Thursday, October 18, 2012

Say "Yes Master" At Work: The Toyota Way, a Style of Learning on the Job

Perhaps we should be saying "Yes Master" at work more often!   It might make us better learners, better leaders, and a better functioning team.

"Yes Master" is derived from the idea of Sensei in the workplace model of The Toyota Way leadership model.  The Toyota Way is the title of a book and a management method based on a well known production system called Toyota Production System.  This book is a little dry in the writing, but contains some interesting insights into management practices at Toyota (and presumably in other Japanese companies).

The core idea of the Sensei in The Toyota Way is to match up a very experienced mentor to each and every employee (even the plant President).  This Sensei uses three phases of leadership to train you "on the job" at the Genba (work site).  The three phases might make one say "yes master" now and again.  The first phase is Cho: the practice principle.  Practice precisely the masters movements until you are proficient.  The next phase is Han: to work on your own only with occasional  oversight, but without variation from the Sensei's method.  Finally, the Ri phase: to become so proficient as to be automatic, allows the student to begin to practice Kaizen , or continuous improvement towards perfection.  This cycle might be repeated many times in many different places for the Toyota leader.  And it is very humbling.  In some cases the Sensei would have the student stand in a white circle only to observe for a full day and write many, many Kaizen observations.

Can I really mean to implement "Yes Master" in the workplace?  Yes.  Imagine the level of respect being shown, and the amount of pride both master and student can share in success.  Yes. Imagine the simplicity of organizational structures.  Yes. Imagine the clarity of roles.  Yes. Imagine the humbling experience this would be for so many "Type-A" leaders.  Remember, even the President and CEO needs a Sensei.

To think one needs not a Sensei is hubris of the highest level.

1 comment:

  1. A friend of mine reported that this post may appear racially biased (towards African Americans or towards Japanese).

    If you read the whole post though, I hope you will understand that this is somewhat Tongue IN Cheek, and not at all racially motivated.

    Instead, I'm saying that the term should be used in 'respect'.

    Perhaps I should rewrite it as "Yes Sir" instead? or is that too PC?

    What do you think?


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