Things They Say at Toyota: Protect Your Own Castle

One of the expressions I’ve come across working with and reading the writings of Toyota people is “Protect your own castle” 「自分の城は自分で守れ」. You could also say “You are responsible for protecting your castle.” At first this sounded like a bit of common sense advice on taking personal responsibility until I checked with one of my teachers one day and he corrected my understanding.
Like in many companies, Toyota will send people to assist a department that is struggling to keep up with the workload or having problems. In this situation would you send the best performer from your unit to help? Would you send your worst performer? Someone in between?
At Toyota the idea of “Protect your own castle” means sending the best performer to another department to assist. The result of this is that the remaining team is “weaker” if you will, and they all need to band together, come up with ideas and “protect their own castle” during the absence of their best performer. In this way it creates an opportunity for people to develop their skills.
In the long view, sending the best performer probably solves the problem quicker and reduces the impact on other departments (since we are all serving internal and external customers) so that you prevent the negative spiral that can happen if problems persist too long.
In addition, the department that receives the help from your department will be glad to return the favor in the future and send their best performer to help you. This is quite a different way of thinking about management and problem solving than the typical approach where everyone is looking after their own interests. Instead of a silo or stove pipe mentality of doing what’s best for my department it creates a flow-oriented or value stream mentality of doing what’s best for the overall process all the way to the customer.

5 Comments

  1. Meikah Delid

    October 3, 2006 - 12:48 am

    I like this idea of “protecting your castle.” Employees and management both own up to their tasks at hand and work together for their success. The departments helping out each other is a nice way of sharing the vision/mission in the organization. Unlike in other companies, where each department has its own skeletons in the closet. Good post!

  2. Karl McCracken

    October 3, 2006 - 2:35 pm

    Reminds me of implementing SAP / Oracle / ERP-of-your-choice.
    Consultant to CEO: “Can you draw up a list of key staff who you can’t afford to get dragged into the implementation team”.
    CEO: “Sure – already thought of that – here it is”
    Consultant: “Great. These are just the people that I INSIST are on the team”.
    When you’ve got a problem to solve, put the best people on it, not the ones whose absence wouldn’t be noticed!
    The fact that the remaining team band together and improve THEIR performance while their star player’s away is a new idea to me, and makes a lot of sense though – great post!

  3. vignesh

    October 4, 2006 - 11:32 pm

    sir i need management approach,
    organization structure,
    swort analysis,
    deparmentalization details of toyota kirloskar.

  4. Jon Miller

    October 5, 2006 - 7:28 am

    Dear Vignesh,
    Unfortunately I do not know anything about Toyota Kirloskar, other that what I can presume is generally similar to other Toyota sites. With some searching you will find articles relevant to your request on this website.
    Perhaps another reader who is more knowledeable can help you.
    Jon

  5. Barry

    October 6, 2006 - 6:58 am

    Jon,
    When reading Eiji’s book – Toyota, Fifty years in Motion I ran across this quote which Eiji attributed to Ishida-san. Ishida-san led Toyota during a very difficult period.
    When I read the “You have to protect your own Caslte by yourself” in Eiji’s book I took it to mean something like a Good Scout is always prepared, or you have to keep your powder dry and take responsibility for your own lot.
    I really appreciate this posting as it shows what Toyota has done with that initial concept internally. It broadened my understanding and provided additional insight. When you have time, more postings like this which provide background and additional understanding of what Toyota has done would also be appreciated.
    Thanks,