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No Space to Think

by Ernie Richardson & Tracey Richardson
September 24, 2018

No Space to Think

by Ernie Richardson & Tracey Richardson
September 24, 2018 | Comments (4)

Do you have enough people?

The answer from most leaders encountered by Tracey and Ernie Richardson, LEI faculty members is “no.” 

“So we come back and say, ‘Okay, how many people do you really need?’” Ernie says. “They can’t really answer that question.”

The reason is often that people are so busy firefighting, they don’t have the “space to think,” about problems such as being understaffed. Other companies are so results driven, notes Tracey, that they “band-aid” problems to keep driving to the next business goal.

What they both learned working for many years at Toyota was the importance of developing people on the job by giving them the time to stop, analyze, and solve problems they encounter daily.

Take a couple of minutes now to hear the Richardsons, coauthors of The Toyota Engagement Equation, talk about problem solving, leadership for employers and employees, the state of the lean management movement, and what it means to be a “sponge” rather than an expert. 

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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4 Comments | Post a Comment
Salim Reza September 24, 2018

Hi 

How can we make a space to think? Now we have some visual display board and also some electronic display? But very few personnel use this. Is there any idea to create a space to think?

Best

Salim

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Tracey Richardson September 24, 2018
1 Person AGREES with this reply

Hi Salim, thank you for your question.   We used the term "Space to Think" in our On the Job Development course.  It translated to time and space if you will.  Space in our day to not just react and put a bandaid on the issue, but to document along with our team leaders and group leaders the initial problem awareness that lead us to notice an abnormality from a standard.  Then what do we do about it.   In the short term often times we must temporarily put a countermeasure in place to resolve for the sake of time, but many organizations see that as the "fix for the moment" and never return to get to the root cause.   So time/space can be given in many ways.  In our culture we develop quality circle activities around reoccurring issues.   The company paid quality circles 1 hour overtime a week to come in before shift, use a portion of their lunch to meet and/or after shift and sometimes even saturdays if there was a larger scale problem requiring multiple functional areas.   Also our suggestion system encouraged individuals and teams to go to the gemba, look at standards to determin if they are still meeting customer expectations (internally and externally) and to talk about where are the gaps.  Meeting at the visual boards can be a start but what you do after you gain the information is important.  Go and talk to the operators, determine are we measuring the right things and get them involved.  When teams feel we are investing time in getting their feedback and giving the space to share and think you will find the culture can begin to shift to reactive to a little more predictive in nature.  I hope this helps.  There are many ways to start to embed time to solve problems versus time to react and do them over again later.  Thank you, Tracey

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Stan September 24, 2018

Hey Ernie and Tracey. My question/comment is, Are companies and workers finally seeing that they are on one team? I have been retired for 7 years but still have a lot of friends who are working, and it seems the atmosphere has gotten worse instead of better. Just wondered what you guys have seen, talk to you soon!

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Tracey Richardson September 24, 2018

We see some of the same traits out there in various industries.  I call it the "we and they" syndrome where you often create conflicting silos and KPI's because everything is so result driven.  Until organization come together to create the "US" --"THIS IS US" :).  Then the inter-turmoil will not allow a company to function and its full people capacity "thinkers" and capacity for output as well.   The results will trump people when in fact it should be the other way around.  Our trainers always taught us, if you use a good process, the results are the outcome, you dont have to focus on them :).  Tracey  

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