Developing People at Toyota

On a recent trip to Japan I had the special honour to meet and listen to a presentation by Isao Kato. Isao spent 35 years with Toyota Motor Corporation in a variety of management positions in manufacturing, HR, training and employee relations, also supplier development before retiring in the early 1990’s. Kato San also worked extensively developing training material for implementing TPS under the direction of Taiichi Ohno and others.

It was an honour and real privilege to hear from someone who worked on the foundations of Toyota’s cultural development and to hear first hand some of the stories from that day.

We heard that their ideal was ” to train people to respond to internal and external changes and to work efficiently and do Kaizen” and their strategy was “To allow people to develop as individuals as well as increase their motivation for work”

Kato San had developed programs based on the original TWI methods, but had been one of the architects of what we now call The Toyota Way.

He also told of one of his jobs was to look after Shigeo Shingo, and work with him at his time with Toyota. Apparently Shingo wanted to know EVERYTHING that was going on and helped shaped their thinking over the years.

My favourite story for the afternoon was one that most lean guys quote although it is more folklore than fact. It’s the origin of the 5 Whys.

The 5 Whys

Apparently Kato San had developed a new practical problem solving course and included the 5 W’s, who what why where and when. This course was tested on some of Taichii Ohno’s managers and Ohno himself had decided to give Kato some direct feedback on the course.

It was at this point Ohno said that he didn’t think they needed the 5W’s and that asking Why would be sufficient.

So there is some truth in the story and a real experience to hear it told from the guy that was there at the time! Priceless!

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