My First Trip To Japan by Peter Scholtes

By John Hunter, author of Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability.

The Philadelphia Area Council for Excellence organized a tour to visit businesses Japan in 1985 and learn from them. 38 people participated in the trip including Peter Scholtes; William Hunter (my father); Brian and Laurel Joiner; Myron Tribus; and David and Carole Schwinn (David and Carole are presenting at our annual conference in September). Peter Scholtes wrote a report on the visit: My First Trip To Japan.

While in Japan the group also attended the JUSE Deming Award ceremony where W. Edwards Deming spoke.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming himself gave what was billed as a “special lecture” on the “Foundations for Success of Japanese Industry.” In fact, it was a scolding. He told the Japanese managers that they had an obligation to the world to uphold the finest of management techniques. He warned them that they were mistakenly allowing into Japanese companies the use of certain Western Management practices – such as management by objectives (MBO) and performance standards. These practices, Deming warned, are largely responsible for the failure of Western industry to remain competitive.

“Just as a healthy body can be brought down by an infection contracted from outside itself,” Deming admonished, “so too can Japanese management – the finest in the world – be infected by poor management practices imported from the West!” Using a blackboard, Deming then applied a statistically-based analysis to demonstrate how performance evaluation was fallacious. Deming’s performance was a tour-de-force; vintage Deming: wide-ranging inflections with his deep, booming voice, abrupt changes of pitch and pace, histrionic and profoundly true.

They visited numerous companies to learn from them.

In this first visit [to Komatsu] we were introduced to some factors which turned out to be common to all the companies we visited.

  1. Quality is built into the process and the companies constantly strive to make the processes more reliable and more precise.
  2. There is a widespread use of a variety of process flow charts to depict the processes by which events have occurred or will occur, the way plans are made and they way work gets done.
  3. A substantial amount of time and energy are put into incredibly detailed planning.
  4. A substantial amount of time and energy are put into improvement efforts which involve everyone.
  5. A substantial amount of time and energy are put into training aimed both at the everyday work and in skills for improvements.
  6. Each company spoke of its marketplace as the entire world.
  7. A substantial amount of worker involvement, usually in the form of Quality Control Circles.
  8. The active, involved, informed leadership of the top manager.
  9. In a variety of places throughout the plants there are graphic displays of statistical measures, often in colorful formats which are easy, sometimes even entertaining, to read and understand.

At the Aisin Seiki Company:

Throughout the plant were the charts and graphs we had come to expect in companies pursuing quality. Each work station had formed it storage for tools, warning systems telling when drills should be changed and systems to assure the reorder of parts when the supply was low. Their kanban system applied not only to the component on which they were working, but to the drills, etc. which they used in their work.

I recommend reading Peter’s full report which includes thoughts on visits to: Toyota, Yokogawa Hewlett-Packard, Takeanaka Komuten, Kansai Electric Company and more.

Related: “Why do you hire dead wood? Or why do you hire live wood and kill it?” Peter ScholtesPeter Scholtes on Managing People and MotivationQuality Comes to City HallThe greatest waste in America is failure to use the ability of people.

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