Last summer I learned a valuable lesson from Hoseus Executive Director of the Center for Quality People and Organizations (CQPO). I was reminded of it as I was reading The Toyota Culture that he co-authored with Jeffrey Liker. I’ve been slowly working through the book as I have a few minutes here and there at work. The following story from pages 27-28 of the book was shared while visiting the CQPO:
“As a new group leader, I was sent to Tsutsumi to spend a month getting an appreciation of working on the line and mastering one process. The team leaders told us no one would be able to complete the whole job by the end of the month, but I was determined to prove them wrong. I was installing liners underneath the wheel well when my air gun slipped, and the driver bit scratched the paint on the inner lip of the wheel well. I gasped and looked around—no one saw me do it—but they had told me to pull the andon (rope) cord if I made or caught any defect. It was my moment of truth. My first reaction was to let it go. No one would probably see the scratch anyway, and no one would know that I made it. But my conscience got the best of me, and I wanted to see if the really meant what they said about admitting mistakes. So I pulled the andon and the team leader came to fix the problem and showed me how to hold the bit with a free finger in order to stabilize it better: But he did not seem angry at me for making the scratch.
Then at break we gathered for our afternoon group meeting where the group leader gave out information on safety and quality issues and heard back concerns from the members.
They spoke Japanese so I could not understand what they were saying until I heard the words, “Mike-san.” Well that got my attention so I listened carefully…more Japanese and then “scratchee scratchee” …and then more Japanese. So here it was; finally I was going to get called out for messing up and they were going to do it in front of everyone. Then, all of a sudden, the whole group looked at me and clapped and smiled and patted my back and shook my hand as they headed back to the line. I couldn’t believe it, after double checking with an interpreter just to make sure, they were applauding me because I made a mistake and admitted it. I felt like a million bucks, and guess what I did the next time I made a mistake?”
I wonder if Mike uses the same approach at home with his kids. After meeting him, I bet he does.
How do you handle mistakes at work? What about at home? Do you ever find out about your child’s mistake from somebody else or some years later when they are grown up? How could this approach improve communication and help resolve and/or eliminate more issues?
Most mistakes are just instructional moments.
Steve Cummins says
Interesting contrast to the 3/18 Wall Street Journal article about Haier where employees – including those in the US – who make mistakes are required to “…stand on a set of footprints outlined on the floor and publicly criticize themselves out loud”… Now there’s inspiration for letting that little quality gremlin move right on down the production line!