About half a year ago, I wrote about corporate culture; in some companies like Toyota, different teams share a system, and I wondered whether those engineers communicate well unlike typical engineers, or someone established a system so that they can share information without willing to communicate with others. In another previous post, a few weeks ago, I wrote about customs; I wondered why Toyota style activities to improve manufacturing processes are called kaizen, which originally only means “improvement”. I wondered why plant workers are not considered to be “users”. Recently I had a good experience to have a glimpse of Toyota corporate culture. It adequately answered my questions.
A senior Japanese engineer was providing a seminar to Canadian supervisors about improving manufacturing processes in the Toyota style, and practiced it with Japanese engineers to see how it would work. He generously invited me to the practice session. In the seminar, he uses Lego blocks to play a “game” in order to show how different manufacturing processes bring different results, which is impressive and way more efficient than giving a lecture. To make a long story short, once a sophisticated system is established to run manufacturing processes efficiently, plant workers only need to focus on their section with one condition, which is to think of the people of the subsequent section. In that system, the entire manufacturing process runs smoothly and efficiently even though workers in every section do not have a big picture. Once a sophisticated system is established by someone smart, they only need to think of the workers of the subsequent section as “users of their interim products”. Isn’t this great?
Of course this is easy to say, so hard to do. A fact is that some people actually do it, which makes their company outstanding. This fact is discouraging in a way because the company I work for now is very different from them. On the other hand, it is very encouraging because it tells me that what I wondered and imagined can be reality.