Coming Soon: A Fresh Look at Some Old GM & NUMMI Documents About Lean, Japan, and More

18
3

Don EphlinWhen I was a graduate student at the MIT Leaders for Global Operations program, one of our visiting professors was Don Ephlin, a former Vice President for the United Auto Workers. He passed away in 2000 (read his obituary).

He was responsible for the UAW/Ford relationship for a few years and then was responsible for the UAW/GM relationship during the 1980s when GM started the NUMMI joint venture with Toyota and ramped up Saturn. Ephlin played a very critical role in both of those new ventures.

I did a Google search on him after a discussion with a Lean Blog reader (and sometimes commenter) who was also a UAW leader. I discovered that Ephlin's UAW office papers were archived at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit.

img_5588I was back in the Detroit area for a football game and to visit friends and family, so, being the nerd that I am, I made an appointment to view the collection yesterday.

I'm not an academic researcher, so the idea of going to a library reading room collection was new. Thankfully, everybody at the library was incredibly welcoming and helpful about how their process worked.

Here's the reading room from the outside:

img_5517

Working from the list of boxes and folder names, I was able to request up to five boxes at a time, which they retrieved for me:

img_5306

Then, each box was jammed full of materials that were neatly organized into labeled folders.

img_5437

Given the work that Ephlin did, it's a real treasure trove.

I was able to take photos of many documents. I was there about four hours and still haven't been able to read through it all in detail. That will take time.

There will be plenty of blog posts to come, I'm sure.

Some of the documents include a Ford / UAW trip report from their visit to Japan and Toyota:

img_5313

And, an original NUMMI team member handbook from the plant's opening in 1984:

img_5290

And a GM report from 1987 about “NUMMI Management Practices:”

img_5359

Because some of that material is labeled “GM Confidential” (it was the “Old GM”), I need to look for some guidance about what I can publish here and to what extent.

I will go ahead and share some of the quotes that are scattered around the NUMMI handbook that might seem familiar in words or concept.

This includes their focus on engaging every employee in Kaizen, or continuous improvement (something that GM didn't really do at the Fremont plant before it became NUMMI):

Version 2

And Toyota emphasized the importance of good management (instead of blaming the workers like GM did):

Version 2

And the idea of developing people by challenging them to think and participate in Kaizen:

Version 2

And two quotes about problem solving:

Version 2 Version 2

Stay tuned. I'll be writing more about these documents in the coming weeks and months.

don-ephlin-files


What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

Did you like this post? Make sure you don't miss a post or podcast — Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.


Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

Get New Posts Sent To You

Select list(s):
Previous articleReal Productivity Improvement vs. Pressuring Workers; Easier vs. Suboptimizing
Next articleThedaCare CEO Dean Gruner to Retire; What’s Next for ThedaCare?
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.

3 COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.