Friday, June 12, 2009

The Toyota Way

bookI just finished listening to "The Toyota Way" while commuting in my Camry as a way to get an introduction to Lean Software Methodology. A few things that struck me in the book (in no particular order):
  1. Counter Intuitive. Many of the ideas just don't sound right like stopping production if a problem is spotted on the line, or not using machines to their capacity. Although the ideas sound crazy at times, you can't argue with the success of Toyota.
  2. Set Based Solutions. Don't just create one solution to a problem, create several solutions and discuss the merits of each with many people. Implement swiftly.
  3. Continuous Improvement - "Kaizen". The production process should always be improving. People need to be committed to adapting to change and initiating change.
  4. Commitment to Training. Employees should be trained well. I was amazed at the amount of training that Toyota offers its people.
  5. Flow. Don't just optimize parts of the process - optimize the total system.
  6. Fix the Process, "Pokayoke". When something does not perform as expected, don't just fix it, find out why it failed. Pokayoke means to find the root problem and take action so the problem does not occur again.
  7. Easy to Copy Badly. The Toyota Production System is easy to copy badly with disastrous results. The example given was the magic chord that any employee can pull to stop the entire line when she discovers a defect in the process. Some plants tried to copy this method, but found it not to work well. In the Toyota plants pulling the chord doesn't immediately stop the line, but gives the team leaders some time to resolve the situation before stopping the complete line.
  8. Focus on "Standard Work". Each step of production has written steps on how to do the work. The employees should be doing the process exactly as written. When defects in the line occur, the line managers focus on how the defect occured. Was the standard work followed? If not, why not? If it was followed, the standard work needs to be changed. Standard Work is the first step to continuous improvement. You cannot effectively improve an ad hoc process.
  9. Eliminate Waste, "Muda". "anything other than the minimum amount of equipment, materials, parts, and workers (working time) which are absolutely essential to production" is waste. Seven classes of waste: overproduction, delay, transportation, processing, inventory, wasted motion, and defective parts. In software development I see a lot of inventory - written and tested software which has not been released because it's hard to install mission critical software.
  10. Visual Displays, "Andon". It's important for everyone to see progress, so Toyota emphasizes big signs where everyone can see problems and production.
  11. Hands-On Approach, Genchi Gengustu "Go see the problem". Management must visit the factory floor and see for themselves the problems.

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