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 


One thought on “Reflection #4

  1. Good insights Lindsey. I agree with your approach to changing culture. Culture is not really a “thing” but is instead a reflection of shared values, assumptions, etc. You can’t change the reflection, only the components that create it. Starting with objectives and engaging people from there should slowly change the components that comprise culture. And yes, then and only then should measurements be taken.

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