The other day I quoted Mike Hoseus from CQPO. He is co-author of the Toyota Culture book. There is a another story that he shares in the book about the importance of a continuous improvement mindset throughout an organization. So without further ado, here is the quote:
On a visit to Japan, I was touring through an office at a Toyota plant and the supervisor wanted to show me an example of a suggestion that an administrative assistant had just implemented. He took me to her desk and grabbed a Number Two wooden pencil. He asked me, “What do you do with the pencil after you work your way down and there is only a couple of inches left?” Being quick on my feet and showing my “knowledge of waste elimination,” I responded, “I use it all the way down to where I can no longer hold it with my fingers, and then I throw it away.” He said, “Exactly. That is what most do.” But then he opened the drawer and had the assistant proudly display the collection of pencils that had two of the “no-longer-usable” pencils taped together in order to get the use of another couple of inches of lead. I was impressed. Here was one of the richest companies in the world taping pencils together for another inch of lead. On the way out, my trainer commented, “think of the power of your organization when you have all the members thinking like this.”
That final quote really impacted me.
“think of the power of your organization when you have all the members thinking like this.”
Our organization is about 85k strong. We are making some headway in creating a culture of waste elmination but I’m afraid we still haven’t started taping pencils together. The real problem is that most of our population uses mechanical pencils :-P
Ron Pereira says
You know what, Craig? Even though I think you were half joking about the mechanical pencil comment… I think there is really something to this.
When you use a mechanical pencil there is really very little waste. You can pretty much use the lead to the end. Sure, there are times when the lead gets too short and you just pull it out and tap a fresh piece in… but work with me here.
Well, when I was in Japan last week one manager explained how their employees get on their hands and knees to scrub the floor.
I wondered why they didn’t use a big rotating cleaning machine where you can clean, wax, and polish in no time at all. So we asked him.
He (the Japanese manager) gave us this “well our people can ‘feel’ the dirt better on their knees” or something like this.
I am not buying it. I think the rotating cleaning machine and automatic pencil are superior and will more than pay for themselves when you think about how many widgets someone can make when they don’t have to crawl around on the floor all day… or tape pencils together.
Of course, I know it’s the “thinking” of Toyota that is impressive. As I said on my blog… Toyota blew me away when I visited them.
So, who am I to challenge their pencil taping ways?
The problem with taping two pencils together is that you can never use the last pencil.
A small tube of aluminum into which pencil ends could be taped seems a better option.
Or start using clutch pencils – it eliminates the wood component altogether.
mike t says
They could be adding value instead of scubbing the floors by hand…
What does that work jidoka mean again?
Or at least they could do the cleaning standing up with wide microfiber mops and stuff.
I’ve read many speed cleaning books in the last few years. I had to i got sick of my place being very messy instead of being very clean. The best few books seemed to have lean processes and concepts to me. This hands and knees thing seems absurd.