Akinori Hyodo, former Factory Manager, Toyota HiAce Factory | #AskSensei Event 9 Summary | 6 July 2020
The term Jishuken came out of Toyota and has become a well-known word in lean manufacturing. It is often referred to as a “management-driven group kaizen activity”. But, the details of what is really involved in Jishuken are not widely known. Akinori Hyodo explains the Toyota Jishuken and shares his experience of being an active part of it for more than a decade.
Today, I will be talking on the theme of Toyota Jishuken. This is formally known as Toyota Production System Jishu-Kenkyu-Kai (literally translated as “Self-directed TPS Study Group”) within Toyota. The main objective of these study groups is personnel development. I believe that Jishuken has been around for 40 to 50 years now. The history of Jishuken goes back to when the concept of TPS was not well-known and spread around the world. This was before globalization. But as the world was heading in that direction, Toyota needed to develop a large number of leaders within the organization who could teach TPS thinking and methods to help lead other factories in different parts of the world to implement TPS.
Jishuken has a few patterns that come with it. It can be held within a single factory or a single company. It can also be held across a number of companies within the Toyota group. Whatever the case may be, however, there are some fundamental conditions to be fulfilled before Jishuken activities can commence. Firstly, it has to be applied in an area or a department or a factory where people have a clear understanding of the current situation of their work area and they recognize what issues and challenges they have to overcome in that area. Secondly, it is important that the work area has been continuously applying kaizen over an extended period of time.
When I was heavily involved in Toyota Jishuken, I used to regularly visit the work area of other sections, departments, factories and companies as part of the Jishuken group activities. Things may have changed in recent years, but if those conditions weren’t met by the work area we were visiting, that area was declined to be part of Jishuken. They were really important conditions to be fulfilled in order to be part of Jishuken.
But, once you can start engaging in activities such as Jishuken with the right approach and right structure after having gone through the path of fulfilling the fundamental requirements as I have just outlined, your organization will not only have an enormous potential to become a highly successful lean organization but you will also develop your people significantly.
This is why I want to stress the importance of building a strong foundation for Jishuken type of activities to take place within your organization by continuously applying the concept of kaizen.
I should also mention that many different departments, companies and businesses within the Toyota group have long been candidly exchanging information, know-how and knowledge with each other through Jishuken and similar development opportunities, as we knew this would be of everyone’s benefit in order to mutually enhance each other’s capabilities. However, I don’t often see this type of activity happen outside of Japan as companies seem to be stricter about exchanging information and ideas in general.
When we go overseas and look at different companies that have Jishuken type of activities in place, we often find that there is no real burning platform driving them to engage in genuine improvement activities. We also see the action of doing Jishuken becomes the objective rather than actually improving the company to fulfill their specific objectives.
If your company is thinking about starting Jishuken and you want to get yourselves seriously involved in Jishuken activities in the true sense, I can say it’s going to be a heck of a job to do. For this reason, you really need to clarify within your organization whether you genuinely have the need to go down the road of Jishuken or not. And, most importantly, you must ensure that your organization has the foundation of continuous improvement in place before even going down that path.
Things may be a little different now but when I was involved in Jishuken in Toyota, we were essentially treating it as if we were at war with other departments within our own factory and other companies within the group. What I mean by that is that you don’t lightly enter into war, you go into war after serious deliberation and preparations. And, the ultimate goal of entering the war is to win. There is no thought of losing it. The victory in Jishuken means achieving tangible results that you set out to achieve as well as developing your people throughout the process. Therefore, all parties participating in Jishuken worked very seriously to build a solid foundation to be part of Jishuken and developed individuals who they would not be embarrassed to send to any other organization within the group. Those individuals also needed to be confident in their ability to represent their organization in other parts of the group through Jishuken activities. In addition, when you are inviting other organizations into your own organization through Jishuken, you want to have a workplace that you would like to willingly show off to external visitors because you are confident in the efforts and results you have achieved in your workplace.
In closing, if you are interested in commencing Jishuken type of activities, I wish to reiterate the importance of understanding the current situation of your organization thoroughly so that you can identify issues and challenges with your own eyes. You then need to continuously apply kaizen to your own organization. These are the conditions you need to fulfill before heading down the road of Jishuken.
The Jishuken is carried out in the following steps.
This description is based on Hyodo sensei’s experience of participating in Jishuken during his career with Toyota. By going through the steps below, each participating entity will not only be able to enhance their capability through making improvements but also can develop people within their organization to be future TPS leaders who can teach TPS thinking and methods.
Toyota group companies that wish to be part of jishuken register key leadership members to the TPS Jishuken Steering Committee Office managed by Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) at the beginning of each year. All registered companies are then divided into several different groups – each group is made up of five different entities.
All participating entities are expected to nominate the areas/shops for improvement and be both a host as well as a visitor to all other sites within the same jishuken group. While the host implements jishuken kaizen projects and showcases their progress at each participating areas/shops to the visitors, visiting members are also assigned to each host and are given the role of helping lead the host companies to implement their jishuken kaizen project. A representative from TMC oversees the whole jishuken group and gives guidance to all Jishuken activities throughout the Jishuken process.
1. Pre-launch Confirmation Meeting
An initial meeting is held at each host company with the attendance of the leadership team of all participating jishuken groups (e.g. a jishuken leadership team is typically made up of a leader and a theme-leader from the each participating area/shops, and a director from the TPS Promotion Office from each participating company who oversees them). All participants attending the meeting review and diagnose the current situation of the improvement areas selected for jishuken activities by the host company together, and assess the validity of the overall improvement objectives and directions set by the host company against their needs. The host leadership members discuss, confirm and agree their overall theme, objectives and direction with the visiting leaders. What has been confirmed during this meeting is communicated with the rest of the jishuken team members in each host company and they will be conducting their jishuken activities based on the outcome of this initial meeting.
2. Jishuken Theme Selection Meeting
A two-day jishuken theme selection meeting is held at each host company approximately one month after the pre-launch confirmation meeting. During the first day of the meeting, the host company jishuken team members discuss their current challenges and set the “final” goal. They also set KPIs and formulate strategy to achieve the final goal. The theme leader from each area then breaks down the challenges into smaller themes and create a detailed strategy for each theme for their area. The theme leader also selects a sub leader(s) and divides the rest of the jishuken members into smaller teams to address each smaller theme for their area. During the second day of the meeting, the TMC representative and visiting members from other participating entities within the same jishuken group are invited to the host company to assess their jishuken improvement areas and approve their themes and targets.
3. Initial Site Visit
Once the kaizen themes and targets are approved, each participating company implements improvements to their selected work areas according to their approved plan and strategy. Each company then hosts a site visit and welcomes all participating visiting members into their site in turn and receives feedback from the representative from TMC as well as the members of visiting companies that are in the same jishuken group. Each site visit usually lasts for two days with the host presenting their progress to their visitors and visitors confirming their progress and giving feedback.
Generally speaking, jishuken improvement projects are expected to be completed over the course of a six-month period and all participating member companies reciprocate their visit with other member companies within the same jishuken group – meaning that if there are five different entities within a group, one company visits four different companies as part of the jishuken activities.
4. Mid-Point Site Visit
A mid-point site visit is conducted at each participating site with the attendance of the TMC representative and all other participating visiting members. Points to be rectified and further addressed in all selected areas are identified. All participating member companies reciprocate their visit. All jishuken members learn from each other and develop further by repeatedly exchanging feedback with each other as well as receiving directions from TMC.
5. Final Site Visit
A final site visit to a host company is conducted with the attendance of the TMC representative and all other participating visiting members. The host company must make sure that their targets are fulfilled according to their original plan.
If deemed necessary, a half-day working level follow up meeting without the attendance of the TMC representative can be held at a host site in between the three site visits mentioned above to make sure the objectives they set to achieve can be achieved.
6. Final Confirmation Meeting
After the six-month jishuken period, the final confirmation meeting is held at each participating site with the attendance of the leadership team of all participating jishuken groups as well as relevant representatives from TMC. The host site leadership team presents the final results from each area/shop and all concerned parties assess the final results by inspecting the improvement areas to confirm that their targets are fulfilled.
At the end of the year, a final leadership meeting is held with the attendance of the leadership team of all participating jishuken companies with in the same jishuken group as well as the relevant representatives from TMS to reflect on the jishuken activities of each participating entity and discuss points to be further improved for the coming year’s jishuken activities.
* The above explanation is based on when Hyodo sensei was actively involved in jishuken. Present-day jishuken approach and steps may vary.
Who defines the agenda and results of a Jishuken group?
They are decided between a representative from Toyota Motor Corporation head office together with those leaders from other Jishuken participating companies and those leaders from the local company where the improvements are going to take place through Jishuken group activities.
An important aspect of Toyota Jishuken activities is that the collection of multiple external companies visit the site of other Jishuken participating companies within the same Jishuken group to inspect the progress of each other’s improvements and to give and receive comments and feedback from each other. And, what is sitting above those host and visitor companies and factories is a manager-level individual from Toyota Motor Corporation who oversees the overall Jishuken activities.
What happens first is that the host company leaders identify the issues and challenges that they wish to overcome in their work areas. They will then determine the target they wish to achieve through Jishuken activities. They will explain the background and the target to the TMC representative and the visitors from other companies. Once they finish going through this process, all concerned parties including the representative from TMC will inspect the host company’s genba where the improvements will be made and check the area with their own eyes. This is when they can quickly decide if the area and the level of the target that the host company selected are appropriate and worthy of receiving the attention of Jishuken. This is how the agenda and the target of Jishuken group are set.
When I was involved in Jishuken activities, as a local host company, unless we came to the initial site visit targetting at least 30 to 50 % improvement, we would be scolded and told to increase our target. That was how the target was set and that was why so much effort and hard work was put into Jishuken activities by a host company.
There are a number of steps involved in Jishuken activities throughout a set period of time. In terms of how the results are assessed, the TMC representative and the leaders of the visiting companies will make a decision on whether the target has been achieved or not. And, if the results are deemed not to be satisfactory, they will be told to work on their improvements again until they get it right.
I have been involved in a final site visit presentation that hadn’t gone for one minute and they had been told to stop and revisit their improvement area. I have also seen some presentations that impressed everyone and those who were involved in the improvement were highly commended.
Given the change of the times, the environment and the atmosphere of Jishuken have changed nowadays and things are not as severe as when I was involved. But when I was part of Jishuken, we all kept pushing ourselves – sometimes working even throughout the night – until we passed the target to absolutely squeeze as much out of the improvement as we could. But, this type of die-hard approach is not acceptable these days and there may be a little less pressure to be involved in Jishuken.
I find companies get bogged down with paperwork and process, rather than just trying a tiny change. How important is it that all the paperwork to be filled initially?
I think paperwork is unfortunately going to be part of anything you attempt to do these days. This is because even for a small kaizen to be implemented, there will be some labor time required and some minor purchases may be involved for example. Generally speaking, if you wish to implement a kaizen idea in your workplace, you need to submit your idea and intention to those above you to get their authorization for the expenditure etc. to occur. You also need to provide a report of the result regarding the improvement. Whether these are recorded on paper or on computer, these types of records probably need to be captured as part of implementing improvement.
But, looking at the question, I can understand that the question is suggesting that people get too involved in producing paperwork and this will increase the workload of making improvements unnecessarily.
Having said that, since we are working in an organization, when extra labor, expenses etc. are to be used for improvements, they need to be authorized, tracked and reported on. Therefore, the key is how you set this required process up and how simple you can make these processes for your purposes.
Though it may sounds contradictory to what I have just said, in my opinion, the more time you spend on the planning side of things, the easier things can get later on in terms of the speed and quality of implementation. If you don’t do enough preparation and planning up front and just allocate the extra work to all those people who are already working fully during their shift, I am not sure if they can work effectively.
Drawing from my own experience, when we decided to implement a kaizen idea, we did all the necessary planning work beforehand such as working out the additional labor-hours and cost required for the improvement including fulfilling all the paperwork that was associated with the preparation.
As I often point out, when conducting work, we first need to identify the amount of work that needs to be done to figure out the required number of people to do that work. However, what’s done way too often is that when there is an additional task to be achieved people are allocated for the task abruptly and not enough time is given for them to perform the task. Therefore, it becomes difficult for those involved to fulfill their additional task.
So, in order to better control this type of issue, those at the management position – be it leaders, supervisors or managers – need to have a better grasp of what’s really happening at their workplace and look at it more closely so that they understand the extra work that does need to be done and therefore how many extra labor-hours are necessary. Obviously, workers must work efficiently when they are performing their work but if they are allocated some extra work beyond their capacity, that will create issues somewhere down the track.
I want to give you an interesting example here. Let’s say you suddenly brought five friends to your home to be entertained at your place without informing your partner. Under such a situation, I am sure your partner will be shocked and maybe not sure what to do since he/she is not being prepared mentally and not having anything ready to entertain your friends. When you compare this situation to your workplace scenario where your people are suddenly allocated to do extra improvement work, the situation is quite similar. That’s why, it is imperative for the role of the management to have a good grasp of the current situation of their workplace and the capacity of their people.
With regard to the question, the fact that this has been identified as a problem within the organization suggests that there is an opportunity for improvement. Problems are there to be improved. If something is not working quite right, you can take action to fix it. If you see any unnecessary paperwork, you can cut it out. This is how I think about it.
Please share examples of linking KPIs and kaizen activities.
Firstly, what is the purpose of doing kaizen in the first place? I think it comes down to the point that we need to increase our company’s profit. To this end, companies set various objectives and targets and are trying to achieve those in order to increase their profits. These targets are then broken down and dispersed amongst different departments and sections within the company, and people engage in various activities in trying to achieve those objectives and targets.
That’s why we have key performance indicators in order for us to be able to tell how we are progressing against certain targets. Those KPIs won’t be improving unless we do kaizen activities. If we don’t do kaizen activities, we would be heading in the wrong direction. They are very closely linked from this perspective.
Let’s take an example of people. Somebody received a target within a factory where 200 people are currently working. And, the target came down from the top to improve cost by 500,000 dollars within the company. Let’s say if we turn that amount into the number of heads out of the 200-person company, we need to take 10 people out who are working for you directly. Under such a circumstance, in order to take those 10 heads out of a 200-person operation, you will be applying various kaizen activities to achieve the target. Part of the equation might be improving quality as well as improving efficiency so that you don’t have your operators doing any overtime work, etc.
The overall KPIs you are looking at may be different depending on the company but one of the key indicators would be overall manufacturing cost for example. So, you should be able to understand within that manufacturing cost the value of removing one head worth of work out of your factory operation. Therefore, all kaizen activities are integrated with all those KPIs and that is the way they must be. KPIs are not something that stand on their own in a separate category. Kaizen activities are always closely linked to and integrated with individual KPIs.
So, it is important for all KPIs to be set in the way that the results of your improvement activities can be tracked. You need to show with your indicators how those activities are connected. The results and effects of the kaizen activities must be shown in your KPIs.
The lower you go down in an organization, you may see some slightly differing KPIs. But, KPIs set at the top of the organization should always be linked and reflecting the results of kaizen implemented within the organization.
So, you have those tracking of different KPIs in different departments, and a finance department within the organization would gather those results to produce results around profitability for the entity at the end of a month, a quarter, a financial year etc.
Kaizen isn’t done on a whim or for the fun of it. We should be doing it to produce tangible results. It should be led by clear objectives. Therefore, we must be able to see the results of our kaizen implementations in the indicators we are managing towards. Therefore, KPIs and kaizen activities should always be linked.
#AskSensei is a regularly-scheduled webinar held together with Shinka Management Senior Lean 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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