Improvement at Toyota

An article on Toyota recently caught my attention. The article discussed how even non-US auto manufactures were cutting back production in the US, and the notable part to me was not the decrease in consumer demand but what Toyota was doing with its newly idle workforce. An accompanying picture showed a makeshift training room set up inside an assembly plant. The article described the training topics, ranging from how to handle tools safely to how to get along better with colleagues of varying backgrounds. Toyota is well known for many management practices – the humility with which it reacts to opportunity for improvement is my favorite. Not only does the company try to surface problems wherever it can (through its “andon cord” on the assembly line), but it also understands that idle time today can be leveraged for improvement tomorrow.  A lesson for all organizations, not just its US counterparts.

And then there’s the topics of its training session. Handling tools safely is unsurprising, but I was struck by working more effectively in an increasingly diverse environment.  It’s another sign of the humility inherent in the organization.  It is designed to systematically understand the obstacles to improvement and to as systemically address them in order to unlock future performance.

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