In Yoshihito Wakamatsu’s book The Toyota Mindset, he explains Taiichi Ohno’s knack and forceful nature in encouraging everyone to innovate.
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
Those Who Only Follow My Instructions Are Fools
Wakamatsu shares an interesting story of Taiichi Ohno’s visit to a Toyota factory. During that visit, Taiichi Ohno speaks with an engineer and tells him to fix a particular process after he is done with his current task. Not knowing exactly what to do, how to fix the problem, or even what the problem is, the engineer decided to wait until the next day.
The next day, Ohno and the engineer had this conversation:
“We have not done anything because we do not know what is wrong,” Mr. L gave Ohno his honest answer.
Ohno then proceeded to explain the problem to the engineer.
Then, after more procrastination and more dialogue with Taiichi Ohno, the engineer simply did what Ohno told him to do – what the problem is and how to fix it.
Then, Taiichi Ohno said this in rebuke:
“Why did you do only what I had told you to do?”
Taiichi Ohno had a label for this type of worker. He called them “Catalog Engineers” and taught vehemently against being one. He said that these types of engineers or workers do not innovate or create – they simply follow instructions from their bosses and from books.
Add your Craftiness To It
In another but related story, in 1955 a new piece of machinery was purchased from America and shipped to Japan. Competitors such as Nissan, GM, and Ford had been using this piece of machinery that had helped boost productivity. In a conversation with the technician in charge of this new machine, Ohno asked a few questions about the machine:
“[Ohno asked] So, we paid a lot of money for shipping to get this machine here. Say we produce our cars using this machine and export them to the United States market. It means that American auto makers are able to produce their cars for much less cost, and even then we still have to pay shipping to get our vehicles to the US. How do you expect us to make a profit at all?”
In reply, the technician simply said:
“That’s how they do it in the US”
Then, in a scolding manner, Taiichi Ohno said:
“. . . If Americans require 3 workers, we will find a solution so that only one worker can be responsible for operating the machine. Or would you be happy with less pay if we choose to do it like the Americans? Do it with only one worker by all means, use everybody’s craftiness to make it happen. That is the only way we can win the competition, and your pay will increase as a result.”
In his own way, Taiichi Ohno is really describing what we now call “innovation” – the buzzword, which is used so often, has lost its meaning. In Taiichi Ohno’s simple way, “Add your craftiness to it” is really what we mean when we say “innovation”.
So far, we’ve covered Taiichi Ohno’s belief that Wastes Hide, Disclose all Mistakes, Discover the Truth Beyond Understanding, how the main job of a leader is to Teachers other to Think, and Ohno’s explanation of Jidoka.