Colleague Torbjörn and I returned recently from a 7-day trip to Japan for Lean learning and experiential tours. Put on by Shinka Management from Australia, we were welcomed, challenged and pampered by our Australian and Japanese hosts.
Our intent with the trip was to better understand Lean and Lean IT from the source. Lean’s start as the Toyota Productions System is well documented and we’ve read the books. But as we at Onbird often preach, real learning is experiential, and we had hopes of more Lean “learning by doing”. The tour fulfilled these hopes – surrounded by the Japanese culture and visiting the factory floors of Toyota, Brother, Isuzu and more, the principles and foundations of Lean received memorable emphasis.
Approximately half our time was spent in Lean classroom and simulation learning led by Sensei Hyodo, former Toyota Plant Manager, who left a great many impressions on us. One of them regarded the development and nurturing of the customer-vendor relationship.
“What happens when the vendors deliver the wrong number of parts?” was a question from our group after a viewing of an automobile component factory floor. A quick translation English to Japanese created a puzzled look on Sensei’s face. Our translator repeated the question. Sensei grunted and repeated the puzzled look.
Finally, after the third repetition Sensei Hyodo spun on his heel, threw his hands in the air and burst out, “Our vendors don’t deliver the wrong number of parts! It doesn’t happen.”
Then he paused, sighed, and stated with a stern look. “But if an error does occur, we gather it under our arm and immediately send two of our people to the vendor’s site. There we sit down together and work to mutually resolve the problem.”
The immediate and instinctive response is to work together to solve the problem. Not retribution. Not refund. RESOLUTION.
Lean learning. Yay.0