Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Toyota Way

The current project , which i am working on, is a project in which health of the project is determined by number of defects logged , quality is defined by reopened defect and progress is determined by defects fixed.

No measure is initiated to have proper solution to be delivered by understanding client business which was initially the target and the scope.
But also due to client company's mergers and process changes, there is currently no process in place which will drive the business. Hence the support functions like my project are in a mess.Users are confused in a way how will business process be implemented and we have no knowledge on how to give consulting in process improvement.

Now considering fact that Japan was the country who went from bankruptcy to glory in very short time, I was curious what made that possible.
Maybe it has something to do with the way Japanese people work or is it because Japanese people work hard or is it because Japanese team spirit.
Similar is the current case of my project. Torn by fights at management level and totally destroyed once and emerging once again.

I came across an article on “Toyota Way”.
With this section of the methodology, I could correlate some of the problem in my project, even though the principles are based for manufacturing industry where the defect cost could run in millions of dollars.
But somehow I can relate these principles to my project.
We can think on the lines how can this principles be moved into knowledge management process which is software development.

I sometimes feel that agile methodology has been derived from the same principles. (Not sure though need to do some more reading)

Dr Jeffery Liker has summarized the same in his book “The Toyota Way” categorizing in 4 parts.
This is the section 4 and it describes principle 12,13 and 14 which I found out and are quite interesting

Section IV — Continuously Solving Root Problems Drives Organizational Learning
Principle 12
• Go and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation (Genchi Genbutsu).
Toyota managers are expected to "go-and-see" operations. Without experiencing the situation firsthand, managers will not have an understanding of how it can be improved. Furthermore, managers use Tadashi Yamashima's (President, Toyota Technical Center (TTC)) ten management principles as a guideline:
1. Always keep the final target in mind.
2. Clearly assign tasks to yourself and others.
3. Think and speak on verified, proven information and data.
4. Take full advantage of the wisdom and experiences of others to send, gather or discuss information.
5. Share information with others in a timely fashion.
6. Always report, inform and consult in a timely manner.
7. Analyze and understand shortcomings in your capabilities in a measurable way.
8. Relentlessly strive to conduct kaizen activities. (Kaizen is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work ("muri"), and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and how to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes.)
9. Think "outside the box," or beyond common sense and standard rules.
10. Always be mindful of protecting your safety and health.

Principle 13
• Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly (nemawashi).
The following are decision parameters:
1. Find what is really going on (go-and-see) to test
2. Determine the underlying cause
3. Consider a broad range of alternatives
4. Build consensus on the resolution
5. Use efficient communication tools

Principle 14
• Become a learning organization through relentless reflection (hansei) and continuous improvement (kaizen).
The process of becoming a learning organization involves criticizing every aspect of what one does. The general problem solving technique to determine the root cause of a problem includes:
1. Initial problem perception
2. Clarify the problem
3. Locate area/point of cause
4. Investigate root cause (5 whys)
5. Countermeasure
6. Evaluate
7. Standardize

Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Toyota_Way

All this principle highlight broad level of information and can be used to draft business process for developing a software development module.

Principle 12 describes what is expected from a manager.
Principle 13 teaches about decision making
Principle 14 teaches about continuous improvement

Also one important point described here was
Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly.
I wonder how correctly applicable is it to the project since there are SLA agreed upon which I think is the worst part , where in we need to fix a defect whatever it takes in given amount of time. Also another measure is the quality where in the reopen count should be very less.

With above point, although the initial time might be more, quality will definitely improve and so will the client trust. But we have to keep in mind that decision should not be taken in isolation; there should be no single owner of the defect. It should be collaborative effort.

The interesting point to be noted here is whenever taking a decision, consult everyone. This I highlighted 12th and 13th principle
So in my project, I think people doing the ground work are the ones who have most of the knowledge and are the persons who should be consulted the most by the manager.

This is an important lesson to be kept in mind.

Sanket Raut

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