Students in Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence cohort are back on campus for their second week together in the year-long program. Senior lecturer Mrinalini Gadkari is on the scene for daily recaps.

As lean guru Tracey Richardsontaught our MBOE students the problem-solving process at Toyota, the thing that amazed me the most was that she rarely used the word “car” or anything close to it. She spent a major part of her time talking about culture and people instead, asking: “Does your company have values?” More importantly, she said, is whether your people believe in them. That, Richardson said, is the weakest link in a company.  Most organizations boast having values, but do leaders have the discipline to live them and hold people accountable? Have they internalized the values to reflect in their character? That’s where most organizations lag.

Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson coaches Fisher’s MBOE cohort

An example of a good leader sticking to values, in this case safety, remains in my mind: This company’s CEO was walking with me down a hallway when he noticed a paper clip on the floor. Without a moment’s hesitation, he bent down to pick it up, threw it away and we kept walking. He didn’t have to say a word. That company’s core value was conveyed through that action. 

Culture begins with leaders. People internalize what they see and hear their leaders doing consistently. The “true north” goal at Toyota can be described in one line: Customer first, the highest quality product, lowest cost, shortest lead time, safest manner, while respecting people. At Toyota, to create the highest quality product, they hire the right people in a systematic manner, train them to continue to have standardized processes, encourage them to highlight and solve problems in a systematic manner and value their inputs. Once a month, Richardson said, the president of Toyota would go to the shop floor and spend two hours working on the line, letting front-line staff help the manager on other processes. What a commitment from the president!

Discuss: How do you see the core values of your organization play out in everyday ways?



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