The co-author of The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement: Linking Strategy and Operational Excellence to Achieve Superior Performance. James Franz, answered a question of mine around how executives are trained in their thinking.
Related Podcast and Transcription: Toyota’s Continuous Improvement
Joe: Is this what you mean by machine thinking that’s attractive to a lot of executives?
Jim Franz: Yes. It’s one of our biggest challenges we’re going up against the entire “B-school” world out there. Steve Spear, I thought, talked about it very well in Chasing the Rabbit where he talks about all of our leadership now tends to come out of business schools. Who are taught to think in terms of transactions. “Where do I put the factory? Is this a make or is this a buy?” You do some accumulation of data and then bang! You make a decision!
That’s what makes a really good strong leader, is you can make quick, decisive decisions, et cetera. We support that kind of firefighter, chainsaw, Al Dunlap kind of thing, but the company and business isn’t a machine. It’s not something you walk up with a big honking wrench and crank on the bolt two times clockwise and suddenly your productivity goes up six percent. We don’t all show up in the morning, plug our brains in, and get our updated downloaded software telling us how to do our work.
When you think about the business as a machine, you think that there are some types of solutions. You’ll bring in technicians ?? how about consultants from the outside, to tweak the machine, to play with the source code. Ignoring the fact that your business is populated with people, and those people need to be developed into problem solvers to help the business achieve its goals. You totally miss that way of thinking when you get caught in this machine?head type scenario.
It is attractive, because you can think of things ?? well, like Lean ?? in terms of, “This is a project, how about a war on waste?” That’s attractive ?? that’ll look good on a banner when you come in the front door. “We’re engaged in a war on waste!”
Well, what do you do in a war? You gather all your troops, the generals plot the strategy. You unleash your strategy; you have this big huge war. Then the war is over, you declare victory, you send all the troops home and you demobilize. This is really the exact opposite of what we’re talking about, when you start talking about continuous improvement by developing your team’s problem solvers.
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