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道,领导也。领导必需要不断呼唤,教导下属以及以身作则。下属的过和错皆因领导懒惰。

 
 
 

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Absolving the misconception of wuwei once and for all  

2016-01-12 10:48:44|  分类: Business ethics |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Wuwei is 'total abstinence from one's wimps and fancies'. To those who beg to differ, please read chapter 81 opening phrase, 信言不美。美言不信 meaning Telling the truth and only truth does not bear the slightest inkling to please you. Sweet words that please your ears are definitely not telling the truth. Then you read the article below.

Wuwei are two Chinese characters and together as a two-word phrase is broadly misunderstood as no action, or no need to take action, or do not do anything about it. These meanings are all wrong in the opinion of the author who defined wuwei as ‘do not act on one’s whims and fancies’. Therefore, the principle of wuwei means ‘total abstinence from one’s whims and fancies’.

There is a Chinese proverb, 为所欲为, meaning, act on one’s whims and fancies. Therefore, 无为 really, is the abbreviation for 无为所欲为 and not a mere two-word phrase无为. This is where the author had pointed out the correct meaning of 无为 should be the combination of the five-character phrase which means, do not act on one’s whims and fancies.

[i]A rationale leader habitually maintains the state of mind of not wanting to do anything that arises out of his whims and fancies. At the moment when there is a need to serve the interests of the organization, including its employees, he will take the necessary actions and he knows nothing can stop him leading the employees in the implementation of these actions and with eventual resounding success.

On the other hand, [ii]a conscientious leader prefers not to rock the organization with more than one major program going on in parallel. He does not want to confuse the employees with two or more independent and seemingly contradicting programs. With only one major company-wide program in mind he can lead the employees without any need to make much change to the norm of the employees. Since he does not want to fulfill his whims and fancies with multiple ideas or concurrent programs, there is no need for him to overcome any potential rise in resistance from among his employees.

Then again,[iii]for whatever reason an organization has reached a poor state of performance and its health is deteriorating fast, the new CEO who comes on board is better off initially to stick to the realm of spiritual cultivation of the principle of wuwei or “absolute restrain from executing any willful wish” or “absolute refrain from implementing any whims and fanciful idea”. Giving himself a little more time, he must figure out what is the best leadership principle(s) that he shall use to reorganize the company workforce. This was exactly what a gallant Eiji Toyoda did when he took over the reign from his cousin brother, Shoichiro Toyoda and went on to invent the Toyota Production System by the institution of the Just-In-Time Philosophy. Toyota was bleeding in deep red then and Toyota was broken up into two entities, namely Toyota Motor Co. Ltd. and Toyota Sales Co. Ltd. For 32 years, since the separation in April 1950, the two companies had assumed separate responsibilities for production and sales. They finally merged back into one company in 1982[1].

From time to time, [iv]an astute CEO deliberates that it is best not to arbitrarily make things or create something purely out of one’s whims and fanciful ideas or willful wish. Quite to the surprise of everyone, initially, the Just-In-Time Philosophy and its seven accompanying leadership principles of the elimination of seven wastes were seen as a fanciful idea created by Eiji Toyoda. What really made the JIT Philosophy a breakthrough was when it comes to implementation, Eiji Toyoda and his deputy, Taiichi Ohno actually lead by example and not merely instructing or issuing commands to the employees to do it all by themselves. When they know that there is something good that they need to do for the benefit of the employees and the Toyota Production System, they will not decline. For more than two decades,[v]though they were in the commanding position leading everyone, they did not wield their authority.

Twenty years on, after the job has been completed both Eiji Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno did not discussed about who contributed more and hence, should earn more credits. This was because for what they had done they do not want to conceit their talents and for the work completed they do not want to assume its credentials. Because they did not want to assume credentials for the job done belong to them, all the more the people remember the credentials rightfully belong to them, forever. This is why Eiji Toyota and Taiichi Ohno are synonymous with the Just-In-Time Philosophy and the Toyota Production System.

How kaizen evolved in Toyota Motor Co. Ltd.

[vi]Anything that is auspicious we let it grows. Kaizen is good and it bodes every organization well. The kaizen movement then spread rapidly throughout Japan and into all kinds of industries, not limiting to the car industry. This piece of good news attracted the attention of the management consultants from the USA. Lots of write ups, essays, articles, journal reports and later books that described kaizen constructively as a key element that explains the rise of the Japanese manufacturing industry, particularly when they learned that Toyota USA had made great inroads into the North American car market beating General Motors and Ford Motor flat in terms of profitability.

Three decades had passed and kaizen simply did not take roots in any country outside Japan. Though dejected, many scholars, professors, industrial experts and journalists tried to investigate why kaizen does not bloom in the other countries. Some of their findings are: it’s a Japanese culture, the Japanese workers are faithfully loyal to their companies, Japanese workers are basically obedient to the seniors, the dosing of incentives for each kaizen completed and the list goes on and on. By now, everybody had given up offering more reasons.

To the Japanese employees, kaizen rhymes in their heart instinctively. The word, kaizen spontaneously touches everyone’s heart and everybody without second thought begins to figure out a kaizen idea. Once a kaizen idea is disclosed, everybody worked together hand-in-hand to implement the kaizen, all for the good of everybody. This is because kaizen is good. Kaizen is auspicious. Kaizen is a neutral word, and it bodes well to everyone. In Japan should anyone find something bothersome, he will automatically think of kaizen. Perhaps, this flow of thought might have been an everyday practice among the Japanese for thousands of years. Hence, it is not wrong to say, kaizen is very much a deep-rooted Japanese culture.

Given the common practice in Japan of labeling industrial or business improvement techniques with the word ‘kaizen’, especially in the case of oft-emulated practices spearheaded by Toyota Motor Co. Ltd., the word Kaizen in English is typically applied to measures for implementing continuous improvement. Again, this is exactly where an English reader[2] had gone wrong. Kaizen is an action taken as a means to an end, period. All kaizen process has a specific purpose to resolve an immediate issue that one is facing. Once it is done, it is over. That means, every kaizen idea is a mere single shot process of making a particular improvement. When the next opportunity comes, a new kaizen idea shall be found and implemented as soon as possible. Therefore, kaizen is not continuous improvement, but rather is sporadic improvement. Do you want to beg to differ?

First and foremost, who are the people carrying out kaizen? Mostly, they are the shop floor people. Therefore, let’s walk down the shop floor in a Japanese factory and randomly ask the workers this question, “How many kaizen did you perform last month?” Across the board, the answers are: mainly “one”; few “two” and rarely “three” or more. Taking the wind out of your sails, to an average employee who executed one, two or three kaizen a month, that is truly sporadic in nature. This finding is not alarming either. To a worker who is busy day in and out running a smooth operation, hardly any issue crops up that demands his immediate attention. Should an issue occur, it is quickly taken up as an opportunity for him to act upon it with the necessity to think of an apposite kaizen idea. Henceforth, kaizen is never a daily process. Neither, it comes with an intention or purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement or sporadic improvement. Regrettably, this is where an observer or commentator who has little or no hands-on experience in the application of kaizen had seriously gone wrong with the view that kaizen is continuous improvement.

Unfortunately, most non-Japanese CEOs buy into this opinion that kaizen is continuous improvement and so they expect their employees to carry out kaizen as if it is a continuous improvement process. Meanwhile, the employees on the shop floor have all the rights to rebuke this mistaken conception of kaizen and obediently do what they are expected to do. That is, as and when an opportunity arises, they faithfully carry out kaizen to resolve the issue. When there isn’t any issue, they just continue with their routine job. Now, should the CEO has an impression that the employees are lukewarm about kaizen, he is in serious contention with the people on the shop floor. No matter how hard he drives (opposite of wuwei) for more kaizen, the employees simply ignore him as dead wrong in thinking kaizen is continuous improvement. Let him ask for the sky, we just carry out our job dutifully.

In order for you to comprehend fully kaizen is sporadic improvement, let’s go back in history to immediately after the Second World War, Japan was war-torn and was in a hurry to rebuild itself. Kaizen has its root then and is most commonly associated with manufacturing operations, as at Toyota Motor Co. Ltd., where its birth was sometimes associated with. Why? The Toyota Production System (abbreviation, TPS) is renowned for kaizen, where all line personnel are expected to stop their moving production line in case of any abnormality and, along with their supervisor, suggest this is an opportunity for improvement which leads to a kaizen aimed squarely to resolve this abnormality. May I ask, “How often is the moving production line stopped?” Several times a day is a rather kind comment. Despite of its intermittent line down situations and an abnormality that could be repeating or was a new occurrence, the line people quickly resolved it and subsequently make an assessment whether it is serious enough to warrant a call for help. This is when the supervisor decides to pick it up as an opportunity to perform kaizen. The people involved in seeking a kaizen solution to the recent issue may include the line operator, his supervisor, the foreman and perhaps the engineers. There is no need for someone higher up the hierarchy to drive them. Over time, the kaizen culture was formed.

This is a piece of advice for the non-Japanese CEOs. [vii]For whatever reason the kaizen movement in an organization has dwindled to a poor state of performance and its health is deteriorating fast, the CEO who wishes to reinvigorate its progress is better off initially to stick to the realm of spiritual cultivation of the principle of wuwei or “absolute restrain from executing any willful wish” or “absolute refrain from implementing any whims and fanciful idea” than banging it down right through its hierarchy demanding for its advancement. Giving himself a little more time, he must figure out what is the best leadership philosophy (and subsequently its accompanying leadership principles) that he shall use to reorganize the company workforce. This was exactly what Eiji Toyoda did when he took over the rein of Toyota Motor Co. Ltd. Today, the Toyota Production System is the perennial model that everyone must study carefully.

To President Eiji Toyoda and his deputy Taiichi Ohno, [viii]when the kaizen movement turned into a custom or ethos and was about to rise in form, to them kaizen looks like a very simple and mundane thing to the extent of not giving it a name to describe its evolution and even totally ignore it, altogether. They merely used the phrase, kaizen as an everyday encouragement to their employees to change for better. When it does not have a simple name to begin with, the kaizen movement in Toyota Motor Co. Ltd. did not attract the attentions of the early adopters even among the Japanese car factories to the point no one else pursued it fervently. Even back in Toyota Motor Co. Ltd. where the desire of its employees is not even aroused to pursue it enthusiastically, as a result the new custom or ethos took a quiet and gradual process to weave into its existing organization culture. Naturally, the evolution of the new kaizen culture occurs in a very stable and steady state.


[1]  The signing of the memorandum of understanding on the merger of Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. and Toyota Motor Sales Co., Ltd. took place on January 25, 1982 and that the target date for the merger was to be July 1, 1982. At a press conference the signing was made by President Eiji Toyoda of Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. and President Shoichiro Toyoda of Toyota Motor Sales Co., Ltd.
       [2] For that matter, it applies to all non-Japanese speaking countries. This is because they got to know about kaizen from reading books first written in the English language.
       [i] Ericwoonct.blog.163.com, section 《老子全始全终》第37章: LP95a.

[ii] Ericwoonct.blog.163.com, section 《老子全始全终》第64章: LP168.

[iii] Ericwoonct.blog.163.com, section 《老子全始全终》第5章: LP9.

[iv] Ericwoonct.blog.163.com, section 《老子全始全终》第2章: LP1, LP2.

[v] Ericwoonct.blog.163.com, section 《老子全始全终》第41章: LP109a.

[vi] Ericwoonct.blog.163.com, section 《老子全始全终》第31章: LP79a.

[vii] Ericwoonct.blog.163.com, section 《老子全始全终》第5章: LP9.

[viii] Ericwoonct.blog.163.com, section 《老子全始全终》第37章: LP96a, b, c.


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