Akinori Hyodo, former Factory Manager, Toyota HiAce Factory | #AskSensei Event 4 Summary | 27 May 2020
We all understand the importance of personnel development within an organization. What is Toyota’s approach to personnel development and training? Lean Sensei Akinori Hyodo discusses Toyota’s method and shares his thoughts on this important topic by drawing examples from daily life.
The Importance of Personnel Development
Today we are talking on the theme of personnel development. You hear this term brought up often in various circumstances. Something that I always first refer to is that behind all themes and subjects, there is an objective. So, what is the objective of developing your personnel? Why is it necessary?
I really want you to think carefully about the objective and why it’s necessary before you think about how you are going to develop your people.
So, I would like to kick off today by talking about why personnel development is necessary.
There are various types of organizations and companies around the world. Simply put, our society is made up of those various organizations and companies. Each of us should contribute to improve the society that we are all living within. Given how our society is made up, we should improve our organizations as this helps to contribute to the overall improvement of our society.
With regards to our organizations and companies, we have a saying in Japan that the true value of a company is its people. An organization is built upon the people that it has within the organization. On a much broader level, society is built upon the people within the society. Therefore, as I said earlier, we need to improve our organizations. We must develop and progress our companies to keep them in existence.
However, it is inevitable that people working for an organization change over time. People within an organization keep changing while some join and others leave. Despite this, organizations need to develop and move forward.
If you had the same group of people working forever within your organization, it would be easier to continue growing and developing your organization. However, this is something impossible and it’s not the case. In reality, you have people coming in and out of your organization. When this happens, there is the history of the organization that they need to understand. There are also technologies and skills related to the work that they need to understand and acquire. When people are coming in and out, you must make sure those important points are passed on amongst your people. You also want to continue developing and improving your organization even to a higher level than it has been in the past. You must keep on growing it.
So, in this type of environment, we must at the very minimum maintain our level as an organization despite the fact that people are coming in and out. But, even more than that we need to develop and grow our organization further. Unless we are doing this by passing on our history, technologies and know-how, we are going to struggle growing our organization let alone maintaining the status-quo.
This is the key reason why it is necessary to continually develop your people. I will talk about some more detail perhaps in another webinar, but I wish to draw on an example to help explain what I have been speaking about. I think more than half of those joining us today have a child or children. As a parent, you are responsible for fostering the growth of your children until they become adults. In order for them to become good citizens when they reach adulthood, through your role as a parent you are helping them develop and grow. I think this provides a good reference to our company life in the sense that your children at work are those people working beneath you in your team. Unless you are continually developing those people below you in your company, the company is going to struggle to remain strong and perhaps will struggle to remain in existence going forward. That’s why, it is an important role of a company to continuously develop its people.
In summary, personnel development is a necessity for the continuation and the development of organizations. If you were to stop developing people, the company won’t be able to survive for too long.
How does Toyota instil the ideal production state in its employees’ minds and hearts?
I will perhaps begin answering the question by asking where exactly you wish to be, rather than trying to instill the ideal production state. I think the question is more about what your target is.
I believe many of your companies already have a vision of where they wish to be in five years or in ten years’ time. They may not be written down on paper but at least within the head of the management there must be a vision of where they wish the company to be in the future.
Many companies in Japan and companies like Toyota have a medium-term and longer-term vision in place and they create an annual policy based on their vision. In order to make the vision a reality, various targets and plans to achieve those targets are set, and everyone in the company works together to fulfill those set targets by engaging themselves in various activities that are put in place.
This vision or this ideal state that is to be achieved within a set period of time comes down from the top of the organization to each department and is deployed down through to the rest of the organization. Those people at the head of each level would accept the vision and targets, and this provides the basis for their activities each year.
An important part of this is to check how each department is progressing towards the target each year and it’s a continual cycle of receiving targets, doing related activities and checking. We need to try to put our progress as much as possible into numbers. We must quantify our progress as much as possible so that we are able to compare against the targets.
Managers and leaders of each level of the organization are checking on a daily basis to see how their team is progressing towards those targets and if they are not achieving those targets, they will step in and fix those issues on a genchi genbutsu basis by going to the actual place and going to see the actual thing. Managers go to the shop floor and actually make observations themselves in order to provide guidance to their team or the area that is not achieving that target so that they can recover and get back to where they need to be.
This is the continuous management culture we have within Toyota. This is a management cycle we perform and those around us see this and this rubs off on them in what we think is a positive approach to their development.
What formal process does Toyota have to handle the performance of teamwork and how do they ensure that the process runs effectively? What is the daily routine of a factory manager and how did Hyodo Sensei interact with the lean implementation teams?
This is an interesting question. There is a time when teamwork is certainly necessary though I am not sure if teamwork is required all of the time. But, if we were to just focus on teamwork, there is a structure within a team that is in place to begin with. And the person who is the leader of the team needs to understand the results of the work of their team to assess whether the team is progressing and working well.
There needs to be some indicators or something akin to KPIs that show how the team is performing against their plan and targets. By having such indicators in a visualized form, the team is able to see their results against their plans and targets, and see whether they are achieving them and are on the right track, or not achieving them, etc.
So, an important part of a team leaders’ role relates to how they manage this and whether they are tracking how their team is performing against their targets. This is what leaders are expected to do. If the team is on track with their tasks, that’s fine, but if they are not achieving their targets or plan, the role of the leader is to make some changes to get their performance and results back on track.
As I said, how the leader of the team perceives and implements this concept is a really important part of how the team comes together.
But, there are all sorts of things you can do in terms of how you act as a leader in these situations and the approaches a leader takes would be different depending on the leader’s personality, skills and characteristics and the situation he/she faces at the time.
With regards to the second question as to what I did as a factory manager, there was no separate lean implementation team in my situation. It was purely everybody in production that was doing lean. As a factory manager, I needed to be looking at how everyone was performing in their lean implementation and whether they were doing well or falling behind.
Of course, hearing the issues and talking to people about the issues were an important part of understanding whether we were achieving our plans and targets or not. But, I’d say more than half of my day would be spent walking around the shop floor or seeing things for myself.
I really prioritized and valued the time on the shop floor and seeing things for myself with my own eyes.
If I consider, for example, an eight-hour day when I was the factory manager, I would be sitting at my desk maybe one to two hours and apart from being in meetings, I would spend the rest of the time on the shop floor.
Then, what was I doing and looking for when I was walking around the shop floor? For instance, if I saw some issues in an area the day before, I would go to that area again myself to gain a direct understanding of how things were properly followed up. For another example, if there were some things that I just didn’t feel right about, I would then walk to that area and spend some time there as well.
As I walked around, I would also check various numbers and KPIs to confirm that we were operating as planned and to target. There were many visual tools that were put in place for me to understand them quickly.
When I found an issue by walking around the shop floor, I used to call the leader and the manager of that area over and talk to them. The talk was around guiding them. Through this communication channel of being on the shop floor, finding a problem and guiding people below me through that problem, I was able to develop people within my organization and build good relationships and rapport with them.
As a factory manager, I was able to freely plan my daily schedule based on what I needed and wanted to do. The game of a factory manager is all about getting good results and achieving set targets. So, in the back of our mind, there is always consideration of how we are going to get the results and achieve the targets. As a result of that, I often found myself in some tough conversations with other departments in the company in order to achieve our targets.
How can I convince the management levels about the importance of people development within my company?
I am trying work out the background to this question. My first take on this question is that your company probably needs some reflection on its direction and culture because the management you are referring to here sits at the top of the organization.
To be honest, I have never come across an organization where the top management have not understood the importance of personnel development. I am sure the top of any organization would recognize the value of personnel development.
There are various circumstances that different organizations can have, but I think they all have personnel development in the minds of all of their top management. Otherwise, the company wouldn’t be around for long. They would probably go out of business.
As I often say, trying to achieve change from the bottom of an organization is extremely difficult, and this includes trying to drive personnel development. Just about everything needs to come down from the top of the organization.
For example, if the bottom of an organization has the ability to convince the top of the organization as to what they all should be doing up there, then the capability of the organization seems to be upside down. They should be swapping their positions.
If you do have an organization with some challenges that are difficult to kick start or ignite from within the organization, it is probably best for the company to utilize some support from outside organizations to help them change. For example, there are various training opportunities outside the organization that can be utilized. You might also find an external company with successful examples with good top management that understand personnel development. You may want to bring them to your company and have them talk to your top management. There are also consultants you can bring in to drive these changes as well.
I think the difficulty in driving change just within your organization lies in the existing hierarchical structure put in place. For example, if a middle manager is trying to create a change, he/she may get pinned down between those below them and those above them who have different opinions and attitudes regarding the change. In this case, the middle manager finds him/herself in a weak position, caught in the middle and can see no way out. In the worst-case scenario, he/she may be removed from the organization as a result of trying to create change.
In these types of cases, bringing support people from outside the organization to help drive the change may be useful.
How does Toyota develop their senior management with respect to TPS (Toyota Production System) and continuous improvement?
There are different departments and roles within senior management that receive different development programs in TPS and continuous improvement. There are both internal and external training programs that they receive.
As for internal training within the Toyota group – meaning each factory and shop floor level environment where you have team leaders and supervisors – they experience personal development on the job on a daily basis as the managers and directors sitting above them are providing them with issues and challenges for them to think and work through. Those team leaders and supervisors work through those problems on a daily basis and those above them are checking them to see how they are progressing towards the targets and guiding them through the problems to help develop their TPS thinking.
In terms of senior management and what happens outside – my definition of outside here is still within the Toyota group but outside of our individual factories and companies within the group – they go out to the different areas of the Toyota group and they receive issues and challenges to think and work through that will be followed up outside. But, they also take issues back to their own organization and they will have some follow up provided from outside of their organization to see how they are progressing.
So, it’s a repeated cycle of giving directions and instructions and then checking to see how people are progressing through that problem. This is a continuous cycle.
Something that I often talk about is the fact that TPS is essentially just a tool to achieve an objective of the target you have, and kaizen is a method or a way of using those tools.
So, what senior management needs to be doing and showing to those below them is a good example in terms of their understanding of those tools and showing the way to those below them how TPS and kaizen should be conducted.
As I often discuss, unless senior management are showing the way and leading those below by setting a good example, people below them are never going to follow. This is a common experience around the world.
I draw the example from a family environment and talked about the parent and child relationship earlier. We have a saying in Japan that children grow by looking at the back of their parents. What this means is that they observe their parents and their behaviors and copy them as they grow up. The same is true within the company as those below you are looking at you as a manager and copy and follow your behavior. Therefore the example you set as manager will determine how those people are developed as they spend more time within the organization.
In addition to this, as I talked about earlier, managers always need to provide problems and targets for those below them and check their progress towards solving those problems and achieving their targets. The continual repeat of this cycle is extremely important. The reason that we are doing this is to put our people in the position where they are made to think. They are made to continually think through a problem. This is an important aspect of the approach within Toyota. In Toyota, we are always handing our people high targets in order to put them in a difficult position for them to think themselves out of that situation.
What percentage of their time do Toyota employees spend on personnel development and what forms of development are used?
I understand the question but I think I need to help you with the understanding of Toyota’s approaches and inform you that we don’t set aside a specific percentage of our time solely for the purpose of personnel development. What we believe is that pretty much all of the activities we perform are linked to development of people. The fundamental approach to our personal development is on the job training.
The percentage or the number of times we gather a group of people together and train them in a classroom is very small.
In any manufacturing environment, there are always many problems. Some kinds of problems occur on a daily basis. So, we use those problems and link them with personnel development opportunities and guide our people through overcoming those problems.
We don’t have “let’s go and do some training” moments because everything is linked with training and development.
Thinking back to the example of the family environment and child rearing I talked about earlier, do we plan our child development program into our schedule and say “let’s develop and train up our children and show them the right behaviors now”? This isn’t how it works, is it? You are continually developing your children. If they do something right, you would pat them on their back and if they are up to no good, you would tell them off and guide them in the right direction. You do this continually on a daily basis.
The only difference is whether it’s a home environment or a work environment. In the work environment, you should be doing exactly the same thing to develop your people.
One more point about developing people within an organization is that you need to be developing those around and below you but there is also development of yourself. So, the time you put into developing yourself is another important aspect of development within our organization.
#AskSensei is a regularly-scheduled webinar held together with Shinka Management Senior Consultant and former Toyota HiAce Factory Manager and Director Akinori Hyodo. Each event we cover a different topic related to lean, with participants invited to put their questions to Hyodo Sensei.
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