursuits – communication, empowerment, and skills development, as well as visual management. Management must build a firm commitment to carrying out these activities continuously. Only when management demonstrates that it is highly motivated, self disciplined, and kaizen-minded can gemba people do their job of maintaining and improving standards to satisfy customers by achieving the targets of quality, cost and delivery (QCD).

Most companies that introduce KAIZEN™ unsuccessfully fail to build the necessary infrastructure first. Fortunately, we do not have to wait until the infrastructure is complete and everybody in the gemba has made the transformation to see improvement. People can begin to change their thinking and behavior as soon as they begin working on kaizen. For instance, by the time 5S is firmly established in the gemba, people will have the self discipline necessary to follow through on what has been agreed on. Gemba KAIZEN™ yields such impressive results that gemba operators are the first to recognize its benefits.

A Learning enterprise

Bill Ford, a visiting honorary professor at the industrial relations research center, university of new south Wales, Australia, advocates the concept of a learning enterprise. He quotes a saying by Dick Dusseldorp; “Training is for cats and dogs. People Learn.”

‘A learning enterprise’ says ford, “is one where individuals, teams and the enterprise itself are continually learning and sharing in the development, transfer and use of knowledge and skills to produce continual improvement and the creation of a dynamic competitive advantage. Such enterprises are creating cooperative work environments in which the stakeholders in business-be they shareholders, managers, or the workforce-share in the development of common goals.”

In building the foundation of gemba kaizen, we are pursuing the same goal – namely, building an enterprise involving both management and the workforce – to develop common goals and values. Here, improvement is a way of life, and people take pride in their work, continually upgrade their skills and they are empowered to solve problem in the gemba. The job is seen as a mission, a means to fulfillment and personal growth.

Thus the gemba should become a citadel of learning. In order to build a learning organization, management must empower gemba employees by providing learning experiences. As mentioned earlier, the tools for learning in the gemba rely heavily on common sense and simple checklists, such as asking “Why?” five times; the five steps of housekeeping; muda, mura and muri; and following the axiom, “Don’t accept poor quality. Don’t make poor quality. Don’t pass on the poor quality.”

Learning experiences in the gemba must be based on appreciation of fundamental human values, such a respect for humanity, commitment, determination, economy (sensible use of resources), cleanliness, and order. Learning here should be synonymous with doing. Rather than being given too much teaching, gemba employees should be given opportunities to learn by practicing and doing, being physically involved, using their hands as well as their brains. After introduction of 5S and standardization at Tokai Shinei, President Yoshihito Tanaka said: “In hindsight, we have learned that our job is to do what we are supposed to do – namely, to do what we have agreed to do. In other words, a good company is the one where everybody is doing what he/she is supposed to do. We also learned that the best learning experience you can get is the one you gain through practicing, using your body, and learning by doing. Providing the concept alone is not enough.”

  1. Discard conventional rigid thinking about production.
  2. Think of how to do it, not why it cannot be done.
  3. Do not make excuses. Start by questioning current practices.
  4. Do not seek perfection. Do it right away even if for only 50 percent of target.
  5. Correct mistakes at once.
  6. Do not spend money for kaizen.
  7. Wisdom is brought out when faced with hardships.
  8. Ask “Why?” five times, and seek the root cause.
  9. Seek the wisdom of 10 people rather than the knowledge of 1.
  10. Remember that opportunities for KAIZEN™ are infinite.

People in the gemba are deeply ingrained in their old habits of working. When gemba KAIZEN™ is first introduced, strong psychological resistance must be overcome. The preceding 10 rules are employed by management as a guide to facilitate the introduction of gemba kaizen. Just as Japanese companies faced obstacles in implementing gemba kaizen, western management must be prepared for resistance and introduce gemba KAIZEN™ with firm determination. Transforming an organization from darkness to light also takes patience and courage. This change is painfully slow. Courage from within to support long term efforts is difficult to come by given the pressure for dramatic improvements in results. The ability to lead and exhibit patience in order to achieve dramatic, long term improvement only comes from understanding the concept that sustainable improvements in results come from long term improvements in our work processes.

According to one definition of the difference between education and training, education teaches what one does not yet know, whereas training teaches what one knows already – but teaches it in such a way that doing it right becomes almost second nature. In other words, in training, people learn by doing – by practicing repeatedly. Skills cannot be acquired simply by reading a book or listening to a lecture: They must be practices!

Acknowledgement: Gemba KAIZEN™ book by Sensei Masaaki Imai

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