• Bill Greider

Please Don't Impose Wishful Thinking on Your #1 Customer!!

The 2 main pillars of the TPS (Toyota Production System) "house" are "respect for people" and "continuous improvement". These 2 pillars hold the house up! Sometimes you will see the pillars labeled "jidoka" and "just-in-time", which is the exact same thing, but I will cover that in a future blog.

"Respect for people" seems like such a simple idea. It almost goes without saying, right? I don't think many of us humans wake up, have our coffee and sit around thinking of ways we can disrespect other humans (unless they cut us off in traffic). However, it is so easy to sabotage this inadvertently and without even thinking about it.

One aspect of RFP I see inadvertently violated in my travels (and I did it in my own company) is "DO NOT IMPOSE WISHFUL THINKING ON YOUR CUSTOMER".

At first glance we immediately think of our customer as the people who pay the invoices. As mangers, however, we really have ONE primary customer. The people who we have brought into our organization that we have a responsibility to develop (remember the TPS adage, "build people, then cars").

We violate DO NOT IMPOSE WISHFUL THINKING..." when we allow people to do processes that are not 100% capable and predictable and chock full of the 8 wastes. The people who do these unstable processes for 2000+ hours each year often had little or nothing to do with the creation of these processes, yet these same people are often the scapegoat when the process doesn't deliver. Imposing wishful thinking might take the form of "if he would just follow the work instruction, it would work fine" or "writing someone up" because the process is not mistake-proof enough.

My hero, Taiichi Ohno, had a reputation for being very demanding (rude) when he observed people working bad processes. Interestingly enough, he would blow a gasket not at the person performing the work, but at the managers responsible for allowing people to work bad processes. "Your eyes are open but you do not see!!!" Wishful thinking is walking by bad processes day in and day out (or worse, staying in your office) and not doing your ONLY job, which is continuously develop your people by relentlessly helping them improve their processes.

Everything is hunky dory is imposing wishful thinking on my customer. It may be hunky dory from your office, but not when you invest a few hours going to see it for yourself. When you go see it for yourself, go with the intention of learning from the true process expert, the person who does the work. Go with humility and ask only a couple of open ended questions (not yes/no). Make sure people have time to work ON as well as IN their process, and teach them how to do plan-do-check-act. Make sure they have access to the resources they need to make improvements (engineering/quality/maintenance/IT). Remember it is disrespectful for ME to fix YOUR job.

If you are not doing these things, then it is highly likely you are imposing wishful thinking on your most important customer!

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