One thing I have enjoyed in the past few years is meeting and working with more people with direct experience working at Toyota (including here in San Antonio, my new home).
There are always gems and brilliant nuggets that come out of those chats. One I heard recently that make me chuckle and really think:
“My Japanese sensei said every problem had one of two causes: no management or bad management.”
The picture of the two turkeys is tongue in cheek (referencing Jack Welch and his comment about employees being “turkeys.“) Welch seemed insulting and dismissive. My Toyota friend was respectful in retelling the sensei's assessment.
It's not that managers are turkeys. We're talking about bad management practices or the lack of a management system. Much as we shouldn't blame frontline staff for being a part of a bad system, we should be careful about blaming individual managers for the beliefs and mental models that were taught to them. Now, some managers might just behave in odious ways – we might blame them for their behavior… or we can look for a deeper root cause.
“You respect people… you listen to them, you work together. You don't blame them. Maybe the process was not set up well, so it was easy to make a mistake.”
This reminds me of Dr. Deming's view that quality starts at the top. Management owns the system and if the system is responsible for 94% of all errors… we can't blame frontline workers or call them “turkeys” — we need to improve the system. And that includes the way we manage, starting from the CEO on down.
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