Creating Vision and Aligning Goals
This is one one in a series of 4 articles about Toyota’s Stages of Leader Development
An organization is nothing without a properly defined target. It’s important to always strive for results that will bring improvement and long-term sustainability, and identifying the critical factors for those developments is an important skill any good leader must have.
To put it simply, it’s up to the leader to constantly be one step ahead and look towards the future, analyzing the company’s current situation with regards to its past performance, and looking for opportunities to shift the goals in a more productive direction.
Complete vision from top to bottom
It’s also important that the whole company is aligned towards the goal being pursued, from the high-level executives, to the workers down at the value-added level. Everyone will likely have some differing opinion on the situation, depending on what piece of the puzzle they are able to see. Therefore, it’s important that the leader works as a communication node between those different levels, ensuring that they are all aware of the main reason they’re doing their job in a certain way. What might seem “anti-Lean” to one department might actually be the best thing for the entire value stream.
Propagating knowledge along the value stream is also one of the leader’s key responsibilities. Especially in a large organization, it can be quite complicated to ensure that information flows smoothly and reaches its intended destination departments (without getting altered through confusion along the way).
This means that the leader also has the critical role of being a central link in the communication chain, whether they like the idea or not. This can save the company a lot of trouble in the future, both in the short and long term, as it ensures that all departments will be chasing the same targets.
The skills needed to maintain a consistently high level of quality in this communication can be improved over time, but it’s important for any leader to realize their potential shortcomings in this area as early as possible, and work on addressing them.
Keeping the short term in mind
While it’s important to ensure that the company has solid long-term goals, and all departments are aligned to them, it’s just as critical to have a good day-to-day schedule (also known as leader standard work), and always look for opportunities to align it better with the company’s plans for the future.
There will be some inevitable need for change, as the structure of the organization grows and new responsibilities are introduced to various departments related to the company’s current long-term plans. A good leader must ensure that the new responsibilities of a department don’t clash with those of another, as this is not an uncommon problem in even smaller organizations, where the communication chain is not as complex.
The traditional Toyota method typically assigns different color codes to the various metrics collected in the company’s day-to-day work, and the way those resources are utilized is presented using graphical analysis. This is an important part of implementing kaizen correctly, although the specific form of representation can vary from one company to another, in order to better suit the needs of the particular organization.
The important point to gather from this is that all day-to-day metrics must be aligned with the company’s long-term goals, and this can only be done through constant re-evaluation of those metrics, and of the references they’re being compared against.
This is another point that’s worth bringing up – sometimes the data you’re comparing against will be outdated, and this will make the entire foundation of your analysis invalid. This makes it important to keep those models up to date, and always keep communicating with the different departments about their own metrics.
Continuous work on the company’s vision and long-term goals, and ensuring that they’re aligned with the current short-term plans of each department, is a critical component of applying kaizen to an organization. Any good leader must learn how to handle this in the most efficient manner with respect to both the organization as well as their own personal skills. Establishing a good framework for long-term planning is one of the best ways to ensure that the company’s development is always on the right track.