Monthly Archives: September 2016

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Decision Making Styles

There are alternative styles that a leader can use in guiding decision making in a team setting. Four that are typically used are:

  • Command: Leader makes the decision alone.
  • Consult: Leader gathers input from others, then makes the decision.
  • Majority: Group members are polled for their opinions. The majority opinion becomes the group decision.
  • Consensus: Everyone in the group discusses the subject, arriving at a decision that all members can support. A consensus decision does not have to be unanimous, but all members must be able to live with and agree to fully support the choice.

When making decisions that are significant and that require everyone’s support, it is important to consider discussing and working through all aspects of an issue to arrive at consensus. Since all decisions are not equally important, it can be useful to ask yourself and your team, some questions before automatically choosing a decision making style.

  • How critical is this decision to the success of our project?
  • How important is it that everyone on the team fully supports this decision?
  • Do we need to talk about the issues involved to collect more information before deciding?

Very early in a team’s life it is important to work through decisions together to build trust. Once you have established a good working relationship though, you should begin choosing a style that is appropriate to the decision being made.


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Managing Differences

Often, when a team is making decisions that involve complex or highly charged issues, differences arise. It is important to remember that differences are not bad. Differences of opinion can lead you to look at an issue more thoroughly, to consider more options and arrive at a more effective decision. While differences aren’t inherently bad, problems can arise if they aren’t managed appropriately.

 1.   Identify Differences

  • Listen carefully to diagnose what’s going on.
  • Ask questions to clarify areas of agreement or disagreement.
  • Check in frequently with the team. Quiet members are often quiet for a reason.

 2.   Analyze the Differences

  • Once differences arise, list the various options on a flip chart. Listing them on a chart makes them just ideas, instead of the conflicting opinions of specific individuals.
  • Look at and analyze the ideas. Explore where similarities exist instead of just concentrating on how far apart you are.
  • Consider alternatives. Often you can merge some of the options to create a new alternative.

3.   Make the Decision

  • Avoid getting stuck in the discussion phase. Move on to a decision point.
  • In choosing an alternative it is important to ask: “Will this choice help us to achieve our team’s goal?” If a decision does not support the team improvement goal, it should probably be questioned and another alternative considered.
  • In some cases, you as the leader may have to use the command or consult decision-making style to avoid getting completely bogged down. If you must do this, it is important to explain the rationale behind your decision so that all understand why you made the choice.

4.   Implement the Decision

  • Once you’ve decided, move on! Don’t allow yourselves to blame and second-guess; make an agreement to support the decision and move on to the next activity.

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What makes a leader?

Leaders are persons who respond to the needs of their team members and give directions to the group. Five basic principles seem to underlie all of their actions, whether they are facilitating tasks or supporting the interactions within the group.

 Five basic principles for an effective leader:

  • Lead by example
  • Focus on behavior
  • Value others
  • Build constructive relationships
  • Make things better

Effective leaders exemplify all of these interrelated principles. Although no single set of examples can fully describe how to act out these principles, they offer a basis against which a leader can choose specific actions. As a leader you can ask yourself:

  • Am I acting the way that I want others to act?
  • Am I looking at the facts or generalizing?
  • Do my actions communicate that I value your contribution?
  • Is there an opportunity for all to benefit from this change?

Some examples of these principles being transformed into actions include:

  • Developing and following meeting agendas.
  • Completing action items and tasks on schedule.
  • Following the problem solving process (ask Why? 5 times).
  • Listening to team members and allowing everyone to participate.
  • Working to understand the emotions of team members during times of change or conflict.
  • Inviting differences of opinion and then encouraging joint problem solving towards a mutual goal.
  • Constantly focusing attention on the team’s goal.
  • Encouraging the taking of risks.
  • Giving sincere praise to individuals and to the team for the completion of tasks.

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The Essence of Jidoka

The Toyota Production System is frequently modeled as a house with two pillars. One pillar represents just-in-time, and the other pillar the concept of jidoka. The house will not stand without both pillars. Yet many of us focus on the mechanisms of implementation – one piece flow, pull production, takt time, standard work, kanban – without linking those mechanisms back to the pillars that hold up the entire system.

JIT is fairly well understood, but I believe jidoka to be a crucial key to making the entire system stick. A lot of failed implementations can be traced back to not building this second pillar.

What does jidoka actually mean? A common answer to this question is “autonomation” or “automation with a human touch.” This is usually illustrated by example of a machine that will detect a problem and stop production automatically rather than continue to run and produce bad output.

This is certainly the origin of the principle. It goes back to 1892 when Sakichi Toyoda invented a simple, but ingenious, mechanism that detected a broken thread and shut off an automatic loom. That invention allowed one operator to oversee the operation of up to a dozen looms while maintaining perfect quality. But the system goes much further.

The jidoka pillar is often labeled “stop and respond to every abnormality.” This is obviously much more than having a machine shut down. Toyota refers to every process, whether human or automatic, being enabled or empowered to autonomously detect abnormal conditions and stop. The Team Member pulling an andon cord on the assembly line is jidoka as much as an automatic machine.

At my company we define jidoka as a four step process that engages when abnormalities occur.

  • Detect the abnormality.
  • Fix or correct the immediate condition.
  • Investigate the root cause and install a countermeasure.

The first two steps can be mechanized or automated. Poka-yoke devices are but one method to allow a process to detect a problem and stop. But if you take a broader view every one of the mechanisms of the TPS is really designed to do these two things.

Time itself can be a powerful detection mechanism – if work cycles are paced to the takt time. What should be complete 25% into the takt time? How about 50%? Is the work progressing the way you expect it to? There is a huge opportunity to detect a problem while there is enough time to respond – instead of discovering the end of the day (or the end of the week!) that things are way behind. If the Team Member is given the means to immediately signal that she has encountered a problem (via andon, for example), then the response can be immediate.

Kanban also serves as a system to detect abnormalities. If there is inventory without a kanban attached, I know that either overproduction has occurred or somebody didn’t follow the rules. If the system has been running smoothly and there is a shortage (or overage), I know something has changed.

All of the mechanisms of lean manufacturing follow the same pattern. They are designed to operate with the bare minimum (just enough, just in time) in order to detect abnormal conditions of system changes that might otherwise go unnoticed.

But detecting an abnormal condition does no good unless there is follow up. Visual controls are just decoration unless they trigger action. The second step is Stop. A lot of people have a hard time with this because they think it means bringing all production to a grinding halt until the problem is resolved. Don’t get me wrong – depending on the nature of the problem, sometimes it does. But stop is frequently simply a mental shift. If means stop doing what you were doing because you need to do something different. It is an acknowledgement that some kind of intervention is required. That might mean shutting down a process or machine, or it might means signaling for assistance. What I would not want to happen is to expect the Team Member who discovered the problem to try to fix it without telling anyone. But many times we expect them to do just that – and the rework becomes so deeply embedded into the routine that we can’t even tell it is happening. It seems normal because it has never been flagged as abnormal.

The third and fourth steps cannot be automated. They are entirely the domain of people because they require diagnosis, analysis and problem solving. How well an organization can get through the steps of fix the problem and install a countermeasure ultimately decides whether they move forward into continuous improvement or slip back when just-in-time reveals a problem to them.

Step three: Fix or correct the abnormal condition means to get the train back on the tracks so production can resume. It might entail putting in a temporary countermeasure to avoid recurrence of the problem. It might require some fire fighting. It might require running an exception process such as putting in some temporary kanbans or putting a unit into a rework stall. It might mean shutting down production until a broken tool is fixed. These decisions need to be made at the lowest possible level of the organization, but no lower. As the scope of the issue, and its potential customer and economic impact increases, so must the level of what to do about it. If the solution requires violating the principles of the production system, it should not be taken lightly. There are plenty of ways to solve problems while maintaining system integrity. Every time you ‘bust the system’ to get something done you erode confidence just a little bit.

The last of the four steps is to investigate the root cause of the problem and install a permanent countermeasure. This is an opportunity to expand your knowledge of your processes and your production system. Depending on the nature of the problem, it could be a straight-forward solution. Of course it might also require enlisting your Friendly Neighborhood Six-Sigma Black Belt. Either way your system is improved. You will certainly have to prioritize your efforts, but do not just stick chronic problems into the “too hard” box.

JIT is powerful because it not only drives out unnecessary cost but it also helps detect problems that are the causes of waste. But jidoka is the response to problems. JIT is relatively easy to implement, but with out the mechanisms of jidoka in place to support it, JIT quickly erodes and the waste finds its way back in. When JIT and jidoka work together they form the engine of kaizen that drives your system to get better every day.

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What does JIDOKA mean?

In order to produce world-class, quality automobiles at competitive price levels, Toyota developed an integrated approach to production, which manages equipment, materials, and people in the most efficient manner while ensuring a healthy and safe work environment.

The Toyota Production System has been built on two main principles: “Just-In-Time” production and “Jidoka.” Underlying this management philosophy and the entire Toyota production process is the concept that “Good Thinking Means Good Product”.

Jidoka (or Autonomation) is one of the pillars of the Toyota Production system or TPS. Denso’s objectives should be to deliver products of a quality, price, and within a timeframe defined by the customer. Jidoka is the concept of adding an element of human judgement to automated equipment. In doing this, the equipment becomes capable of discriminating against unacceptable quality, and the automated process becomes more reliable.

The Japanese kanji characters for JIDOKA (pronounced gee dough kah) are a kind of pun on another word in Japanese also pronounced the same but written with a different middle character and meaning simply “automation.” The English word Autonomation (or “autonomous operation) was coined to convey the meaning of “automation with a human element,” because the middle kanji for DO in Jidoka includes a character representing a human being.

A good example of Jidoka is the Toyota power loom developed in the early 20th century. A problem existed with shuttlecocks that would stick and create defects in the cloth being produced. Before power looms, a weaver would be able to remedy any such problems before proceeding, but power looms continued mindlessly on, producing unacceptable quality that required the cloth to be unravelled and backed up, boosting costs and making quality suspect. The Toyota loom incorporated a simple stopper that was activated by a sticking shuttlecock, and thus the machine became more “human,” and “knew” when to stop. The end result was a reliable system that was cheaper to operate and produced the expected quality. JIDOKA prevents products with unacceptable quality from continuing in the process.

Examples of Jidoka in common use at Denso are the stamp interlock system on the testing stages. The stamps are inaccessible unless the testing process has been achieved successfully. The stamp must be replaced before the next test can be started. Another example is the go, no go gauges on the pipe bulging process. The operator must check the part in the gauge, which is interlocked to the machine. Only a successful bulge will allow the operator to proceed. A further example is the system of holes located in the side of the condensers. These holes identify to the machine the model and variant of condenser, fool proofing the build.

Summary Jidoka – Intelligent Automation, also called ‘autonomation’ and ‘intelligent automation’ is a pillar of the Toyota Production system.  Jidoka focuses on separating human and machine work by automating one element at a time cost effectively.  Productivity is improved and the operator’s role is changed to that of a load and unload role.  Error proofing and error detection is built into the machine process so that defects are not passed on.

• Improve productivity
• Improve quality
• Improve safety
• Enable multi-process handling
• Achieve low-cost automation