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were literally thousands of suggestions that were submitted and reviewed each year. Many of them were implemented. This encouraged employees to use their minds to create continuous improvement in the auto plant. Make company mindset a critical component In addition to having clear values, it is critical to have pro-cesses, systems and policies that support the intended culture. This is a key part of a conscious culture. The examples presented in this section are just some of the ideas worth noting regarding how a mindset can be created to further an organization in defining its culture. These ideas and actions truly brought NUMMI forward in a defined and intentional way. Combining these mindset ideas with organizational values bring clarity, focus and simplicity to organizational effectiveness. Kaizen – This is the Japanese term that means, in essence, continuous improvement. It was NUMMI’s belief that survival in a competitive industry required continuous improvement. This philosophy showed up in many ways, including the sug-gestion system, improving efficiency in the workplace and in the Problem Solving Circles (or quality circles). Kaizen accurately reflects the mindset or way of being at NUMMI. Muda – This is another Japanese term that helped employees understand waste. One of the keys to being a successful auto plant is to reduce different kinds of waste. Employees under-stood the five different kinds of muda and would work towards reducing all aspects of waste. For example, if there was a way for each worker to spend five seconds less on a process, it reduced the waste of time. Employees were rewarded when their ideas improved efficiency or effectiveness. Nemawashi – This is a third Japanese term that speaks to the mindset of effective communication and decision making. There are different levels of nemawashi, and I am sharing a high-level example. The top executives met on a regular basis to make sig-nificant decisions on the plant. The meeting often lasted only 15 to 30 minutes. The reason the meetings lasted for such a short time was that all of the conversation and changes to propos-als occurred outside the meeting. This allowed for meaningful dialogue instead of a debate of egos in the room. Presenters of proposals spent one-on-one time with all leaders to understand any concerns they had. Leaders were given ample time to reflect on any proposal. Changes were regularly made to any proposal before it went to the nemawshi meeting. Although this took more time, it led to strong buy in by all and long-term success. This mindset of nemawashi occurred at other levels in the plant. A3 – This is the concept of ensuring that all proposals and ideas shared needed to be clear, concise and well thought through. A3 refers to the size of the paper in the paper tray (11” x 14”). All proposals, no matter how complex or expensive, were required to be submitted in a specified format on the front (and possibly back) of an A3. This level of discipline ensured new proposals or programs had great consideration before making it in front of the decision-making body. It was required that all problem-solving efforts be completed using the A3 format. Problem Solving Circles – I had the privilege of being the lead on this critical program. PSCs started with five pilot circles. Eventually, there were more than 400 circles meeting each week to work on problems for their teams. One of the key concepts I want to share with you is that the primary purpose of this program was not solving problems, but in fact, team building and leadership development. Each time there was a meeting, the discussion led to solving a problem within the scope of the team’s control. After team leaders received training in facilitating and leading meetings, and team members along with team leaders received training in problem solving, each circle met once per week for an hour to follow the problem-solving process. We then had an annual plant-wide competition to select the best example. It was set up as a big event for everyone to see the other examples. I was honored to bring the winner of the NUMMI competition to Japan to compete with the best of each Toyota plant. A side note of truth is that there were two competitions in Japan: one for the auto plants in Japan and one for the plants outside of Japan. This was only fair because the skill sets and problem-solving levels of the Japanese plants were significantly greater than non-Japanese plants. It would not have been a fair competition if all plants were judged in one contest. Job titles – All of the manufacturing jobs, about 4,000, fell under one of three job titles: team member, team leader or group leader. This idea is consistent with the values of equity and teamwork. Most U.S. companies would struggle to limit the number of job titles to three for thousands of employees. Each role was clear and the path to move toward team leader or group leader was well-defined. Job security – There was specific language in the labor agree-ment that spoke to job security. The essence of it was that em-ployees would not be laid off unless there were severe economic conditions that threatened the long term viability of NUMMI. Before laying off any single employee, other actions, like reduc-ing managers’ salaries, would take place first. This clearly sent a message that everyone was in the same ship rowing in the same direction. This was extraordinarily meaningful to employees. On a personal note I hope some of these ideas have you thinking about the systems, processes and values you have in place or you can put in place to support your company’s desired culture. You can look at your organizational values, examine processes that can support the mindset, provide training and promotion methods that teach cultural behavior, or modify the hiring process to reduce hiring the incorrect fit. Take a deep look at what will you do to help shape your culture and create the high-performance company that you desire. LE Creating Impactful Culture For more than 30 years, Russ Elliot has developed strong expertise in human resources, organizational development and coaching having worked in organi-zations including Toyota, NUMMI, Texas Instruments and Bridge Bank. From a place of deep commitment to creating conscious and sustainable organizational cultures, Russ believes that designing high-performing, engag-ing cultures is critical to organizational success. Russ, SPHR, is currently the Senior Vice President, Human Resources Director at Bridge Bank. Email Russ@ConsciousCultureGroup.com Connect Russ Elliot  conscious culture group Blog Would like to Comment? Please Click Here. 282 Submit your Articles Leadership Excellence Essentials presented by HR.com | 01.2016


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