Continuing my review of Wakamatsu’s book on Taiichi Ohno, today we discuss his views on experimentation, learning from previous masters, and the difference between Ideas and Knowledge.
To read my reviews of Wakamatsu’s book on Taiichi Ohno, please visit the links below.
- Taiichi Ohno on Standard Work
- Taiichi Ohno on Genchi Genbutsu
- Do Not Act Spoiled
- Learn from Previous Masters
- Wastes Hide, Disclose All Mistakes
- Truth and Understanding
- Innovation and Craftiness
- Teach Others to Think
- Intelligent Automation
- Taiichi Ohno on Leadership
Learning From Masters
According to Wakamatsu, Taiichi Ohno used to talk about how he ha learned from so many masters who came before him. For example,
- Taiichi Ohno learned Jidoka or Automation from Sakichi Toyoda.
- Taiichi Ohno learned Just-in-Time from Kiichiro Toyoda.
- Taiichi Ohno learned Flow Production from the Ford Motor Company.
- Taiichi Ohno learned the Scientific Management System from Frederick Taylor.
But for Ohno, reading from a book wasn’t very effective for him. Wakamatsu explains:
What you read from books is not usually useful when it comes to improving the shop floor. You will find much better ideas by just trying different methods on the shop floor.
I too have had a hard time in convincing workers to carry out my ideas. Humans essentially do not like to be told what to do. But, humans are prone to be influenced by proven principles. There was a time when our competitors were better than Toyota and had proven the effectiveness of their ideas. I used to persuade my workers by telling them how our competitors achieved their successful results. That’s how I would get them to try anything in the first place.
Do Not Fear Failure
Wakamatsu recalls Ohno used to say to workers “When did you become a fortune teller?” He used to say this because workers would sometimes predict the outcome of an effort without trying it. Ohno was a big proponent of trying something and learning from it.
In one situation, Taiichi Ohno scolded a Toyota manager who was being too harsh on his employees for making mistakes:
You are being too strict toward your workers. That’s not good at all. If your workers are motivated enough, they decide to give it a shot even without promising results. In such cases, it is very important not to make them feel guilty for failing. Otherwise, they will begin to fear their mistakes and lose their passion for trying new ideas. You can be a strict leader as long as you provide them with a helping hand.
This statement reveals a softer side of Taiichi Ohno. His reputation is one of a hard task master, but his statement above shows the balance he has with his being a task master, but also a guide.
Ideas and Knowledge
Ohno believed that intelligence was common and knowledge was easy to obtain – usually from reading books and from speaking with other smart people. But for Ohno, Ideas hold a special place in his mind:
Toyota employs so many people, however very few people have good ideas. We must nurture more people who can generate good ideas.
There are so many workers under your supervision. You’re underestimating the potential of your workers. They can surprise you with ideas when they become serious about it. How dare you give up instead of inspiring workers to generate their unique ideas!