Develop Exceptional Team Associates

Table of Contents

“We Don’t Just Build Cars, We Build People”

In most areas of life, you get out of something what you put into it. This is especially true when it comes to your associates. If you make little investment in this resource, it will provide little return. The Toyota Way is centered on the philosophy that people truly are the greatest asset. Toyota leaders are fond of saying they “build people, not just cars.” What they’re saying is that in the process of building cars and improving the process, people are learning and developing. Toyota uses the analogy of a garden to describe their belief in people. The soil is tended and prepared, the seeds are watered, and when the seeds grow, the soil is maintained, weeded, and watered again until finally the fruit is ready. This image is one of dedication, patience, and caring. You must be dedicated to the seeds for the entire time, be patient in waiting for the reward, and care for and nurture the plants.

It is also true that employees will fulfill the expectations that you have of them. When we work with companies, we can usually tell immediately the quality of people in the facility by simply asking the manager. We may hear comments such as, “We have trouble getting good people here,” or “We don’t pay enough so the quality of our people is low.” Often we hear terms like “babysitting” in reference to employees. Surely these are signs that there are “bad” people working there. The thing is, it is the manager who’s bad! If the manager believes that the people are not good, they will live up to that expectation.

Fortunately, we also visit companies where the manager proclaims, “We have some really good people here. We are very fortunate.” When we walk with this manager you can sense the pride in the people and what they accomplish. Of course, this manager does not live in a ivory tower, nor is she living in some fantasyland. It is just a different perception of the situation. The work is not more glamorous, the pay not significantly higher (if at all), nor the benefits, yet the people are “good.”

When we begin to work with people, we find that they are similar and have basic needs (see The Toyota Way, pages 194-98, for a discussion on motivation theory). Growing exceptional people goes beyond just providing better pay and benefits. You can throw all kinds of perks at people and still not create the proper environment for them to blossom. If you’re a manager, the key is what you truly believe about the nature of people and what they mean to you. The soil must be tended and the seeds nurtured so they bear fruit that will provide sustenance and survival for you! As with all other aspects of creating the Toyota Way, it all begins with your thinking.

TRAP: How Do You Refer to People?

One sure sign that you and the leadership team have the wrong view of people is in how you refer to individuals during meetings and planning sessions. We often hear references to people as “heads” (as in head count), and “bodies,” or worse “warm bodies” (which implies that if they are alive and breathing, that’s all that is needed). These references are innocuous, and you may not even be aware of them, but they speak to your deeper level beliefs of the value of people. Are they just “bodies” with a purpose only to fill a position? Do you expect people to check their brains at the door when they come to work? Do you do more work to try to reduce your greatest asset, or to grow and develop it?

Start by Selecting the Right People

A good selection process helps to “thin the crop,” to identify the people who will best fit your culture and needs. You may look at this section and think, “We already have all our people, and we’re stuck with some bad ones, and there’s nothing that we can do.” Take heart. Even the best selection process in the world will allow some bad seeds to pass through. In the end you must work with what you have and make the best of that. The skills and traits that are targeted during the selection process are skills that can be developed. But every company has people who leave and must be replaced. Spending time up front with the selection process can help to reduce the time needed to develop these skills later.

The selection process used at the Toyota plant in Georgetown is based on the idea that a person’s past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior. The selection process is long and provides many opportunities to see potential candidates in various situations so their behavior can be evaluated. These situations include simulated work activities (see Chapter 10) and an interview that concentrates on actual experience. As discussed in The Toyota Way, it is a multistep process, beginning with weeding out hundreds or thousands of applications and then conducting an aptitude test. We will focus here on the later stages of interviewing once a smaller subset has been identified.

The selection process targets the following skills for team associates:

  • Job-fit motivation. Does the individual’s personal motivation fit well with the company? Will the work and the environment provide them with personal satisfaction? You may find that this person would be better suited for other jobs or
  • Meeting membership. Does the person have the ability to work with others, to participate but not dominate, and to gain the cooperation and support of others?
  • Meeting leadership. This trait may not be as important for team associates, but it includes the ability to convey ideas to others and to get support when needed. Toyota does like to grow leaders (Chapter 10), so potential leaders are sought
  • Is this person someone who will initiate action and do more than the minimum necessary to achieve goals, or do they wait to be told what needs to be done? Do they initiate action beyond their boundaries without approval (not desirable)?
  • Ability for the work. Has the person ever performed this type of work? If not, do they have similar experience, such as home repairs or publishing a newsletter for a church or civic group?
  • The Toyota Way is founded on continuous improvement, which means continuous change. People need to be able to handle various situations, tasks, and people.
  • Problem identification and problem-solving Many people can spot problems. Are they able to provide solutions? Do they expect others to solve the problem for them?
  • Work Toyota assesses work tempo using a simulated work experience. This allows the candidate to understand the future work requirement to make sure they know what they’re in for and so Toyota can assess whether they have aptitude for the work.
  • Communication skills. Do they speak clearly? Do they communicate ideas effectively? Are they able to understand questions and answer specifically?

Each of these traits were evaluated during simulated work exercises as described in Chapter 10, and during an interview if the candidate passed the screening process. The simulated day of work activity may be more than your company can do in terms of a selection process, and the interview will be the primary selection tool. The interview used by Toyota is a more grueling process than most. Candidates are often not prepared for the specificity of the questions and the depth of information requested. More than one person typically conducted the interview, and the team included the department interested in hiring the individual along with a member of human resources.

After the introductions and a brief overview of the candidate’s work and educational background the questioning began. The purpose was to ask specific questions designed to elicit honest answers. We all know how to say the right thing during an interview! For example: Question by interviewer, “Why do you want to leave your current job?” Answer by candidate, “Well, I am just not challenged enough, and I want a job where I can use my skills and help the company.” To find out more about current work relationships and conditions, the Toyota interview targets actual situations. The following are examples of typical questions. Notice that the people are asked to describe actual events and to go through the entire process surrounding the event. These are not subjective “feeling” type questions; they are objective “action” questions.

“Tell me about a time on your current (or last) job when you recognized a problem. What was the problem?” (Wait for response) “What did you do about it? Who did you tell? Did you have to get help with the solution, or were you able to do this on your own? Were you able to solve the problem? What was your solution?”

This line of questioning is geared to identify a person’s ability to identify and solve problems. If you look closer, you’ll see questions relating to initiative (did they take action, and was the action appropriate?), leadership, and membership. Note that there is not necessarily a “right” answer. For example, if a person said they did not solve the problem, problem-solving skills are probed with other questions. If they needed help with the solution, that was okay and showed a willingness to work with others. If they did not need help, that was okay as well.

People who tried to find the “right” answer often tripped themselves up.

For example, when we asked a question related to their ability to get along with others (meeting membership), they might answer, “Oh, I get along with just about everyone. I really never have had any trouble.” Now, we all know that it is virtually impossible to never have had a disagreement with someone. That important point is how they handled the situation. If a person had disagreements and handled them effectively, that was a good indication.

If the candidate just couldn’t “think of anything,” we would ask similar questions, such as, “Tell me about some ways that you show consideration for others at work.” Again, we’re not looking for opinions and feelings, but for actual situations.

This method was a surprisingly good way to determine a person’s character and ability. Of course, even with all the checks and balances in this system, every now and then someone slipped through who did not fit the culture.

Assimilating Team Associates into Your Culture

When people arrive on the first day for a new job, they’re generally filled with hope and have “good attitudes.” It takes effort on our part to change those hopes and good attitudes into regret and negativity. Fortunately, with some effort we can sustain the positive attitude and even develop it further. As you can see, Toyota exerts a tremendous effort to identify and select the best people (choosing the best seeds). They spend just as much effort in bringing them into the Toyota culture (preparing the soil and watering the seeds). Toyota refers to this process as “assimilation,” and it is conducted in two stages.

On the first day of work, a new hire will report to a training room where human resources and the training department will begin the process of introducing them to the Toyota Way. The initial stage lasts two weeks, and during this time the new hire never visits their actual work site! They are introduced to the Toyota culture, to the Toyota Production System (TPS), and to policies and procedures, including general safety and ergonomics. They also participate in a simulated work activity to “work harden” or condition them physically for the actual job. The work hardening may begin with one hour of work and two hours of classroom session. This is gradually increased over the two weeks until the person is capable of a full day’s work (in stage two at the work site they will begin the actual work on a reduced basis).

There have been occasions when new hires have decided that perhaps the Toyota culture is not for them after all, and they decide to quit at that time. During the initial assimilation stage, the rules and policies are carefully explained and people understand the seriousness of the expectations.

After completing the introductory stage, the new hire is directed to their actual work area. They now begin the second stage of assimilation into the work group. There is no set time limit on this stage; however, there are expectations regarding how many jobs will be learned and what each person’s participation in the group will be. The following items are covered during the assimilation process. Group leaders have a check sheet covering these items, and it must to be signed by the team member and the leader and returned to human resources.

  • Welcome and introduction by the leader.
  • Review of group and department policies and procedures.
  • Introduction to others members of the group (there may be a “PT” activity—Personal Touch—sponsored by the company as a “get to know you” activity).
  • Safety overview, including evacuation and emergency
  • Develop a training
    • Initial jobs are “freshman” jobs (easier jobs)
    • Begin with one or two hours of work, followed by one or two hours of offline work
    • Determine goal for training—three jobs within three months
  • Long-term assimilation into team and group activities.
    • Quality Circles
    • 5S
    • Preshift and postshift duties
    • Suggestions system and continuous improvement
  • Mentoring and developing.

Each group has some slight variation, depending on the needs of the group, but follows the same general format. Full assimilation into the Toyota culture might take a year or more, but there are milestones along the way, marked with progress reviews and wage increases if the progress was satisfactory. A “probationary” period of six months applied to all new hires. During this time the work progress and attendance record are evaluated (poor attendance is a sure way to get cut from the team).

Responsibility for teaching, mentoring, and coaching falls to the group leader, who sets expectations for training, but the team leader normally carries out the actual training (although the group leader is also a skilled trainer and may do some actual training). Toyota uses a very specific method called Job Instruction Training for all training.

Job Instruction Training: The Key to Developing Exceptional Skill Levels

One of the most common complaints we hear when we talk to associates at all companies is that there is a lack of effective training. We find that something as important as learning the correct way to perform work is often left to chance. No consistent method is used, trainers are not identified—and if they are, they have not received formal training—and the specific requirements for performing the work are not clearly identified. The training of employees takes a low priority on the list of leaders’ duties (leaders who are often spread too thin and can’t make time for the individual needs of every employee). We could probably write an entire book of stories related to poor training, but the following story sums up the problem.

During a plant tour one afternoon, we were observing an operation and trying to understand flow and the balance of operations. It wasn’t completely clear what was happening so we decided to ask an operator (call her Mary) a question about her task. When approaching Mary, she had a wide-eyed “deer in the headlights” look. We asked Mary to describe some of the important points of the job. With a shocked expression, Mary said, “I just started here today, and I really don’t know.” This was not a problem because there was another employee working right beside her, and we assumed this must be the person responsible for training. We asked Mary, “Would your coworker know?” to which Mary replied, “She just started yesterday!” In fact, we often find a person with very little experience (skill level, knowledge of the product and quality expectations, and safety aspects) “teaching” another worker. It’s hardly a surprise, then, when employees tell us, “Everyone has their own way” of performing the work.

We wonder how something as crucial to the success of an organization as the transfer of knowledge and skills can be treated so lightly. Why has an attitude developed that it’s acceptable for people to pick up the necessary skills “with time”? When we confront leaders about problems in the work area, we’re often told that “it takes time to learn, and normally people learn within a few months.” Meanwhile, the problems continue every day, and they wait patiently for the day when the person finally gets it. Of course, if the person never does “get it,” they are labeled as a poor worker, or a troublemaker, and the leader is stuck with a problem that won’t go away. The leader will say, “I tried to tell them, but they didn’t listen. They have their own way to do things.” Of course they do! Without effective training and coaching, people will develop their own method, and it will most likely not be the “preferred” method (as in “my way”).

Some common methods used for training include:

  • The “sink or swim” method. This is an old-time classic that is actually used in some cases to “teach” swimming. The student is thrown into the water, and if they make is out alive they have learned to “swim.” Unfortunately, it is commonly used at work as We have actually had employees tell us, “I had to learn the hard way, they should too!”
  • The “give them time and they will learn” This is based on giving the new hire time to figure out how to do the job and to get better at it. It is related to the sink or swim because the person has not completely drowned yet, and if their head is above water, they will make it. Unfortunately, you will continue to pay the price of poor performance while they “learn.”
  • The “microwave” method. Thirty seconds and they’re done! The training usually goes something like this: “First do this, then do this, then do Any questions?” (We often observe the “microwave” method with internal lean coordinators. Send them to a 1-2 week training class and they are “fully prepared” as a lean expert).
  • The “find the best worker and follow him around” Unfortunately, the “best worker” may not be a good trainer. They may not want this responsibility. The other problem with this method is that there is no structure outlined. How do you know that the “trainer” is doing the work correctly? How do you know that they will explain it clearly? Do they really know all the quality and safety aspects of the job?

TIP: Take Personal Responsibility for Training and Development

With all the talk these days about “people being the most important asset,” it would seem that training would assume greater importance for managers and leaders. Many managers pass the responsibility to someone else and then hope for the best. It is important to take personal responsibility for establishing a training method and ensuring a successful outcome. Make a plan, train the trainers (yourself included), follow up personally to assure the method is sound, and verify process results. Your personal attention to this process will show people that their success is important to you.

The Toyota method for training is tried and true, and they have used it for over 50 years. It has served them well, and the basic concept is as relevant today as when it was first used in the United States during World War II. After World War II, Toyota, along with many other Japanese companies, received assistance from the United States. The Training Within Industry Service (TWI), a branch of the War Manpower Commission, supplied some of the material.1 It was originally used to support the production of munitions and other goods during the war. At that time, many of the skilled workers were on active duty, and it was necessary to develop an effective training procedure to quickly and efficiently train unskilled people to perform the work. The TWI material included sections on Job Relations, Job Methods (which may have been the foundation for standardized work and the elimination of waste), and Job Instruction Training, which Toyota adopted as their primary training protocol.

The training method used by Toyota today is essentially a replica of the material developed in the United States in the 1940s. Toyota has made only a few minor additions, and today uses the material to effectively train thousands of workers who produce the highest quality vehicles in the world. This simple method is very powerful, yet for some reason, after the war many companies in the United States chose to forego this method, perhaps because the material was developed to train the “unskilled” workers who were taking the job of men going to war. After the return from war of “skilled” workers, it was not necessary to have such a basic training method. Toyota never viewed the method in this way, seeing it as an essential tool to use in the development of exceptional associates.

All leaders within Toyota are required to learn the Job Instruction Training method. The course format and structure is also used for many other training courses within Toyota and is based on 5 two-hour sessions, for a total of 10 hours. The course is led by a trainer who received certification from one of Toyota’s “master trainers,” someone with exceptional skills and many hours of experience. The course itself is structured to follow the basic training format:

First the trainer tells and shows the method, then the student tries, and the instructor provides coaching. In other words, the students are required to identify a practice job to demonstrate in the classroom with guidance from the instructor and other students. Whenever possible, the training demonstrations can be conducted in the work area. The following is the basic outline of the Job Instruction Training method. The original material is available from any major library, and there are several organizations that provide TWI specific training. We suggest that you use the following information only to gain an understanding of the method, but that you thoroughly learn the method prior to attempting to use it.

You will see that this method requires quite a bit of time and effort, both for the trainer and for the student. This may be why the method was abandoned. We hear over and over again that people are “too busy” to spend this amount of time with training. Perhaps there is an endless cycle. Poorly trained workers have more quality problems, safety problems, and less consistent performance overall. These problems consume much of the leader’s time, and the leader does not have time to train. This reminds us of the old commercial for a transmission repair service where the technician proclaims, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” In this case, an investment on the front end will pay handsome dividends on the back end. If you elect to shortcut on employee education and training, you will be paying in perpetuity.

1. Break Down the Job

The first step of the training process is to analyze the work and develop a training aid called a “Job Breakdown Sheet” (Figure 11-1). This sheet is based on standardized work, but because the goal is to train effectively, the job breakdown is done with training in mind. The more high-level work steps on the Standardized Work Sheet, for instance, may be broken down into two or more “training steps.” These more “bite-sized” steps can be taught without overwhelming the student. Breaking the job into training segments is a skill that is refined with experience. During this training, the worker is observed to determine how well he or she has learned. If the trainer sees the trainee struggling, the training method will be adjusted.

After the training steps are determined (TWI refers to them as “important steps” and Toyota refers to them as “major steps”) each step is analyzed to determine the “key points.” These points are the heart of the job instruction method and are developed to explain the following critical aspects of the work:

Figure 11-1. Job Breakdown Sheet

  • Safety
  • Quality
  • Cost
  • Knack or technique

Key points are essential to the successful completion of the work and must be considered carefully. In most cases they are developed based on past experience of problem areas and the correct method to perform the work in order to prevent the problem. In developing key points for new jobs or processes it is important to evaluate the work and attempt to assess potential problem areas. As the new job or process is actually performed, additional key points may be developed based on results.

TIP: Use Key Points to Positively State the Correct Way to Do a Task

Key points should be “how to’s” rather than “don’t do’s.” They’re more effective as positives. For example, if there is a risk of injury on a job from a pinch point, rather than stating, “Avoid the pinch point,” state, “Your hands should be placed here and here when working.” During the next step of training, when the reasons behind the key point are explained, it can be said that the purpose of the key point is to “avoid the pinch point.”

2. Present the Operation

The actual training begins with preparation of the work area and making sure that sufficient time can be devoted to the training activity. In many companies training is done “on the fly,” leaving the worker feeling that their training was an afterthought. It’s important that everything, including tools and safety equipment, is prepared beforehand and that the workplace is set up as you expect it to be maintained. You will be setting expectations, so if the students’ first experience with the work area is clutter and disorganization, you’re setting an expectation that it’s acceptable to keep it that way. The message you want to convey to the student regarding you and the work area is that you’re competent, prepared, and expect only top quality work, so you must demonstrate it.

There are at least three distinct phases in training the individual to perform the job: First, teach the important steps that explain what is done; then do the steps again while explaining each key point, which explains how the step is done; and then do the steps and key points yet again while explaining the reasons for the key points. Providing the reasons that things are done gives validity to the key points and helps the trainees understand the importance of their work.

The TWI method says “Tell, Show, and Illustrate” each important step. This means telling the students what the step is, showing them how the step is performed, and showing it in such a way as to make the actual actions clear. Exaggerating the action, pausing to allow the student to see more closely, or repeating the step provides a more clear understanding. During this first cycle, the trainer will only state the step that is being performed without any additional information. For example: “The first important step is . . .” without explanation of key points or reasons.

Those are added on subsequent cycles. This can be strange to students who fear that they will see the job only one time (the microwave method) and are concerned that they won’t learn the details. As the trainer, you should assure them that you will convey all important information a portion at a time, and that you will spend as much time as necessary to ensure their success. During the second cycle the job is repeated with the important steps and the key points for each step. Again, key points describe critical information related to how the step is performed. If the job breakdown was completed effectively, the key points have been carefully identified. Key points are essential to the successful completion of the task with minimal quality, safety, and productivity problems.

They are not a matter of personal preference or style, but factual necessities based on experience. If you do a good job of identifying and conveying key points to trainees, your results will be significantly better. Don’t shortcut this step!

The job is repeated and the important steps and key points are repeated this time with the addition of reasons for the key points. These reasons should include accident prevention and quality requirements, and also the effect of incorrect work on the customer or next process. Help the trainees see how their work fits into the “big picture.” When you stress the importance of the work, you’re stressing the importance of the individual. Everyone likes to know that what he or she does is important and that it matters.

Depending on the complexity or length of the job, it may be necessary to break the training into multiple sessions. The job instruction method stresses the importance of giving the student “no more than they can master” in any one session. The actual amount is based on many factors, but a rule of thumb is that a training session lasts about 30 minutes to an hour. More information than that in one session tends to overload the student.

3. Try Out Performance

After the job (or a portion of the job) has been presented completely, students are asked to try it themselves, without explaining what they’re doing. This is a crucial time for the trainer. It is critical to observe carefully and to make any corrections or provide assistance. A student can develop incorrect methods or habits on the very first attempt, and if corrections are not made early, they are more difficult to make later. The trainer must provide coaching, but also be careful not to be overbearing. This can be a fine line, and the individual student often defines the line. This phase may be completed over several job cycles.

After the student demonstrates a basic skill in performing the work, she is asked to perform the work, and this time to explain each step. The trainer has already verified that the student can perform the steps, but now wants to confirm understanding. (The trainer has also verified that the student performs each key point correctly, but will also confirm understanding.)

The third time around, the trainer continues to provide assistance and to correct any mistakes as the student repeats the job, explains each step, and now explains the key point. During this phase the trainer must determine whether the trainee will be able to perform the work on their own and how much support they will need. Never leave an assessment of capability to the student. No one wants to give the impression that they don’t “get it,” so they will undoubtedly say that they understand the work. Each student will have different capabilities and will learn at different rates. The trainer must assess each situation individually.

As we said, the key points are the crucial part of the work, and they must be followed exactly. These are not just helpful hints or “maybe you can do this or that.” The key point is necessary for the successful completion of the work. Providing reasons for the key points helps people understand the importance of why they do things. We find that with a lack of information, people will develop their own methods. Key points provide valid understanding for people. With this understanding, they are much less likely to deviate from the correct method.

4. Put Them on the Job and Provide Support

TRAP: Never Allow Students to Determine Their Own Readiness for a Task

Many trainers make the mistake of asking the trainee, “Do you think you’re ready to try the job now?” The trainer should make this important decision only after careful observation of the trainee. Most trainees (especially new hires) will say they are ready because they’re afraid they will be perceived as incapable if they say no, they’re not ready to do the job. Asking the trainee also places responsibility for understanding on him or her. The trainer must assume responsibility for the outcome of the training.

When the student has demonstrated sufficient proficiency, he or she will be asked to perform the job. This is not, “Okay, now you’re done and on your own.” Usually the trainer will remain and continue to provide some assistance. In many cases at Toyota (and other companies) the student is only capable of performing a portion of the total job. They may be capable and knowledgeable, but they’re not capable of performing at the required rate (line speed). In this case the student will perform a portion of the work, and the trainer will perform the remainder. This allows the trainer to stay close, to provide additional coaching if necessary, and to verify the safety and quality performance. As the students’ skill level improves, they are given increasing portions of the work until they can perform entirely on their own.

The learning curve continues and the trainer will gradually reduce the support, and follow up less and less. If the trainer must leave the student, they provide someone who can support the student in their absence. The students should never be given the impression that they’re “on their own.” Initially, when putting the student on the job, it’s important to stress the expectation that they should focus on successfully completing the task, meeting the safety and quality goals. As the student’s rate of speed increases, the focus shifts to meeting the productivity targets (while maintaining safety and quality). Bear in mind that you are establishing the foundation for future expectation with these training sessions. If you have low expectations or do not clearly communicate your expectations, you will get less than the desired results.

Making a Training Plan and Tracking Performance

Understanding the needs of your area, assessing the resources and skill level available, and planning for future changes are critical steps. This cannot be left to chance or done on a “catch as catch can” basis. This is one area where Toyota made significant improvements to the TWI material. The original material presented the training plan as simply a “yes or no” for job skills, and determining dates to complete the training.

Figure 11-2 shows what Toyota calls a Multifunction Worker Training Timetable (TWI called it a Training Timetable). Because all employees at Toyota are expected to know and perform multiple jobs, the focus of the plan is geared toward creating multifunction workers.

The Multifunction Worker Training Timetable is filled out as follows:

  1. The supervisor completes this section with his or her name, the group or area, and the date. Planning is usually done during the beginning of the year, but if you’re starting, use today’s date.
  2. List the names of all employees. If there are more than 10, use additional sheets. Usually one sheet is completed for each team, which has four to seven people.
  3. Fill in the process or operation names.
  4. The ideal number is the number of people who need to be trained on each job to ensure that the position can always be If there are three operations that are the same, for example, you’ll need more than three people trained. For more difficult jobs it’s also better to have more than the minimum. The supervisor determines the ideal number for each job.
  5. The circle with four quadrants visually depicts each person’s skill for a particular job. A blank circle indicates no training has been started.

Figure 11-2. Multifunction Worker Training Timetable

One-quarter indicates a person who is currently being trained. This person should never be left alone on the job, since they do not completely understand the safety and quality requirements. One-half of the circle represents a person who may be left on the job alone but requires close monitoring. This person may be too slow to completely work alone. Three-quarters of a circle represents a person who needs very little supervision but may lack complete knowledge of some aspects of the job. This person can work alone most of the time. A full circle represents a fully trained person who needs no supervision, has complete knowledge of the safety and quality rules, and can maintain the required pace. Some people use the full circle to indicate ability to actually train another person, but this requires completion of the full Job Instruction Training class.

  1. Each person’s capabilities are totaled and placed in the column at the end. Usually, the supervisor will make an assessment at the beginning, middle, and end of each year to evaluate whether the training plan has been achieved. This allows the supervisor to track the progress of each individual.
  1. The number of people fully trained for each job are totaled and recorded at the bottom of the sheet. This allows the supervisor to monitor progress toward achieving the ideal number of people for each
  2. Any additional manpower needs are recorded here. Some people may have only slight problems remaining on some tasks, which are noted
  3. Any future production changes are noted in this space; for example, if production will increase or perhaps a key person will be out on
  4. Dates are added where there is an individual or job need that mandates training. The dates are used to schedule the actual training. The timing should be based on immediate and long-term

An example of a completed form is shown in Figure 11-3. The trainer and supervisor collectively evaluate the progress and skill level of each individual. There is no benefit to the leader in attempting to make the evaluations appear better than they actually are. Poor job skills will be reflected in the performance measures, and the leaders have a vested interest in having exceptionally skilled people. Shortcutting the training process will not provide the long-term benefits desired. Also, people get the sense that they do not matter as individuals if the leader does not place importance on the training effort. It is a sure way to create a “bad attitude.”

Figure 11-3. Example of completed Multifunction Worker Training Timetable

Building Team Associates for the Long Term

Let’s face it; some of the work done on a day-to-day basis can lose its excitement after time. This is especially true if the work is repetitive and does not require a high skill level. If people are going to remain actively engaged in the work process and feel a greater sense of satisfaction, they need more than a paycheck. Toyota recognizes this need and provides many additional opportunities for employees to use their creativity and to develop greater skills.

The Toyota Way promotes the growth and development of all employees. Toyota makes a tremendous investment in people, both in terms of facilities and time. The Georgetown plant has an extensive training and development department and an entire facility devoted to courses for manufacturing, office, and the skilled trades employees. There are elective courses that employees may take on their own time, and required courses that are taken during working hours (of course, when salaried personnel take a class during work, it’s necessary to catch up on the work that was missed during the training). Figure 11-4 shows a training matrix of “core” (required for the job) and elective courses for each position (not including an extensive training regimen for the skilled trades).

All Toyota employees are also encouraged to participate in activities and programs. Participation is voluntary, but most people enjoy the activities because they provide an avenue to pursue personal development and to use their creativity beyond what is required to perform their job. These activities include the suggestion program, quality circles, leadership development, and various kinds of kaizen teams.

Quality Circles

Quality Circles are a vital part of kaizen at Toyota, particularly in Japan. The American quality movement in the 1980s had a brief brush with Quality Circles, which were regarded as a tool for participative management. The results were dismal. Hourly workers devoted much of the meeting to creature comforts, for example, moving the drinking fountain. There were some projects that improved quality and these were widely publicized within the company, but they were few and far between. Eventually this “management fad” died out. It was one more good idea gone bad. What was missing? Basically all of the fundamentals of the Toyota Way were missing. Well-trained employees, the team leader role, welltrained group leaders guiding the initiative, a culture of continuous improvement, and the tools of lean such as standardized work were all missing.

Figure 11-4. Training matrix of core and elective courses

Management was taking a top-down culture with poorly trained employees, giving them “micro-waved” problem-solving training, and suddenly expecting miraculous projects selected by the workers.

Quality Circles have never been a fad at Toyota. They have been an ongoing management tool for productivity and quality improvement for decades and are still considered a sign of a highly evolved Toyota Production System (TPS) organization. In this regard the American Toyota sites are still developing.

Participation in Quality Circles is voluntary, but many people at Toyota choose to participate because they want to take part in improving the work area. Quality Circles are a good method to improve quality, and make other improvements, and are also an excellent activity to promote teamwork and develop the capabilities of individuals. Each member of the circle is responsible for fulfilling each role on the team, such as taking minutes, keeping the meeting on time, or facilitating the meeting. A team leader usually leads the circle, but team members may elect to lead a circle as a development opportunity. The leader is responsible for establishing desired outcomes with management, planning each meeting, clearly setting expectations for the team, and coordinating activities with others, such as engineering and maintenance.

The circle is responsible for setting goals and meeting schedules, but the group leader acts in an advisory capacity. The primary role of the group leader is to ensure that the circle is addressing a meaningful issue (one that will improve the team or group) and that time is spent wisely and productively. He or she will check in with the facilitator weekly for an update and to provide any necessary support or guidance. The team is allotted one paid hour (overtime pay) per week (each person) for meeting and any assignment activity. The team may elect to meet before or after work, or in some cases during a working lunch. Most circles deal with issues in the work area so many meetings are conducted at the actual work site (gemba).

At the completion of an activity, the circle group prepares a short presentation for management explaining the activity and the results. This presentation is primarily a congratulatory opportunity for management to express gratitude to the team for their effort and work to improve the operation. Any suggestions implemented by the circle also qualify for a payment award in the suggestion system program (see below). In this case the members are paid for their time during the meetings and for the improvement ideas. Each year the best Quality Circle projects are selected for bronze, silver, gold, and platinum awards and make formal presentations to vice presidents of Toyota. The American plants each select a platinum award winner to present in Japan at Toyota’s international Quality Circle conference. At Georgetown in 2004 there were about 22 percent of employees in voluntary circles, compared to a target in the 40 to 50 percent range. Participation of over 80 percent is not uncommon in Japan. This is a good opportunity to develop and use abilities and to be rewarded for the effort. Not a bad deal at all.

Case Example: Work Activities Help People Gain Greater Personal Ability and Satisfaction

An employee at the Toyota plant in Georgetown was very shy and did not like to speak in front of groups. Speaking in front of others is common in the Toyota culture. We had discussions daily, reported on issues in the work area, and often presented the results of Quality Circles and continuous improvement teams to members of management. Being too afraid to speak in public, this woman preferred to stay away from these activities (most were voluntary). She was interested in promotion potential, but could not get past her fear.

She was finally persuaded to join a Quality Circle, and when the time came for presentation, she was terrified. Even though she had her notes, she went entirely blank, but still managed to make it through. With a little encouragement, she tried another Quality Circle and improved her presentation at the end. Over the years, she moved to another job, and when we finally met again she told us that she’d joined the Lions Club and become the special events coordinator— a position that required her to make a report of activities at each meeting! She was proud that she’d been able to overcome her fear and participate in activities that interested her outside of work.

Toyota Suggestion Program

The Toyota Suggestion Program differs from most traditional suggestion programs in that it is based on the premise that people inherently want to improve their work environment, and that the contributions of every employee provide long-term continuous improvement. Toyota understands that the suggestions of employees ultimately contribute to the bottom line, but more important, that they provide a sense of ownership and that workers have some control over their destiny. These feelings lead to greater overall satisfaction. The suggestion program is not all about the money saved.

Some of the key elements of the program are that it is simple (in all aspects, from submitting a suggestion through the approval process), and responsibility for implementing the suggestion is maintained at the lowest possible level. In this way Toyota is able to accomplish a high submission rate (approximately 10 suggestions per person per year) and a high approval and implementation rate (over 90 percent).

Every person in the company can submit suggestions (although payment for salaried personnel is limited to suggestions outside their scope of responsibility), and suggestions may be made by individuals or groups. The submission process is simple. A one-page form is used to list the name(s) of the suggester(s), the department, and so forth, and a brief explanation of the current situation and the proposed change. The suggester is responsible for determining which areas would be impacted by the suggestion. These include safety, quality, time reduction, cost reduction, and other intangible improvements. Associates submit the form to their supervisors, who will review it with them to ensure that the idea is understood and the necessary information is included.

The supervisor plays a key role in the suggestion system process. In most cases the supervisor has the authority to approve implementation and payment of the suggestion. The supervisor can approve all suggestions with payments of up to $16, which account for approximately 85 percent or more of all suggestions. It is important to note that there is a difference between approval for implementation and approval for payment. The supervisor should approve a suggestion and support the implementation prior to submitting it for payment. The supervisor can approve implementation of most suggestions without additional approval (except for the other shift supervisor, and provided the cost to implement is within the supervisor’s authority and the change does not affect current process equipment). Many suggestions are of an intangible nature. That is, it is difficult to directly calculate the potential benefit. Suggestions for the prevention of possible safety hazards, and suggestions to eliminate possible mistakes or to eliminate current mistakes, are examples. Often, the potential dollar savings is difficult to calculate or may be small and does not justify the effort needed to calculate it. For suggestions of this value, it is not required to “cost justify” the suggestion. In all cases a minimum $10 payment is made for all approved and implemented suggestions. If the suggestion involves more significant savings, the suggester and supervisor will compile the necessary supporting data to verify the actual savings. The suggester is responsible for gathering any data; however, the supervisor generally needs to provide guidance to ensure that the documentation is complete and accurate.

Suggestions for payments over $16 require additional levels of approval, and the greater the potential payment, the higher the level of approval required. The next level of supervision can approve payments of up to $100. A department manager must approve payments of up to $250, and the assistant general manager must approve up to $500. The Suggestion Steering Committee must approve payments over $500. The committee is comprised of area managers, general managers, accounting, and the program administrator. A suggestion valued at a payout of $500, for example, must be approved by all levels through the “chain,” up to and including the Steering Committee of the entire plant. This approval process can greatly impede the payment process, but not the implementation process. If the idea is considered good by the supervisor, it is implemented immediately. The big suggestions have to be implemented and data collected for three months to verify effectiveness before the suggestion is submitted for payment.

Other details about the suggestion program at Toyota are of an administrative nature. In summary, the suggestion program is designed to be simple, intended for all employees to use, designed to remove barriers common to many programs— difficult to get and complete forms, ideas that must be “cost justified,” a cumbersome approval process for all suggestions, and “little” ideas that are not widely accepted—and most of all it creates a mind-set that everyone contributes to the overall success and growth of the company by providing their ideas. Despite this focus on little ideas, the suggestion program does have a significant payback: a return on investment of seven-to-one is common.

TIP: A Process with Too Many Restrictions Will Limit Participation

There are very few restrictions placed on continuous improvement at Toyota. At many other companies management places “guidelines” or “restrictions” on ideas. These include not improving a process that will be eliminated or moved from the plant soon, and some ideas are not considered “important” enough. Toyota improves all operations up to the very end, and no idea is considered too small or unimportant. If restrictions are placed on when, what, or how important an idea is, there will not be high levels of participation. At Toyota an idea must be acceptable, but there are no other restrictions. This provides a consistent message that continuous improvement means just that—continuous and without limit. Restrictions send the message that some ideas are acceptable, but only when management decides so.

Developing Team Associates for Leadership Roles

Selecting team associates for leadership roles and developing them in those roles is a critical matter within Toyota. The leaders are responsible for teaching and coaching others in the Toyota Way. They must convey the message to the next generation. They are also responsible for sustaining the daily operation and for continuously improving. Potential leaders are carefully considered for traits that they possess and for potential to grow. Like all important decisions, Toyota makes a considerable effort to choose future leaders wisely, and the candidates, as well as the leaders, put forth much time and effort to ensure the best decision.

A team member who is interested in being promoted to the team leader position must make a formal application to participate in the prepromotion process. In order to be considered, a team member must have an excellent attendance record and must have received at least a “meets requirements” on their most recent performance review. A team member with any outstanding corrective action is not permitted to participate.

All future team leaders must attend specific training in problem solving, Job Instruction Training, and meeting facilitation (see Figure 11-4). The classes range from 10 to 16 hours in length (42 hours total), and each student attends on their own time (unpaid). Each class has a workplace exercise requirement to be completed and reviewed by the group leader and submitted to the training department for final review. A final “grade” is provided for each class, which is used to compare proficiency to other applicants.

The ability to relate with fellow team associates is a critical aspect of the team leader role, and the other team members in the work group evaluate each candidate during a peer review process. Peers rate the candidate on interpersonal skills, attendance, job knowledge, and safe working habits. The intent is not to create a popularity contest, but to allow all peers to participate in the evaluation process. In many companies the associates often complain that management will “pick who they want to.” The peer review process helps balance any potential management bias.

Finally, the scores from the training classes, the peer review, and the performance evaluation are compared to other associates within the same department (in some cases the selection is limited to those individuals with specific job skills), and the top performers are selected for an interview. The interview is similar in nature to the interview previously mentioned for initial hiring and is scored. The final scores are placed on a matrix, and a final decision is made by mutual consensus between the group leader, department manager, and a representative from human resources (again preventing individual bias).

After selection, the new team leader is trained in specific aspects of the job. Many group leaders have a preselection development process that allows a team associate to develop necessary skills prior to promotion. The team associate fills in for the team leader during absences, and in many cases works directly with the team leader to learn the job. The tasks and skills required of team leaders are placed on a Multifunction Worker Training Timetable, and all prepromotion candidates are trained to perform the tasks. This allows for a virtually seamless transfer to the new leader.

Pretraining individuals for leadership roles has other advantages as well. Trainees have opportunities to experience new challenges and to grow. They also have an opportunity to “test the water” for the role to decide whether it’s something they are truly interested in (this reduces the number of people who

later decide the job was not for them). It also gives employees a chance to “put the shoe on the other foot” and appreciate what a leader must do. Then, even if they never get a promotion, they have more respect for the role and its difficulties.

Personal Touch Creates Stronger Bonds

One program sponsored by Toyota is called “Personal Touch,” or PT. It is designed to bring team members together during a non-work-related activity in hopes of building stronger relationships. Toyota provides funds to each group (a specified amount per person every quarter) to be used as seed money for activities or to pay for them entirely. The activities are suggested on a monthly basis and can be simple, such as a pizza lunch or a daylong trip to an amusement park (with families) or event, a visit to a local restaurant, or even a charitable activity. Most groups vary the activities in terms of cost and complexity. There are usually people within the group that take the lead in planning activities, but the entire group chooses the actual activity. There are some specific rules monitored by the group leader. Certain activities, for instance, might be inappropriate and cannot be sponsored by the company.

These activities are a good way to find out about people away from work and to develop tighter bonds. Most people look forward to the monthly PT activity.

Invest in Skill in All Areas of the Company

The examples provided thus far have focused on repetitive production jobs, but the same principles apply to all jobs across the company. The Toyota Way is about behavior, which reflects attitudes. The emphasis on employee development is always on the actual “doing” of the job or the actual “doing” of the process improvement activity. It’s critical to take a similar approach to the training and development of “professional” employees within the company.

If we closely examine the education and training of professionals, it starts with a college education. Presumably, they learn the fundamentals about the science of the profession, professional norms, and perhaps even professional ethics. There is still much to learn, but the basic tools of the trade have been learned in school. Then good companies provide a variety of opportunities for continuing education. These can be specific training courses on the technology used in the company (e.g., the computer system or personnel policies specific to the company). There may be a leadership or communication or problem-solving course required of certain classes of employees. And employees are often encouraged to go back to universities to update their skills on specific topics.

This is all well and good. But what specific training do individuals get on how to perform their actual jobs? What specific training does the individual get on how to improve processes in the company?

Following the principles of Job Instruction Training developed by TWI, there must be a job breakdown of important tasks, key points, and reasons. This assumes that prior to this there was a clear definition of the work, including standards for the job. Second, there must be some preparation of the jobs to be demonstrated to the trainee. Third, the trainee must have a supervised opportunity to try out the performance. Fourth, they must perform the job with supervision and support.

Does this look anything like the way professionals in your company are trained? Notice that Toyota does not assume that general education in universities creates trained professionals ready to perform their jobs. In fact, quite the opposite: Toyota often assumes they will have to untrain some of the bad habits learned prior to joining the company. Many of the assumptions and beliefs about work taught in school may be contrary to the Toyota Way.

Let’s consider the example of developing a body design engineer (e.g., door engineer) at Toyota, responsible for the engineering of steel body parts. The design process begins with a styling design, which is the artistic rendering of the appearance. This is converted to computer-aided-design data, then all the structural components are designed and the work proceeds to die designers and die makers, and the product is followed through to production.

  1. Engineers are selected by a rigorous process similar to what we described for hourly In Japan they recruit from a few of the best universities (e.g., Tokyo, Kyoto) and let alumni working for them do some of the screening. The interviews are equally important in the hiring process.
  2. Engineers are hired as a collective class before being assigned to a They go through one year of general orientation, which includes:
    • One month general orientation to the company.
    • Three to four months working in a Toyota plant performing manual work (preferably building the part of the vehicle they are likely to be engineering).
    • Two to three months selling cars at a dealer (to understand the customer perspective).
    • Assignment to the work area.
    • A freshmen project in a work area (supervised project to get hands-on engineering experience).
  3. Two years of intensive, supervised, on-the-job training in the Engineers do their own computer-aided-design, so they must learn the system in this period.
  4. A minimum of three years to become a first-grade engineer within their subspecialty of body engineering (e.g., door engineer).
  5. A minimum of eight years of experience to be a senior engineer with responsibility to lead others. At this point the engineer may be assigned to a related specialty (e.g., bumpers).
  6. About 10 to 12 years to be a staff leader.

We call this an inverted-T model in that engineers start off with broad training for a short time and then spend time getting deep experience in their specialties. This deep experience, starting with the “freshman project,” is supervised. Many things are being taught, too many to make up a job breakdown sheet for the entire job, which takes years to learn. But the job of the supervisor is to be a teacher. Then the general philosophy of doing parts and building up to doing the whole job with supervision, feedback, and support is employed for each aspect of the job. The freshman project is a challenging assignment designed to give a learning experience on how to approach an engineering project. The two years after the original orientation year are focused on the specific work of that specialty. Everything done is supervised by an experienced engineer, like the old master-apprentice relationship.

It is part of the Toyota culture that every leader is a teacher. And the teaching approach is learning by doing. “Teachers” give students specific assignments, supervise progress, and give specific feedback for improvement. Students observe teachers doing similar work and learn by observing as well. Unlike many other companies, Toyota has detailed methodologies for every aspect of engineering, which makes it more teachable. For example, there are detailed engineering checklists for door engineering, which include specific engineering features that make up a good door design from an engineering and manufacturing perspective. This greatly aids in the teaching.

What’s being taught is not just the specific engineering work, but how to think about problems, how to communicate, how to get input from others, how to work in teams, how to develop A3 reports (chapter 18), how to observe a manufacturing process, how to develop standards, and so on. The learning from school on how to be a professional is too abstract for Toyota. Within Toyota you learn highly developed processes in the Toyota Way. While engineers seem to be narrowly focused on a specific part of the car, in fact they are responsible for that component through all stages of design to launch. So they are learning specific methods appropriate for each phase of this multiyear process. By the end of two to three years they have only gone through the product development process one time. Because the Toyota engineering process is so highly developed, there is a great deal to learn at each phase of the process, along with general Toyota Way approaches to problem solving, decision making, and communication. Several programs taking six to ten years are necessary to start to become comfortable with the entire process.

In short, the Job Instruction Training given to operators to perform simple manual tasks with a cycle time of one to three minutes provides a microcosm of the Toyota view of training. In any task there is a great deal to learn about the right way to do the job. And a right way has been carefully developed and standardized. So it becomes teachable. In contrast, if there is no standard, there is no choice but to throw the employee into the water and hope for the best.

Reflect and Learn from the Process

Developing team associates that fit your culture and build your system begins with a selection process and continues with assimilation once they’re on board. The following questions should challenge you to honestly evaluate your commitment to hiring and developing the highest quality people.

1. Evaluate your current selection process and develop specific plans for improving weak points.

a. Do you have a preselection process to narrow the potential candidates to the most ideal? If not, or if it isn’t effective, develop a plan to improve within the next year.
b. Make a list of the primary selection criteria used for hiring. Are the important criteria part of your selection process? If not, make a specific plan for how you will incorporate them.
c. The criteria should be based on a predisposition to actual behavior and ability. Does your process provide awareness of desired behaviors and abilities? Identify specific changes necessary to create a selection process based on behavior and ability.

2. The expectation for future behavior concerning an individual is established within the first moments after they are hired and continues for several months afterward. Evaluate the methods used in your organization during this critical time.

a. During the assimilation process, do you set the company’s expectations from the beginning?
b. Are new hires given personal attention and shown they’re an important part of your team, or are they handed off to someone in human resources who reviews the rules and sends them to work?
c. Are the top leaders involved in the assimilation process?
d. Do your supervisors take personal responsibility for the assimilation of new hires into the group or do they pass responsibility to others?
e. Is a specific training plan developed and reviewed with each of the new hires?
f. Do you have a checklist to ensure that all aspects of the assimilation are completed?

3. Complete an assessment of your current training process.

a. On a “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” type scale, conduct an employee survey using the following statements to rate the overall process:
i. I feel as though I have been adequately trained for my job.
ii. The method used to train here is effective.
iii. The person who trained me was a good trainer.
iv. My supervisor (or line leader) understands my job and is able to train others.
v. People learn their own method of doing the work here.
b. Make a specific plan to improve your training method.
i. Will Job Instruction Training be the primary training methodology, or will you use another process?
ii. Develop a plan to develop the training skills of all leaders.
iii. Include plans for ensuring that future leaders are trained before becoming leaders.
iv. Complete employee surveys every six months to verify the effectiveness of your plan.

4. Overall effectiveness of your selection, assimilation, and training can be ascertained by measuring retention rate and overall process capability (safety, quality, and productivity).

a. Based on these indicators, what is your assessment of your process?
b. Identify specific steps that will be necessary to improve in these areas.