Recently, My husband and I toured the Toyota plant in Georgetown, KY. We were visiting our nephew and his wife, both of whom work for a Japanese subsidiary and live within minutes of this plant.
As we travelled through this pristine facility in a large golf-cart-style vehicle, we were introduced to Kaizen, which refers to the Toyota Continuous Improvement Process. Our guide pointed out that every single worker in the plant has access to an “Andon Cord,” which they can pull to stop the line the moment they detect that something is not right. It’s not just that they have a right to pull it, but that they have an obligation to pull it. It clearly empowers every worker to proactively achieve regular, incremental improvements to the manufacturing process. Once they do, the manager asks why they pulled it and together they figure out how to fix the problem to restart the line.
As a coach, I’d heard of this concept before, and it was impressive to see it in action. Since Toyota started using Kaizen, many companies have adopted it because it’s so efficient.
My clients love the idea of Kaizen. One had writers block. Applying Kaizen to her life, she decided that she could commit to writing for 5 minutes a day. Sometimes she wrote for 5 minutes, but other days it stretched to an hour. Soon, the writing was flowing more freely.
Where can you pull the Andon Cord in your life or work? Where can you stop the action to make an incremental change that’s doable and useful?
Let me know. I’m keeping track of these stories.
And I highly recommend the Toyota tour!