Can Toyota keep on truckin’?
Great quote and imagery here from Gary Convis:
Gary Convis, the senior vice president of manufacturing in North America for Toyota Motor Corp., remembers well the first time he stepped into a Toyota plant.
A former Ford Motor Co. assistant plant manager, Convis was hired almost 23 years ago by Toyota and put on a plane the next day to Japan. When he walked into the company’s Takaoka plant, Convis said, “To me, it was like looking at a symphony,” Convis said. “Everybody knew their instrument and their music. They knew when to come in and when not to come in.”
Things seems to “just work” but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I used to play in orchestras through high school and that performance requires a lot of practice, standardization, but also a sense of art. Lean isn’t just a science, it’s really an art of leadership that is a major part of it. Some people have no ear or no rhythm (or both) and it just can’t be taught. I wonder if the same thing isn’t true with leaders sometimes also.
Remember, the phrase “takt” comes from a German musical term relating to tempo and pace. Music relies on the mathematical part of your brain very much. That’s one reason why there were as many engineers in my college marching band as there were music majors. Music, like lean, is very mathmatical, but they both require some “feel” or “sense” that’s harder to quantify and maybe even can’t be learned if you’re totally “tone deaf” (or the leadership equivalent of that).
Question for Ralf or another German reader… most of us Americans pronounce takt as “tacked” but a German friend told me once it really should be more like “tucked” with a hard emphasis on the first part of the word. Which is it? Just curious.