The current focus of most “Lean” leaders is to help organizations create the behavioral culture that Lean needs to thrive – this is the missing part of the puzzle as to why the systems developed by Toyota & others do not translate well into western cultures. Mike Rother calls the creation & maintenance of this behavioral culture at Toyota as the “Toyota Kata”. Now to many this sounds both complex and a lot of work but it isn't. What it is in its simplest form, is consistency. Which is why, in martial arts, it is practiced at every possible occasion. Remember your old (insert sport of choice) coach who would consistently tell you that “Practice makes perfect”.
So, how do we go about creating your own “Kata”. This can be started whether or not you are implementing Lean in any form as it makes nothing but good sense. Simply decide what kind of culture you want within your organisation/department/group and then decide what are the behaviors that will foster such a culture. Apologies to those change managers out there, but to get started you don’t need a consultant or even a book or course. Make your behaviors your routine, your "Kata". Just do it!
Easier said than done? Not really. Start with some basic Credos by which you will operate. Agree these among you group. Now, here is a golden gem in terms of it working, make this your first Credo #1 - Agree a method of highlighting inconsistency – that is, when you or your group is not consistently behaving as per your credos, it is praised when someone stops and says so. This can be difficult at the start because people may take being challenged personally and so become defensive. Watch out for this and look to create an environment where its ok to challenge. As the leader, you may wish to deliberately go offside on a couple of occasions and praise those who call you to order.
What are the other Credos that you should use? Here are few to get started.
Credo # 2 : This is the fundamental belief that you should always “Do good!” This will need to be one of your underlying cornerstones as you go forward. It should be part of your natural thought process when working as there will be times that you will have to make decisions with limited information. Another way of looking at this is the expression “Do not let the Best be the enemy of Good” or take what you can when you can in terms of benefits, improvements and/or cultural changes.
Credo # 3 : Unfortunately, experience teaches us that the one thing that is not common in today’s business world is “We Live by Common Sense” . It should be the part of your natural thought process where you ask yourself, does this make sense. There are times where very reasonable people, who use common sense at home but when at work can make suggestions that, are at odds with common sense. You will need to watch for this constantly. When obvious, use Credo #1 to challenge.
Credo # 4 : The Honorary Chairman of Toyota, Fujio Cho, is credited with the expression of “Go see, Ask why, Show respect!” This should be the third cornerstone of how you behave and as important how you expect your group to behave. The solution is always in Gemba (the workplace), the information is there if you ask for it and you must always respect everyone equally. This is one of the positive differences that allows very successful Lean organizations to create the correct culture.
Credo # 5 : The most powerful cornerstone is to identify “WIIFM – What’s In It For Me?”. This must be at all times to the forefront of your thought processes as it is critical to address in everything that you do. If properly used, it is a very powerful tool in your arsenal.
Credo # 6 : The final cornerstone is “Zero Blame”. The natural reaction to bad news is who is to blame. In some organizations, every major negative issue that they must deal with is resolved with someone being fired. Just look at the daily papers clamoring for heads to roll not matter what the situation. This creates a negative environment that will not sustain what you are trying to achieve. This particular behavior must be evident at all levels.
Remember that your group will take their lead from you, so strive to be consistent.
18th April 2014.
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