I find it interesting how words in the Portuguese language can have multiple meanings and how their use automatically makes us think in a specific way.

Discipline and consequence are two such words. Sometimes discipline is the consequence of punishment for doing something wrong.
Because of this correlation, the two words seem to have a negative effect on our thinking. However, when establishing a Lean culture, these two words are very positive and should be highlighted as factors for a successful Lean implementation. During my years with Toyota, I learned that discipline is not about punishment, but about firmly following standards and systems. It is a daily necessity to ensure that we have good consequences or good results.I remember when I was a new Team Member at the Kentucky plant.

I was hired as a Team Member for the start of the second shift, when TMMK was a new facility. We were just starting to separate the two shifts, so all the second shift personnel arrived two hours after the start of the first shift. When the first shift ended, we took care of a few cars on our own. Most of the day was spent learning new processes online, in classrooms, learning the unique methods Toyota used and studying 5S. Every day, we had some free time between the end of the first shift and the restart of the line.During this time, our task was to apply and remove tapes. Most of us didn’t understand why we were removing the tapes we had put down the day before, only to put the tape with the same color back on the floor. But we did it anyway. Looking back, I realize that we were learning a very important lesson.

We all know that the foundation of TPS is standardization. The tape on the floor was there for a reason. It identified where items that weren’t nailed to the floor should be, where there was danger in moving equipment and where our fixed stop positions and start points for each process were located. In conjunction with the condition of the tape on the floor, there were standards for each of these items (color of tape, length of marking, etc.). This is what 5S gives us: standards that allow us to recognize abnormalities. Checking and replacing the tapes every day taught us the importance of maintaining these standards so that we could notice abnormalities. We became disciplined in maintaining these standards by repeatedly checking and replacing the tape. Since the foundation of TPS is standardization, we must teach the discipline to maintain this standardization.

The way to achieve discipline is not through punishment, but through repetition and training. It seems that in our society rules are made to be broken. When I teach elementary Lean, I emphasize discipline by asking the students how many of them exceeded the speed limit on their way to work that morning. So far, no one has ever admitted to doing so. In some classes, I’ve even had a few students admit to getting a ticket on the way to work. Norms, in the form of traffic laws, are established and communicated. The rules are in place for everyone’s safety. Most people think only of the risk of a small consequence: the punishment of receiving a fine. Many don’t understand that the real reason behind the rule is to reduce the chance of a more serious consequence, such as an accident that could lead to serious injury or death. The key point is that it is up to us to be disciplined to follow the rules in order to increase the potential for good consequences. Discipline in the Lean environment is important because of the positive impact it has on operations.

When we teach discipline and put systems in place to ensure its presence in operations, standardization gives us predictability and repeatability. In return, we get a safe operation with good consequences: a high-quality product that achieves our production and cost targets.We teach the importance of standardization to Lean students. We explain why standardization is important in a Lean environment. With it, we can see abnormality, solve problems and kaizen. We should spend more time teaching the subject. Many companies spend time and money learning the tools, but the discipline is much more ingrained in the Lean culture. To ensure that discipline is taught to all employees, in-plant training should be carried out by all levels of leadership. Learning to be disciplined as a person at the beginning of your Lean journey is the only way to progress successfully and in the right direction along the path to finding good consequences.


Page Lewis
Page is a Lean specialist who helps companies in both the Manufacturing and Administrative areas. Throughout his career, Page has been trained and mentored by Toyota Sensei, literally growing up surrounded by the culture of People Development and Continuous Improvement.

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