“One man’s magic is another man’s engineering.”
- Robert A. Heinlein
Toyota’s production system serves as the catalyst for change for the Meals Per Hour program, so I was eager to become educated on not only the nuts and bolts of how it works, but also how these philosophies and processes could relate to a range of business models, and in our case, non-profit organizations.
Lisa Richardson is leading the charge as Toyota attempts to optimize the efforts of organizations helping Sandy victims, so I met with her to get a crash course. Lisa shared that one of the central principles guiding Toyota’s production system is the Japanese concept of Kaizen. Translated literally, it means simply, “good change,” but it takes on a much deeper meaning as a philosophy.
Kaizen or continuous improvement is the idea of never being satisfied with the current condition and always seeking a better way. Kaizen also empowers every team member at Toyota, from production team members to the CEO, to get involved in improving the flow of work around them. Through this encouragement, small daily ideas thought of by thousands of team members throughout the United States can influence the company’s many processes as a whole.
After learning about Kaizen, it became very apparent to me how a philosophy that encourages communication and values the voice of each individual could especially impact a non-profit. For organizations like Metro World Child and Coney Island Lighthouse Community Kitchen the employees and volunteers on the line surely have valuable insight as to how to expand abilities and increase productivity, thereby serving more people in need. Having those conversations is one part of Lisa’s role in the Meals Per Hour program.
Lisa is based in Kentucky in the Toyota Production System Support Center, but will be traveling to New York to help analyze current processes, work with the team to identify opportunities for improvement and assess the impact of the kaizen. She also has experience volunteering with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, so I am certain she’ll be up for the challenge.