Monday, January 28, 2013

Yokoten – Rapid, Shared Learning Across an Organization

By Al Norval

How many times do you come across a great idea at one location and when you go to implement it at another location, you hear a range of excuses that sound like this:
  • That works well for them but it won’t work here
  • We’re different
  • We’ve already solved that problem
  • We’ve tried that already and it didn’t work

Ultimately what these boil down to is something we’ve all heard before – the not invented here syndrome. That is, the ability to discount any improvement idea that didn’t originate here with my team, isn’t worth trying or implementing. This is why best practice sharing often doesn’t work.

This leads to huge organizational waste where multiple parts of an organization are all re-inventing the wheel. A great example of the 8th waste – Knowledge Waste. This can be defined as – not having the right knowledge at the right time with the right team. The team then has to re-gain the knowledge and as we all know any process with a rework loop in it is waste.

What’s the countermeasure to this waste?

Yokoten – the ability to share knowledge rapidly across an organization. Not only share the knowledge but more importantly to implement the knowledge and even better to improve upon it and share the improvements back across the organization.

How do organizations do this?

By linking the sharing of knowledge to problem solving. After problems are solved, the problem, the root causes and the countermeasures are shared. Everyone then has the complete picture. Anyone with the same problem can see what the team did and what their thinking was when they solved the problem.

How do you get teams to implement the learning from other teams?

Key to this is for leaders to set stretch goals. If teams believe they can solve their problems and meet their targets without any help, they will be reluctant to implement countermeasures that worked with other teams. Stretch goals need to be set that are high enough that teams realize they need to learn from other teams to meet the goals. This creates a pull for the problem solving knowledge that is so foundational to Yokoten. Once the pull is created, teams will find ways to share and work together. Leaders need to create this pull for learning.

Good lean organizations recognize this and orchestrate many ways for teams to share and learn from each other. This enables them to set higher goals and improve at a faster pace than their competitors. Ultimately, they understand that reducing knowledge waste is one of the keys to long term organizational success.


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