I planned to publish this yesterday but for some reason I felt compelled to wait. I doubt it was fate, but as you will see, Toyota once again managed to serendipitously substantiate my reason for it.
I was originally inspired to write this post based on a recent experience I had at a local restaurant.
After I was seated, I ordered a coffee to start things off. The waitress asked, “Would you like cream or milk with your coffee?” I said, “Just cream please.”
A few minutes later my coffee arrived … accompanied by two creams and three milks. So I wonder, why even ask the question? What part of this was routine? Asking the question or grabbing both milk and cream?
Later, when it was time for a refill, the waitress noted the milk containers neatly stacked beside the saucer and said, “Oh, just cream right?” They were quickly removed and replaced.
How many of us are simply going through the motions – say the right words and do the right things without even thinking? In some cases, we may even do the wrong things, like a bad habit, without thinking – like the waitress in the restaurant.
I think we need to be very concerned when our words and actions are reduced to “habits” or the equivalent of meaningless rhetorical questions. We say, “Hi, how are you?” and expect to hear “Fine” or “OK” – whether or not it’s true. Or worse, we don’t even wait for the answer.
When our daily routines become autonomous they essentially become habits – good or bad. How can you pay attention to the details when they have become engrained into the everyday monotony we call routine?
The devil is in the details …
Of concern here is how much waste our habits generate that we’re not even aware of. In business, finding the waste is actually easier than it looks. The cure on the other hand may be a different story.
Layered process audits, and regular visits to the “front line” can be used to identify and highlight concerns but, as with many companies, these process reviews only represent a snapshot in time. To be effective, they need to be frequent (daily) and thorough.
In manufacturing, process flows, value streams, and standard work are tools we use to define our target operating plan. However, we know from experience that a gap typically exists between planned and actual performance.
The sequence of events typically occur as planned, however, the method of task execution varies from person to person and shift to shift. The primary root cause for this variance can be traced to work instructions that do not definitively describe the detailed actions required to successfully complete the task.
Generic work instructions simply do not work. To be effective, our methods must be specific and detail oriented. General instructions leave too much room for error and in turn become a source of variation in our processes.
Quite often, we develop techniques or “tricks” that make our jobs or tasks easier to perform. Learning to recognize and share those “nuances” may be the discerning factors to achieve improved performance.
Worth Waiting For …
As I mentioned at the start of this article, Toyota somehow manages to make its way into my articles and this one is no exception. Earlier this week, I learned that Ray Tanguay, a local Ontario (Canada) resident, is now one of three new senior managing officers for Toyota worldwide.
The Toronto Start published “Farm boy a Toyota go-to guy” in today’s business section that chronicles Ray Tanguay’s rise to power to become the only top non-Japanese executive in the company.
What caught my attention, aside from being born in a local town here in Ontario, was this quote:
“I like to drill down deep because the devil is always in the details“ – Ray Tanguay, Toyota Senior Managing Officer
The article also describes how Ray Tanguay managed to get the attention of Toyota president Akio Toyoda and the eventual development of a global vision to clearly set out the company’s purpose, long-term direction, and goals for employees.
After summarizing Ray Tanguay’s history, the article concludes …
“A few years later, his attention to detail on the shop floor helped the company win a second assembly plant in nearby Woodstock and thousands of more jobs for Canada’s manufacturing sector.”
I note with great interest, “… on the shop floor …” Perhaps, I should have changed the title to “Opportunity: the Devil is in the details!” I still think we were close.
Until Next Time – STAY lean!
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