The key to the Toyota Way and what makes Toyota stand out is not any of the individual elements…But what is important is having all the elements together as a system. It must be practiced every day in a very consistent manner, not in spurts.
– Taiichi Ohno
For a Lean transformation to be sustained, it must be practiced and supported each and every day. Too many organizations try to implement Lean tools without understanding and embracing the Lean philosophy, and this commonly means reviewing “Lean” improvements and practices on just a weekly, monthly, or even quarterly basis.
Daily management at a Lean organization has several components, but often begins early in the morning with a daily stand up meeting. As I mentioned earlier, this was one of the few Lean tools and methods that I had to dictate, as creating yet another meeting, let alone a daily meeting, meets with a lot of resistance! However, if run correctly everyone soon realizes that it is a very valuable meeting and it becomes self-sustaining.
Daily meetings are generally cascading, starting at the gemba and moving up through the organization each morning, with a representative, typically the team leader, supervisor, or manager, attending the next level up meeting. At my previous company the meetings started on the production floor at 6:30am and worked their way up to my executive team meeting at 8:30am, which was a videoconference with our other two facilities. If a member couldn’t be there, he or she was expected to send a representative. This in itself, plus the fact that the meetings were always open to anyone else in the company, helped grow the understanding and leadership capability of our entire company – again, respect for people.
The key to making the daily meeting successful is sticking with the primary purpose: a review of any deviations from plan – not a general project or production review. Because of this the entire meeting, even at an executive level responsible for multiple facilities, would last between five and fifteen minutes, usually closer to five. However, the information conveyed was extremely valuable and very timely, and the accountability component created rapid resolution. In fact, with issues surfaced and resolved quickly, most of the discussion at our weekly executive staff meetings became focused on long-term issues, and the time that required diminished to the point that it became a biweekly and eventually a monthly meeting.
Each of our daily stand up meetings had a very similar agenda:
- Safety issues (demonstrating respect for people right at the beginning)
- Celebration of any new successes – customers made happy, project completion, etc. (again, demonstrating respect for people with recognition)
- Visitors (so we were prepared to show respect – including by not wearing jeans!)
- Customer issues
- Quality issues (versus standard)
- Production issues (versus plan)
- Round robin of all present, in case they have other issues
- Review the Daily Accountability Board
The last item was added after I left by my successor, Steve Kane. On another large whiteboard there was the day of the month across the top and each executive staff member’s name along the left side. When issues were brought up during the stand up meeting, ownership of the issue was assigned to a member and a sticky note placed on the board for the date when the person committed to having it resolved.
When that day arrived the person had to report on the status (but again, there was no daily status until that date arrived). If it was complete, the sticky note was removed. If it wasn’t complete, a red dot was added to the note for each day it was late, and if the date was rescheduled the dots stayed. This wasn’t to overtly create a personal “strike” against the person, but was a visual indicator that we had somehow underestimated the time required. This could be due to workload, complexity, or other factors. It helped us learn and improve. The whiteboard, and our executive stand up meeting, was in our de facto obeya room – which wasn’t a room but a wide section of hallway. Open and visible to all, at all times.
The other key components of daily management and accountability are leader standard work and the gemba walk, both discussed earlier. All leaders were expected to have leader standard work. On our daily gemba walks all leaders were expected to review visual management charts, visual controls such as andons, whiteboards with metrics and other information, and other leader’s leader standard work. Examples of all of these are in the Resources section.