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When I was doing PMP training in Central Ohio, I used to have a lot of students from the Honda plant in Marysville, and from a lot of the Honda suppliers.  I don’t know how true this is, but several of them told me the following story, which is a great illustrative anecdote:

At Honda, it’s the line workers that know the best about how to improve processes on the assembly line.  Each worker is empowered and expected to inspect the work that has gone before and to make sure that their own work is of the highest quality.  To facilitate process improvement, a mechanism has been created to collect process improvement ideas.  In this case, let’s assume that it’s a suggestion box.

Each day workers will fill out cards with their suggestions and drop them in the box.  A special committee reviews these suggestions, and assesses whether or not the suggestion should be approved for further review.  What factors might they look at in reviewing each of these suggestions?

  • Risk
  • Whether a similar effort has been tried before
  • Cost & ROI
  • Alignment with key objectives
  • Other factors

 

Based on these factors, the suggestion either gets approved (or passed to a more specialized committee with more specific domain knowledge) or gets rejected.

Now here’s the key bit, and this is the bit that I am not sure if I have embellished after several years of hearing and repeating the story.  The key here for a rejected suggestion is to quickly and in a timely fashion get the rejected suggestion back to the person who submitted it – with an explanation of why the suggestion didn’t pass muster against the key selection criteria.

What does that mean the next time a worker has a suggestion?  Would they be bitter and not submit at all?  At this point, it’s probably relevant to note that there are incentives mapped to this program, and that every year several cars would be given in a lottery to those folks who submitted ideas.  So our hypothetical creative worker might have a new idea in the future, but may self-select the idea – or focus on an idea – which will map to those objectives which were laid out in the previous rejection letter.

How does the organization benefit?  It ends up with a large pool of skilled workers incentivized to propose quality improvement suggestions and who understand the key drivers behind what the organization is looking for.  Doesn’t that sound  like good governance?

Coming soon……how this model doesn’t change when applied to an IT shop using ITIL processes or when applied to projects using the PMBOK processes.