7-step Problem Solving Process at Toyota
problem solving has helped
become one of the most successful automakers in the world. Toyota can
confidently distribute a tremendous amount of responsibility to the
people who actually do the work, from the most senior, experienced
member of the organization to the most junior.
This is accomplished
because of the tremendous emphasis on teaching everyone how to be a
Solving Strategies: 4 Levels
The process of becoming a
learning organization involves
criticizing every aspect of what one does. The general problem solving
technique to determine the root cause of a problem includes:
Initial problem perception
Clarify the problem
Locate area/point of cause
Investigate root cause (5
Four Rules of Problem Solving at Toyota
Harvard professors Steven Spear and Kent Bowen
followed some Toyota managers around to see what made the
Production System tick. After
studying what was happening on the floor, they coined the term "Community of
Scientists." They found that each employee – from the line worker to the
design engineer – used the scientific method to solve daily problems. This
scientific method serves as one of the four rules that underlie
Toyota's manufacturing process.
The rules are:
Rule 1. All work must be highly
Rule 2. Each customer-supplier
relationship is direct. This applies to both internal and external
customers and suppliers.
Rule 3. The pathway for each product and
service should be
simple, transparent, and direct.
Rule 4. Every employee uses what the
company calls the "pragmatic" scientific method to solve problems. The
method entails defining specifications, establishing hypotheses, continually
testing them and measuring the outcomes.
Using the scientific process as a foundation,
Toyota developed what the company calls "A3" thinking and
problem solving methodology. It allows problem solvers to get to the key
points very quickly. The "do" phase of A3 entails piloting and testing the
hypothesis. The "check" phase studies what actually happened. It's an
iterative process that never stops.