Reflection # 5 (two days late and dollar short)

This week’s topic was culture. You know, the big thing that influences everybody yet almost seems invisible? I personally (and probably ignorantly) have always felt one step removed from popular culture. Currently my organization is very relaxed about dress code in the office. This was culture shock for me. Coming from a place where denim was NEVER allowed, to a place where staff wears slippers and Snuggies around the office. In retrospect I wasn’t removed from this culture because of who I am personally, but because of the previous culture I came from. I will occasionally participate in a casual day after two years of being in this culture, and I do keep a blanket under my desk to help keep off the year-round air-conditioning. You will however, NEVER see me in a Snuggie and slippers in the office.


What has stuck with me from the readings is the processes and in which culture is always changing and is ultimately developed as a way to cope with human nature. It is such a curious concept that I am not certain if I have completely grasped it yet. I work in the healthcare IT field, and it has really been impacted by all of the health care reform we experiencing currently. I have been to conferences, spoke to clinics, read studies, and have done personal research on the topic. I can’ shake this feeling of thinking some big piece is missing from this process.


It hit me while reading about culture. Our American culture is not ready for healthcare reform. We are actually implementing this backwards. We are putting in solutions before anyone knows how to use them. If we want to shift our culture into not only utilizing the healthcare reform solutions, but make them good consumers we need to almost start over.


If we need to lessen the amount of healthcare we are using, in order to better provide more people with access to healthcare then we need to start empowering ourselves (culture) to know the basics of self healthcare. With the cost of the healthcare reform, there must be a surge of education to current students, communities, and individuals. A sore throat, a cut that may need stitches, a sprained ankle, all of these things can tempt one to run to the doctor for treatment. In 2013, as access to the internet is ever so increasing, why is our culture not empowered to self-diagnose and treat simple ailments?


Our culture assumes that hospitals, ERs and urgent care are the solution to mild (non-life threatening) conditions. This can no longer be the assumption of American culture. The health systems, providers, patients, and communities can start to shift the paradigm. I don’t have all of the answers, but I think I am on to something… I would love your thoughts and feedback, please share!


Schein, E. (2004). Organizational culture and leadership, 3rd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass


Reflection #4

 So clearly this week’s reading from Liker & Hoseus Toyota Culture: The Heart and Soul of the Toyota Way (2008), starts with a quote from Edgar H. Schein, “never start with the idea of changing culture. Always start with the issue the organization faces” (pg. 501).  So often organizations want to shift their culture without ever realizing what the cause of their cultural problems are.  As an aspiring leader it is somewhat a huge leap to consider that culture may ultimately be something I could influence one day, or do I already hold an influence on the culture at my company? Hmmm.

Liker & Hoseus (2008) imply that organizations in western countries have had a hard time reproducing the Toyota Way (pg. 503). Liker & Hoseus discuss how American auto manufactures tried to replicate Toyota culture by using a “top down” approach (pg. 504). Of course not to be outdone by the Japanese, Americans took it to the next extreme. I also silently laugh at the mention of Deming using statistics to discuss quality control (our QI team uses Deming).

Actually let me pause on this topic right here. We just held an annual event in which we gave surveys at the event. I volunteered to white paper the event (write an analysis afterward). I volunteered because practice makes perfect and well taking the whole event and compiling it into a formal report will be useful to my aspirations, and me. It also is something our organization tends to not do. We never pause and reflect. We “learn” and move on, but we are not consistent enough. 

Back to the surveys… As I sat down with the executive sponsor I asked some questions, including what were the objectives of the event? After hearing some really thoughtful and qualitative objectives, I had to ask… “So why did we ask about the cost (2 x’s) and would you recommend this event”?

Head in her hands she said because that was what we asked last year and we need the same data per our Quality Improvement team. REALLY?!? Why the heck are we measuring this information just for the sake of our data points being consistent? Well according to the training I have participated in we need run charts and at least 12 data points to see patterns and make any real improvements.

Well, I may disagree with this method and have resolved that there is nothing I can do with the data that is being collected this year. I can however, impact future surveys for this event with my analysis. Being too methodical can limit an organization to actually not being impactful. By not defining objectives in the beginning of the planning phase of this event it will be superficially measured for quality. If objectives had been defined, documented, and communicated there is a significant chance that the event could have been much more successful (and it is to date is the most successful event we have had). indicates that, “Deming argued that a company’s commitment to quality had to come from the top, and it had to be reinforced over and over again. Unless a business views quality as its single, non-negotiable goal, workers will inevitably feel the need to make tradeoffs and quality will slip”. Well I agree with consistency, I disagree with top driven improvements and culture. Be consistent in objectives, identify values, and as a leader grow the culture and improvements.

To bring this whole digression into a full circle, culturally my current company strives for improvement, but because they are using a top down approach, it is impossible for employees to engage on a meaningful level. Going back to the original quote in the beginning of my post, start with the issue (or objective)- then bring theories and data in, not the other way around.

Liker, J. K., & Hoseus, M. (2008). Toyota culture: The heart and soul of the Toyota way. New York: McGraw Hill 

3rd Journal Entry and a little venting. . .

This week has been insightful and energizing as I have read through several materials and participated in online discussions. I did my first couple of posts very academically as I have been trained so well to do through undergrad and … Continue reading

2nd Journal Entry

Chapter 3:

Toyota Production System (TPS)

1. What does the customer want from this process?

  • Include internal customers at the next step of the production line and the final external customer
  • The answer = value

Liker (2004) states that anything else is “non-value added” (pg. 27).

Liker lists eight major types of non-value-added waste in business or manufacturing processes. Liker credits Toyota for the first 7 and the last #8 as his own. They are:

  1. Overproduction
  2. Waiting (time on hand)
  3. Unnecessary transport or conveyance
  4. Overprocessing or incorrect processing
  5. Excess Inventory
  6. Unnecessary movement
  7. Defects
  8. Unused employee creativity

(Liker, 2004, pg 28-29)

Many of the items on the list are no brainers. Number two for example is obvious, time = money. If you have staff or employees waiting there is no productivity. Since I am not in manufacturing, here is an off the cuff thought for the business world- managers start your meetings on time!

Number six is called out for “wasted motion employees have to perform during the course of their work” Liker even tells us that walking is a waste of time. While walking and movement may be a waste of time, sometimes when you have a desk job it is important for your health to get up and move a little bit. I can see in a manufacturing job where number six is important, but in a business setting and in today’s world where we are sledging extra weight and barely active enough o keep our blood flowing I wouldn’t implement number six in the work place.

Liker continues on to describe a “spaghetti diagram” where you go through the process of walking through and mapping your value stream.  (pg. 29-30). I am trying really hard to relate this to business and not have it be so “manufactury”. I suppose it could work to map all the entry points a customer comes into the organization and follow the life cycle of a sale, and then the account management . . .

Liker reiterates that Lean Improvement is different from traditional process improvement, because you are taking out the non-value-added steps, not just improving certain steps (pg. 31).

As Toyota grew the standards that Toyota used in TPS needed to be communicated.  Here is a link to another blog that shows the “House” that Toyota Built: this is actually an interesting interpretation of how to use TPS in a more business role.


More coming soon. . .


Liker, J. K. (2004). The Toyota Way: 14 management principles from the world’s greatest manufacturer. New York: McGraw-Hill.

1st Journal Entry

Reflections on Reading The Toyota Way Chapters 1-2


Chapter 1:

Chapter 1 introduces us to Toyota’s successes over the years. I had to check the copyright date knowing that in recent years Toyota has had a few issues and no longer reflects the glowing reviews that Liker raves (2004, pg. 4-5). Indeed the copyright is 2004, which would reflect a happier time for Toyota. We have been assigned this giant book for a reason. I will give it a chance and read its points openly.

“The Toyota Way” is based on Liker’s 20 years of studying Toyota (2004, pg. 6) that includes four high-levels principles to include:

  • Philosophy
  • Process
  • People/Partners
  • Problem Solving

Along with the “Toyota Way” it is paired with “The Toyota Production System (TPS) and Lean Production” which is what Liker describes as the “double helix of Toyota’s DNA” (2004, pg. 7). Liker quotes Taiichi Ohno, founder of TPS:

All we are doing is looking at the time line from the moment the customer gives us an order to the point when we collect cash. And we are reducing that time line by removing the non-value-added wastes”(Ohno, 1998).

Wow, what a statement! Currently working in an company industry that consistently is trying to add value, but rarely will remove “non-value-added wastes”. What a practical statement.

Liker (2004) is quick to point out that many companies tend to only focus on Process and do not look at the other 3Ps when trying to adapt the 4 Ps to the process (pg. 13).


Chapter 2:

Interesting, that Toyota is favored by Liker as a “family business”, with over 240,000 employees (2004, pg. 15).  Currently working in an organization that has 170 employees it does not feel like I work for a “family business” and doubt that any company over 100 employees really could.

Aha- it is a family company being handed down from Sakichi Toyoda a tinker and inventor (Liker, 2004, pg 16) to his son Kiichiro who sold the patent and founded Toyota Motor Company in 1930 (pg. 16). Interesting that globalization was impacting Toyota in the 40’s after World War II. The United States saw a need for Toyota to build trucks to help rebuild Japan after WWII (Liker, 2004, pg. 18).

Eiji Toyoda was the nephew of Sakichi and cousin to Kiichiro and eventually “became president and then chairman of Toyota Motor Manufacturing” (Liker, 2004, pg. 20). All founding family members apparently were not afraid to get their hands dirty. I always prefer a leader who is willing to roll up their sleeves.

Toyota took a 12-week tour in the 1950’s of US manufacturing plants, and instead of being amazed they saw it was an opportunity to “catch up” (Liker, 2004, pg 21). Interesting that instead of accepting that the competition is where it was, the early leaders of Toyota considered it a chance. One question I do have is, why would competitors such as Ford Motor Company allow Toyota into their manufacturing plants? Perhaps Toyota was not considered a big enough threat to even give it a thought.

After completing the first two chapters it is clear why Toyota is considered a “family” company and I am eager to find out why they have not lost that over decades in business.

Liker, J. K. (2004). The Toyota Way: 14 management principles from the world’s greatest manufacturer. New York: McGraw-Hill.