September 21, 2016 karynross

The Toyota Way to…Peace!

Today is International Peace Day.

Although many people may not think about it this way, I believe that Toyota Way (lean) is actually a form of alternative dispute resolution, bringing people together to work in peaceful and harmonious ways. Here’s an example of what I mean:

A number of years ago, I was working with a financial services organization that was having a serious customer satisfaction problem. In order to accurately create the service their customers needed in a timely manner, two parts of the organization needed to work closely together. Problem was, they didn’t work together well at all. Each part of the organization blamed the other for their customers’ dissatisfaction and the people doing the work often spent more time arguing with each other and pointing fingers than they did solving customer problems. By the time I started working with them, both the organization’s leaders and the people doing the work seemed to have forgotten that the original problem was customer dissatisfaction. All they could think about was how miserable it was dealing with their colleagues in the other part of the organization. And, most importantly, what they didn’t see was that problems in creating the valuable work for their customers were actually causing people’s relationships to be disrupted – not the other way around.

Does this story sound familiar? I’m sure it does for many of you. Or maybe you work in an organization that has constant turnover. Or one in which people have a palpable dread on Sunday night, or after vacation, of returning to work.

In many organizations, these types of problems are considered ‘people’ problems. However, if you look more closely, in my experience, departments that are unable to get along and colleagues pitted against each other, are often really ‘symptoms’ of ways of working and underlying work processes that aren’t functioning properly.

Think about it. When you’ve been in work situations where the way work is being done is efficient and effective and work is flowing along optimally without hiccups, how have you felt? How have you felt about your colleagues? Probably pretty good. Everybody is able to do what they have to do when they have to do it. Your customers are probably pretty happy too and there are far fewer complaints to deal with. All in all, a peaceful, virtuous circle.

For me, that’s where Toyota Way (lean) comes in. With its focus on long-term systems thinking, purpose and deeply understanding (and serving) customers, the Toyota Way creates the conditions in which people are able to work together harmoniously. A few examples:

·     Finding ways to build in quality and not pass defects to our colleagues in the next part of the process means fewer opportunities to be frustrated with each other

·     Focusing on deeply understanding and delivering what each customer wants means that instead of spending time arguing amongst ourselves, we work collaboratively to solve our customers’ problems

·     Coaching people to develop them to be critical thinkers and creative problem solvers gives them the ability to think through complicated, difficult situations and make careful, considered decisions incorporating diverse perspectives. Not only at work, but at home as well.

As adults, most of us probably spend more time at work than we do anywhere else. When we spend hours working in environments that are fearful, contentious, and stressful, the rest of our lives and how we deal with others at home and in our wider community is bound to be negatively affected – like the age-old comic of the boss who yells at an employee, and then the employee goes home and yells at his spouse, who yells at their child, who yells at the dog. Imagine how wonderful it would be if instead, we worked in environments that promoted compassion, caring, cooperation and collaboration – peace. We’d certainly be more likely to come home, hug our spouses and kids and work collectively for positive change in our communities.

If we want a more peaceful world, one of the best places to start to make a change is in our work environments. Finding ways to work, like the Toyota Way, that focus on holistically improving the entire system, brings people together to promote service to others to fulfill a deeper purpose.

Every single one of us is responsible for finding peaceful ways to coexist in our world. As you go about your work today, ask yourself, what is my organization doing to create a peaceful work environment and a peaceful world? What can I do to help?

Peaceful wishes for the whole world today.

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