I have long admired Toyota. I always try to instill the values of Toyota’s lean practices (part of the Toyota Production System) in my day to day work. My employer is pushing a Lean Six Sigma program and I applaud them for that, but I have a feeling that it will be hard to make the program work. James Surowiecki identifies part of the reason I feel this way in his latest Financial Page column at the New Yorker.
In the nineteen-nineties, a McKinsey study of companies that had put quality-improvement programs in place found that two-thirds abandoned them as failures. Toyota’s innovative methods may seem mundane, but their sheer relentlessness defeats many companies. That’s why Toyota can afford to hide in plain sight: it knows the system is easy to understand but hard to follow.
I hope my employer will stick with the program, but that is just half of the issue. The employees have to buy into the concept of continuous change. This means management not pushing for the big win and staff constantly looking for opportunities to constantly get better at their jobs. I have reservations at work, but I will try to lead by example.