PDCA is About Not Telling Lies


This circle doesn’t lie. In fact one could say that used properly, it is a truth-generator. In a section discussing problem solving, experimentation and PDCA, the book Extreme Toyota by Emi Osono, Norihiko Shimizu and Hirotaka Takeuchi quotes Toyota Senior Advisor Yoshio Ishizaka:

“From my 40 years of experience with PDCA at Toyota, it’s about not telling lies. This may not be so obvious, but it’s all about being honest. Toyota culture emphasizes honesty.”

This is another way of saying that they are very good at management by fact. By nature, facts themselves are not lies. How one uses them is a different matter, and in this statement by Ishizaka there is a deep insight into how Toyota uses the A3 thinking process to get the facts on one sheet of paper and how it uses the PDCA process to experiment and learn through failures.

The difference between “tell the truth” and “not tell lies” seems small but it is in fact a huge difference. We know when we are lying. We don’t always know what the truth is. We need PDCA to help us find the truth.

6 Comments

  1. Robert

    December 1, 2008 - 11:37 pm

    Sometimes we can lose a lot if we tell the truth (what we think is the truth). Sometimes we can lose someone we love because of that. It can’t be our PLAN. In this case DO is very hard. To say the right words, CHECK the reaction and ACT quick and smart.
    How easy it is to write and how hard it is to do…

  2. Jon

    December 2, 2008 - 1:09 am

    Hi Robert,
    I think the lesson is that we need to take time to plan, understand the problems clearly and deeply, explore many countermeasures, then check and act swiftly on what we’ve learned.

  3. John Santomer

    December 3, 2008 - 7:37 am

    If everyone is committed to the goal, then there is no need to keep anything secret. In fact it is essential that all are informed every step of the way to assure that every resource is utilized and working to achieve the same set of goals. The problems begin when secrets are being kept, it downplays the strength of the group to maximize its true potential and overcome the situations that can be construed as road blocks. Some misguided members of the group may view it in their “best interest” not to inform everyone. On the contrary, the secret itself presents another problem of being disclosed at a later stage when it already poses as a major stumbling block. The PDCA Cycle asserts the procedures that are needed to assure realization of the goal and achieve its full circle. At a level up – secure sustainability upon completion and strive to seek continuous improvement.

  4. Robert

    December 9, 2008 - 1:18 am

    If everyone is committed to the (same) goal… sometimes we fail to discuss what is this goal in details. Sometimes we only THINK that everyone has the same opinion about the goal.
    I don’t quite understand John’s comment about secrets. Does it mean that every small detail must be analysed and discussed in the team regardless of the fact, it is not a problem? Should we make the problems or solve them? What if i can do it alone and don’t need help? What if i inform the team only about the results and ask for help only if i need it? Do i keep secrets?

  5. John Santomer

    December 14, 2008 - 1:26 am

    A secret is something that was done without informing the the group after it has already agreed at a strategic plan. In a way the PDCA cycle provides the outline of the strategic plan. The strategic plan is not a problem, it unifies all the resources of the group to gravitate to the agreed goal/s. All plans have levels of detailing that falls in the WBS. Even the Strategic Plan can be a WIP as obstacles present themselves which were not seen in the initial stages. When the plans escalate all the way down and laid in the WBS, it is hoped that all detailing has been made clear to all members of the group.
    Even if I do not need help from the group, I would certainly inform them of my own initiatiative as it may in some way affect other on-going jobs that other members of the group are currently involved in.
    Having a personal signature of being a Restorative and Developer dictates me to solve problem and not make them, if possible, avoid them altogether by good planning. As a group and being a member in the group, may I ask what value is there to keep a secret if all members of the group are agreed to achieve its goals? Most specially if it concerns tasks related to the goals of the group. I could also learn from your explanation.

  6. John Santomer

    December 14, 2008 - 6:54 am

    When one does not tell the truth and does not lie – it can be called a secret. Undiclosure is secrecy, how one uses facts is a totally different matter…irrespective of what the results of keeping secrecy, whether its an accomplishment or a failure. The mere fact that we are part of a group means that every part of its initiative should be a team concerted and agreed effort- no matter how big or small. But then, I could be wrong…assuming that every member could accept the same line of thinking.