In Yoshihito Wakamatsu’s book The Toyota Mindset, he explains Taiichi Ohno’s approach to Lean Leadership and how to deal with resistance to change. There are many other famous quotes attributed to Toyota’s leaders, but in this article we focus on Taiichi Ohno.
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
Be a Dependable Leader
In one experience, Wakamatsu recalls Taiichi Ohno asking for the manager to leave the shop floor to come in and speak with him. Without hesitation, the manager got up and met with Taiichi Ohno. To the manager’s surprise, this is what they discussed:
It took no time for you to come to my office on such short notice. It is evident that you’re not needed on the shop floor. In fact, if you were in the middle of important work and are depended upon by your workers, you would not be able to leave the shop floor right away as you did.
After that rebuke, Taiichi Ohno then explains his reasoning:
A leader in continuous improvement activities must be deemed dependable and trustworthy by his workers. He must proactively initiate continuous improvement as he sees it in order to make workers’ operations easier. This will win their respect and generate an expectation toward future improvements.
Every time you visit the shop floor, workers ask their leader for more advice for improving the shop floor processes and environment. In this way, a leader probably needs several hours just to walk 100 meters. On the other hand, if a leader fails to initiate continuous improvement, workers lose respect over time and simply ignore the leader. Walking 100 meters would be a piece of cake.
Patience can Overcome Resistance
In another situation, Taiichi Ohno and another manager had been touring several Toyota factories. During a conversation between Taiichi Ohno and the manager, the manager observed that several factories were misapplying the Toyota Production System. Then the manager asked Taiichi Ohno:
I was wondering why you did not instruct the workers to correct it as we walked through.
Ohno then responded with this lesson:
I am being patient. I cannot use my authority to force them to do what I want them to do. It would not lead to good quality products. What we must do is to persistently seek understanding from the shop floor workers by persuading them of the true virtues of the Toyota System. After all, manufacturing is essentially a human development that depends heavily on how we teach our workers.
Ohno’s answer to overcoming resistance is to lead by example. He believed that the teacher must prove his credibility before he can teach others. For him, this meant that the teacher worked for hours applying the principles of Toyota Production System while others observed.