Turn the Tables on Haier Management?


Chinese Refrigerator Maker Finds U.S. Chilly – WSJ.com:

Here's another case of where your bosses should NOT take manufacturing management practices from the WSJ. In an article about the Chinese refrigerator maker Haier and its founder, Zhang Ruimin:

“He developed a management system of strict discipline, with a strong emphasis on quality control. Workers in China who make mistakes must stand on a set of footprints outlined on the floor and publicly criticize themselves out loud, explaining why they erred and the lessons learned.”

I think we should turn the tables and ask Mr. Zhang to stand on the metaphorical footprints of this blog… why would a quality “control” program like this likely do little to actually improve quality? Nobody is implying that Haier uses the Lean approach – it actually sounds very far from Lean.

Not surprisingly, this approach hasn't gone over well in their South Carolina factory:

But Haier's hierarchical culture has been a tough fit with U.S. workers. They rebelled against being forced to stand in the footprints when they made mistakes. Haier's Chinese management has tried to adjust to American tastes. Instead of humiliating bad workers, they now encourage the best ones to stand in the footprints for recognition.

When you click on the pictures for the article, you get some further explanation:

Since the plant oppened in 2000, the American workers rebelled against the “big shoe” footprints, and even rejected Haier's plan to force the best — not the worst — workers to stand in the footprints.

That's just silly, either way. You don't humiliate and shame people into better quality. Making them stand there as “recognition” doesn't seem to serve much of a purpose, either.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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