Later this week, the entire KaiNexus team is meeting in Austin for our bi-annual team meeting (we have team members in the Dallas area and Virginia so it’s always helpful to get together in person with those who work in Austin every day).
Since our company and our software support over 70 organizations that are embracing and utilizing various forms of Lean methods and management systems, part of my role is to help continually educate our growing team about Lean and continuous improvement.
I lived in San Antonio from 2012 to 2015, so I took advantage of the opportunity to take the Toyota tour multiple times, as I’ve blogged about. I’ve gone with a Lean Austin networking group, I’ve toured with a visiting group of Dutch healthcare improvement leaders, and I’ve volunteered to help facilitate tours for local healthcare management students and clinicians.
One thing I try to do with these tours is to provide some education before the tour, which I hope sets some context and helps people know what to look for, especially if they have never visited a factory before. So, I created a 24-minute webinar video back in 2015 for that Dutch group and I shared that with our KaiNexus team last week.
We’ll certainly do some debrief discussions after the tour and we’ll blog about those reflections.
During our most recent “Ask Us Anything” discussion, I asked our co-founder and CEO Dr. Greg Jacobson about the tour and here’s a video with his answer to my question about what he’s looking forward to with the tour, and we have some back and forth:
Greg ends the video saying:
“I think what I’m really interested in is just all of the unexpecteds that occur. Because I think that will be the bucket that will be the largest. There will be outcomes and connections made and ah-ha moments and learnings that are going to be completely surprise us. I think that’s where the value will hopefully be.”
I also asked the KaiNexus team what they were looking forward to seeing or learning in the tour. Here are some of their responses and my comments:
“I'm looking forward to seeing an improvement culture in action. I've been writing about them for years but never seen a culture like this first-hand except for our own. I'm excited to see real people doing the work we talk about."
- Maggie Millard, Director of Marketing
I’m glad that Maggie appreciates how we’ve really worked to create a culture of continuous improvement within KaiNexus.
“I'm looking forward to seeing a real-life Andon Cord. In addition, I am going to try and observe interactions between people as closely as possible. I've worked in high-pressure, blame-heavy environments before and I want to see the other side in a large organization.”
- Clint Corley, Enterprise Account Executive
We’ve also focused on, from the beginning at KaiNexus, being a culture that focuses on systems and process instead of blame. When something bad happens, we ask “why?” instead of “who?” Clint, you’ll not only see an andon cord, during the tour, I’d guarantee that you’ll see a Toyota team member reach up and pull a cord. Or, you’ll hear the chimes and music playing. And, you’ll see a team leader come almost immediately. Oh, and you’ll get to pull an andon cord in the visitor center. We’ll be sure to get a photo of that.
“I'm excited to learn about how the continuous improvement mindset has influenced their corporate culture and employee happiness - in terms of respect for people, not laying off employees, and automating certain job functions.”
- Lisa Hanna, Strategic Account Manager
Yes, Toyota is famous for not laying off people during sales slumps or economic problems, as I’ve blogged about before. They invest in their people, using production downtime as an opportunity to do training, to work on improvement, and even to volunteer in the community. And, of course, they pay employees for all of that. You might also hear about (or ask) the way Toyota automates some welding, for example, because a particular job might not be safe for a human or because the quality is better when done by a robot. Their main focus is not automation to reduce labor. If a human can do a job safely and better than a robot, they’ll choose not to automate it (as you might see in some particular welding operations).
“I am looking forward to seeing the culture at a company who is a pioneer in continuous improvement.”
- Jett Raines, Software Engineer
Yes, they’re a pioneer… but they’ve given credit to others who they learned from (like Henry Ford, W. Edwards Deming, and the Piggly Wiggly supermarket chain) and they continue improving the way they improve.
“I'm looking forward to seeing what a great lean culture looks like in person and seeing what we can take back from it to KaiNexus.”
- Matt Banna, Customer Experience & Sales Specialist
Thanks Matt I think that’s the key, asking the question “what can we take back to KaiNexus?" I think our team will see that Lean, Kaizen, and the Toyota Production System are not about a better way to build cars -- it’s about a better way to lead, a better way to improve, a better way to succeed.
“I’m most looking forward to seeing the Toyota Production System in action and getting insight to the line side processes of the team members. I hope to see a live look at the pulling of the Andon Cord. I'll be asking myself questions on how KaiNexus could potentially be used in an environment like Toyota's based on my observations.”
- Ryan Rippey, Customer Enablement Management
We’ll get your picture with the visitor center andon cord too, Ryan!
Thanks to the KaiNexus team for sharing their thoughts. I’m looking forward to sharing the team’s reflections after the tour.