Welcome to our interview with Norman Bodek. Norman is the owner of PCS Press, and his mission is to teach managers how to teach their employees how to be successful in life and also to teach teachers how to teach their students how to be successful in life.
Norman played a prime role in introducing Lean to the West. He started with Vern Buehler the Shingo Prize and is a Shingo Prize winner. He was a frequent keynote speaker on Quick and Kaizen, Lean manufacturing and the Harada Method. He has written hundreds of articles; and when he owned Productivity Press he published 100 Japanese management books in English, over 250 published books on productivity and quality, and has written seven books including his How to Do Kaizen and the Harada Method.
Welcome Norman, and thank you for contributing to the questions that are at the heart of the Exploring Forward Thinking Workplaces 2.0 conversation.
How can we create workplaces where every voice is heard and matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?
Norman Bodek: The key to this question is what I received from two people, Takashi Harada, inventor of the Harada Method and Venu Srinivasan, chairman of TVS Motor – a $7 Billion company in India.
The Harada Method is a systematic system that allows the individual to take responsibility for defining their own path in achieving self-reliance and professional excellence.
The Harada Method, which I teach and co-wrote a book with Takashi Harada, asks people to pick a very strong goal that excites them and motivates them to be successful in life. It provides the means for anyone to pick a goal, to carefully analyze their strengths and weaknesses, to pick the tasks and routines to help them attain that goal and to monitor daily progression. It is systematic system that allows the individual to take responsibility for defining their own path in achieving self-reliance and professional excellence.
The subtitle of my Harada book is called The Spirit of Self-Reliance. That’s what the Harada Method does. It gets you to pick a goal so that you can become self-reliant in your life. You pick a goal to be a master at something that serves other people needs. People come to work and often do boring and repetitive things. Give them a chance to be self-reliant and to align their goals with their work and you will see a workplace where everyone thrives, finds meaning and where change and innovation will naturally happen.
Most employees are completely dependent upon their employers making virtually all the decisions, as if the employer knows better. Often, they don’t, for the person that does the job really knows it the best.
Venu Srinivasan’s TVS Motor’s manufactures motorcycles and automotive parts. In 1996, Venu started Srinivasan Services Trust, SST, to share his success with others. Now after 20 years, SST has uplifted 1.2 Million people, in Indian, out of poverty.
The key to SST’s success is helping people to become self-reliant.
SST’s consultants go into an impoverished village and normally gathers 15 to 16 women together, to form self-help groups – most of the women are unable to read or write.
I went to India last year to one of these villages and saw women in four groups of 15 each make chapatti flatbread. The women own collectively the factory, take a weekly salary and give out a bonus at the end of the year. They make thousands of chapattis daily and sell them to the surrounding companies and villages. Instead of living in shacks without running water they now own their own brick/cement houses with all of the modern conveniences.
In the past, I owned Productivity Inc. – Press with 127 people publishing newsletters, books and running conferences, seminars, study missions to Japan and consulting in JIT. Often the staff would come to me with questions, I foolishly always gave them an answer as if I was the only person intelligent enough to do it. Of course, now a little older and a little wiser, I should always have turned around and asked them to come up with a solution to their question.
Taiichi Ohno and Dr. Shigeo Shingo two of my authors, created the Toyota Production System, (Lean), both were masters of this. Each had a different management style:
Ohno would command you. He’d go to you and say, “Look, you have six people working in your area. Do it with four.” Then he’d walk away.
He’d never tell them how to do it. He would just demand the impossible. Ohno just demanded people to do the impossible because he never knew if they could do it or not, but he knew if he didn’t ask, they’d never do it. He was probably the best manufacturing manager of the last 100 years.
Dr. Shingo would turn to the people, managers and engineers and say to them very simply, “How can you improve the value adding ratio on this process?” When people are asked, they do come up with amazing answers.
Dr. Shingo, on the other hand, was a great master and teacher. He could solve probably any manufacturing problem presented to him. However, Dr. Shingo would turn to the people, managers and engineers and say to them very simply, “How can you improve the value adding ratio on this process?” That was his main question, “How can you improve the value adding of what you do?” Then he would let people come up with the answers. When people are asked, they do come up with amazing answers.
I had a recent student who was in charge of Lean in a big hospital in Arkansas. I asked him to pay me something to train him over zoom.us. He told me he had no money in his budget and that he would have to ask the president of the hospital. I finally suggested he pay me 1.5 million from my training. The president, believe or not, said, “Sorry, there is no money in the budget for you to be educated.”
It’s amazing that people are not empowered in any way to spend money on their own improvement. They have to always go ask for permission as if the senior knows more or is more capable. The whole idea of asking for permission is a system that seems to exist throughout America and the world. But the great, great teachers have setup a system that doesn’t require permission. They trust people to make the right decisions for their organizations and themselves.
I published the book The Happiest Company to Work For. This book is about an amazing company called Mirai in Japan that runs on this principle: everybody is a boss. Everybody makes their own decisions. But, if they do make a mistake, they do pay for it in some way. They recognize that they can’t do it again. That’s the simple way to approach it. It really gets people to be self-reliant and very careful at the same time. Mirai has never lost money and has more patents than any other company, its size, in Japan.
Note: This is a preview of the full interview. The complete interview was selected by Apress for publication and continues in The Future of the Workplace.