What do you see?

Learning to See

Taiichi Ohno is the Japanese industrial engineer who played a major role in pioneering the Toyota Production System. When training a new manager, legend has it he drew a circle on the shop floor and have the manager stand in the circle. He was given the job to “see”.

Taiichi Ohno

Taiichi Ohno

He then walked away. Upon returning if the manager’s list  of process improvements was not long enough, he would have them remain in their circle. At the end of the day, if they had not come up with a list he deemed sufficient, the manager would very likely return to the same circle next day. There they would remain, until he was satisfied the list represented a good start.

  1. Muda – futility, uselessness; wastefulness.
    • Avoided by asking if he customer would be happy to pay for the item or service in question.
    • Inventory in manufacturing or seldom used software features are two examples.
    • Any process that consumes more resources than needed, causing waste to occur.
  2. Mura – unevenness; irregularity; lack of uniformity; non-uniformity; inequality.
    • Avoided by Kaizen (small incremental process improvements) or just in time production.
  3. Muri – unreasonableness; impossible; beyond one’s power; too difficult; by force; perforce; forcibly; compulsorily; excessiveness; immoderation.
    • Avoided by standardized work.

Additional thoughts on Muda

Ohno developed these seven ways organizations should use to identify Muda (waste).

  1. Delay, waiting or time spent in a queue with no value being added.
  2. Producing more than you need.
  3. Over processing or undertaking non-value added activity.
  4. Transportation.
  5. Unnecessary movement or motion.
  6. Inventory.
  7. Reduction of Defects.

Learning to Think

This quote from Taiichi Ohno summarizes much of what he believed, The Toyota style is not to create results by working hard. It is a system that says there is no limit to people’s creativity. People don’t go to Toyota to “work” they go there to “think”. 

Passionate thinking gives birth to process improvements. Thinking truly begins when we exercise the art of seeing.

Additional Resources

About Larry

Passionate, experienced Agilest with a love for Scrum and Kanban. Huge fan of Lean, Theory of Constraints and of course the Toyota Production System. Avid learner. Deeply influenced by the works of Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber, Eliyahu Goldratt, Jeff Patton and countless others. Active in both the PMI and Agile communities in Southern California.
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