Monday, March 7, 2016

Reprise: Jidoka & the Titanic

By Pascal Dennis

Building quality into the process, (Jidoka), depends greatly on developing in-process and end-of-pipe embedded tests into our standardized work.

We know thereby, if we are OK or Not OK, and have an early warning that countermeasures are needed.

And who is the source of such tests? Why the people closest to the work, hence the centrality of total involvement.

Common sense, you might say. (Doesn't everybody know this?)

But, as the saying goes, nothing is more uncommon.

In fact, just a few generations ago, the concept of embedded tests and Jidoka were literally unthinkable.

The most skilled people in the most advanced societies could not conceive of managing complex systems and machinery in this way.

As evidence, I offer the Titanic.

Some years ago I did a root cause investigation of the catastrophe. Here's one of the Cause & Effect (Ishikawa) diagrams

Almost all the root causes entailed an absence of embedded tests, including:

  • Is lifeboat capacity adequate?

  • Can the steel & rivets withstand cold North Atlantic temperatures?

  • Does the ship's turning radius meet a predetermined standard?

  • Can we evacuate this ship with a predetermined amount of time?

(Some homework for you. Can you identify at least five other tests?)

Nowadays, we wouldn't dream of designing a complex system without Jidoka and embedded tests.

But for the Titanic's designers, engineers and managers, Jidoka was unthinkable.

But 104 years later, are we not in a similar position?

Our management systems are more complex than ever. Have our mental models kept pace?

Our corporations comprise countless deep, complex, hyper-specialized multi-national, multi-cultural silos.

Is our thinking up to the challenge?



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