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Tony Manos and Dr. Yoji Akao at ASQ World Conference on Quality & Improvement

I had the honor and privilege to meet Dr. Yoji Akao at the American Society for Quality’s (ASQ) World Conference on Quality & Improvement on Monday, May 24, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri USA. Many people may know Dr. Akao as a co-creator of Quality Function Deployment (QFD), but I would like to thank him for creating a tool that I personally use and help other organizations implement – Hoshin Kanri (a.k.a. Policy Deployment).

So many times as Lean practitioners we are well skilled in using the tools associated with the Toyota Production System, but sometimes we fail to remember all those people that created these concepts and tools; testing them and extending them to the masses for a breakthrough in thinking and practice.

It’s a little hard for me to think that Dr. Akao was using Hoshin forty years ago. It is also a little remarkable that more companies aren’t using it today. Let’s try to get the word out about Hoshin and let’s hope we can make our organizations better. In order to do my part, I will offer a free webinar late June on this topic. If you plan on attending the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Conference in the fall I will be presenting a Hoshin workshop there. Stayed tuned for more information.

Domo arigato Sensei

“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” – Henry Ford

Since today I am at the American Society for Quality (ASQ) World Conference on Quality and Improvement I thought this would be an appropriate quote. With all that has transpired recently with Toyota and the recall of millions of cars it is easy to see what happens when we let quality take a back seat (no pun intended) to production or growth. 

I can remember the big push for quality in the 1980s. Many American companies were realizing that quality was an essential element to be able to compete in the global market place. What spurred this on? One thing was the level of quality from companies overseas including car companies in Japan like Toyota and Honda. If you think back to the 1960s, if a product said “Made in Japan” it was considered junk or of low quality. Within two decades that perception was turned around. During the 1970s electronics from Japan (remember stereos?) were considered top-notch. At this time there was also a big push in the United States to “Buy American”. I can certainly see why people were saying that – save jobs, keep manufacturing here and so on. I can recall how hard it was for my dad to find an American made stereo. He finally decided on a Radio Shack model. As I recall it was pretty good (but I wanted the fancier Pioneer stereo). He was personally affected by this because his company served the electronics industry and as Japan targeted this market it drove his company out of business. So, over time manufacturing left the U.S. in large droves. But the ones that remained focused on quality, service, delivery and of course, reducing costs. This was a bitter pill to swallow and still is for many groups. But what it has done was make us stronger and better.

So here’s to quality – may every organization practice it everyday even when no one is looking.

I thought I would try something new with the blog. Each Monday I will share a quote that has a meaning to Lean practitioners. Then I will add a short message myself. Hopefully these quotes and commentary will be inspirational, allow you to reflect, and possibly share your thoughts or comments with colleagues or on this blog.

Finding Time for Improvement

Shigeo Shingo

“Are you too busy for improvement? Frequently, I am rebuffed by people who say they are too busy and have no time for such activities. I make it a point to respond by telling people, look, you’ll stop being busy either when you die or when the company goes bankrupt.” – Shigeo Shingo

I have noticed that it’s not just me saying “I don’t have enough time to ____ (fill in the blank).” I think we all hit moments where we just don’t have enough time to get everything done that we want to accomplish. Just recently, while working with a talented group of people at a company trying to improve their problem solving skills, I noticed that they did a good job at their initial response. But if they just went a little step further they probably could have prevented the problem from ever occurring again. When I asked why they weren’t able to do this, the most common response is “I don’t have time to.” I felt for them, because I know I’ve been in their shoes.

While pondering this for my own situation, I concluded that I have several options:

  1. Re-prioritize items. If it isn’t important enough I would just have to let it go.
  2. Delegate it to someone else. I would have to see if there is someone else that could do this task for me.
  3. Find another resource to do it. Hire someone, use an intern, and get a consultant or whatever it takes to get it done.
  4. Steal time from somewhere else. Work late; come in early, work Saturday, whatever it takes. Definitely not my preferred method.

How do you respond when someone says “I just don’t have time”? Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks – Tony