One Key to a Lean Culture: Be Dissatisfied in the Work You Do

We met today with a long-term client of ours who has a small fabrication shop near our office. They make prosthetics (artificial limbs) which are each truly “one of a kind”, custom fit to the individual. As a small, growing company with limited resources they haven’t been able to pull themselves away from the day-to-day and focus on kaizen, process development and people development nearly as much as they would like. The managers have read The Toyota Way by Jeffrey Liker, they invested the time and money to go with us to Japan for a one-week benchmarking trip, and they are fully supportive of Lean manufacturing. They get it. This was driven home on our visit today.
They walked us around their gemba, showing all of the small improvements they had made since our last visit. Parts presentation kaizen here, material waste reduction kaizen there, pokayoke device here, visual controls there, one after another in every corner of their small shop. But the greatest thing for us was their passion when they talked about their problems. They didn’t let pride or shame cloud them, they saw their problems and wanted to attack them. One of the bolts on the pokayoke device was missing. They found some minor flaws on two pieces of work in process on jigs. They shared their woes with us about their struggle to develop true Toyota-style team leaders.
This made me particularly happy because they were picking on problems that they may not even have recognized a year or two ago. Now that they know what a Toyota-style team leader looks like, they are not happy with what they have. Now that they understand the importance of error-proofing, they are frustrated when the pokayoke has not been error-proofed. They now hold themselves to a higher standard of quality and they judge their product quality based on whether the customer would be happy and how it reflects on the company, rather than how close they are to due date.
There was a sign on the wall that read “Take pride in the work you do.” Take pride, but don’t be proud. Instead, be dissatisfied. If you are a true believer in kaizen, hang up a sign reading “Be dissatisfied in the work you do.” That is one key to a Lean culture.

3 Comments

  1. kony

    August 4, 2006 - 2:43 am

    “Progress can’t be generated when we are satisfied with existing situations.” Taiichi Ohno

  2. jeff

    August 11, 2006 - 8:04 pm

    Gee, that’s interesting. I’m not sure I would post a sign like that. One of my missions is to have place for people to come and work and be satisfied. A sign like that sounds counter productive.

  3. Dr K

    August 15, 2006 - 2:29 pm

    The work isn’t perfect until the customer deems it so and that will not happen … keep asking the customer and you will come closer to your goals.