Category Archives: People

Stories and details on the many people contribution to lean manufacturing and modern manufacturing in general.

Fishbone Diagrams and Mind Maps

A lot of lean problem solving requires creativity. There are many creativity techniques available to help generate ideas for problem solving. In my last post I presented brainstorming, which is a freewheeling creativity technique. In this post I will show you some creativity techniques that have a more structured approach. These include mind maps and fishbone diagrams. Both can be used in groups, but they are also helpful if you need to tackle problems on your own. Continue reading Fishbone Diagrams and Mind Maps

Heroes, Firefighting, and Corporate Culture

Heroes save the day. Heroes turn around the disaster and rescue the puppy from the burning building. Heroes are admired, and everybody wants to be one. Everybody wants a hero when they need one.

But what about the people who prevent the need of a hero? What about the people that make sure the disaster never happens? What kind of people do you really need in your company? Continue reading Heroes, Firefighting, and Corporate Culture

Monozukuri – Japanese Work Ethics

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Japanese word monozukuri (sometimes written as 物作り, but most often written as ものづくり). Literally translated, it means to make (zukuri) things (mono). Yet, there is so much meaning lost in translation. A better translation would be “manufacturing; craftsmanship; or making things by hand.” However, this translation also does not give justice to the weight and influence this idea has in Japan. Let me take you on a tour of the Japanese culture of monozukuri. Continue reading Monozukuri – Japanese Work Ethics

Employee Motivation and Lean Implementation – Part 4: Respect for People

Motivating employees is not easy. In previous posts I described that the carrot and the stick approaches don’t work very well. What in my experience works best to improve the system is Respect for People!

This is actually a very important aspect of the Toyota Production System, and Toyota puts in lots of effort to show respect to all people. This includes not only employees (the focus of this post), but also customers, suppliers, neighbors, and pretty much everybody else it comes in contact with. At Toyota, it is actually called Respect for Humanity (人間性尊重, ningenseisoncho). Unfortunately, all too often I find this lacking in Western lean implementations. Continue reading Employee Motivation and Lean Implementation – Part 4: Respect for People

Employee Motivation and Lean Implementation – Part 3: Lack of Respect

Motivating employees for change is tricky. What often helps is respect, but in reality the opposite is common. While managers claim that of course they respect their people, the employees feel very differently, and quite often there is a lack of respect. In this post I want to talk about this lack of respect and why it happens, before showing how to do it better in the next post. Continue reading Employee Motivation and Lean Implementation – Part 3: Lack of Respect

Employee Motivation and Lean Implementation – Part 2: Money

Lean improvements often fail in implementation, meaning the employees do not follow the new standards. In my last post we already saw that pressure (“the stick”) doesn’t work very well. The second option is the carrot. In this post I will show different “carrots” that are sometimes used to get employees to follow the new standard. However, most of them won’t work very well either. What often works best is actually simply treating people with respect – but I will talk about this in my next post. Continue reading Employee Motivation and Lean Implementation – Part 2: Money

Employee Motivation and Lean Implementation – Part 1: Carrot and Stick

All too often, good ideas for a lean implementation fail because workers won’t use the new ideas. They simply stick to their old habits. And, no matter how good the ideas are, if they are not used, then the improvement project is a failure. In this post I want to talk about this common problem in industry. The solution is – in theory – easy: Get your people motivated! Doing this in reality, however, is an extremely challenging task with an often-unknown outcome. Continue reading Employee Motivation and Lean Implementation – Part 1: Carrot and Stick