How We Learn

While I am an unabashed proponent of learning by doing, I have a list of books that have over the years been essential to me as a framework for experiential learning. Most of these books were written before 1990, and one of the most insightful, Managerial Engineering by Ryuji Fukuda, was first published in English over 40 years ago. I think it was the very first book published by Productivity Press (publisher of Shingo’s and Ohno’s books as well.)

howwelearnAs the book’s title suggests, the topic is about better management practices.   There is so much substance to this book, some of which is only now being revisited in more contemporary texts. Among other things, Fukuda introduced CEDAC (cause and effect diagram adding cards), a substantial improvement to the Ishikawa diagram. And policy deployment was not even a part of the English lexicon until Fukuda’s development of the X-type matrix. Window analysis, a simple way to clarify kaizen maturity and guide it forward, is another gem from this text.

This post, however, reflects on just one key point from Managerial Engineering. A diagram on the front cover of the book describes a simple, practical improvement model that the author, a Deming Prize Winner, dubbed ‘Managerial Effectiveness.”

His three-step method begins with identifying reliable methods (referred to today as ‘tools’), which he qualifies as having the impact of reducing either set-ups or defects to zero. In other words, he was ahead of the curve on why the tools should be used, a popular topic today for latter day lean disciples. Also, Fukuda is challenging managers with this step to follow the leaders, not the pack, a concept still missing from many business strategies.

The second step in Fukuda’s model, create a favorable environment, is a real mouthful. Today the term “culture” is substituted for Fukuda’s phrase, but I like his term better. Forty years later, many organizations are rediscovering that the best problem-solvers will hide problems if they are afraid to report them. Fukuda puts the onus on managers to recreate the work environment by changing their work, an idea popularized years later as "manager standard work".

Finally the biggest challenge, keep everyone practiced, is a call to action for daily kaizen. Dr. Fukuda uses the game of golf to make his point. If we want to be good, we should first of all learn from the best and then practice every day  in an environment that nurtures experimentation and discovery. After four decades of event-type improvement, organizations are finally realizing that this is how we learn.

Is your organization learning or parroting?   Share a story.

BTW: Managerial Engineering is available used on Amazon for $1.47  : )


Don’t forget: Our next Tea Time with Toast Guy Webinar is next Tuesday, August 12 from 3:00 – 3:45 p.m.   The topic is “Creating a Realistic Pace for Improvement”. Read more and register here.

Bonus!  We’ll select one person from the list of participants to win a free registration to our October 1-2 Northeast L.E.A.N. Conference. Learn more about the conference here.

This entry was posted in lean, old lean dude, continuous improvement, policy deployment, favorable environment, culture, kaizen, hoshin kanri, managerial engineering, bruce hamilton, ryuji fukuda, countermeasures, CEDAC, reliable methods on August 08 , 2014.