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Podcast: Just-In-Time Cafe, Episode 24 – How Service Organizations Move From Mediocrity to Excellence, With Jeffrey Liker - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Tune in to hear Tracy’s interview with author Jeffrey Liker who just published The Toyota Way to Service Excellence.

Find out about an app that facilitates seamless communication with bad grammar. Check out why Pearl Harbor airmen met up with a Black Belt from the Hawaiian Electric Company. Listen in as we answer a learner’s question about indirect vs direct voice of the customer and keep thinking about Hawaii as you join us for another good gab at the Just-in-Time Cafe Podcast. Aloha!

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Podcast Transcript

Tracy O’Rourke: Hi everyone! I’m Tracy O’Rourke.

Elisabeth Swan: I’m Elisabeth Swan.

Tracy O’Rourke: And we are with GoLeanSixSigma.com and you’re listening to the Just-In-Time Café Podcast where we bring you fabulous apps, books, and people so you can build your problem-solving muscles.

Elisabeth Swan: The Café is hopping, Tracy.

Tracy O’Rourke: I know. I see you’ve got your podcast mug with you.

Elisabeth Swan: I got one for you too.

Tracy O’Rourke: You’re so nice. Thank you. I’ll grab the menu and I’ll meet you in our coffee oasis.

Elisabeth Swan: I’ll be right there.

What’s on the Menu (Podcast Agenda)

Tracy O’Rourke: All right, Elisabeth. We’re all settled in. So can you be so kind as to tell us what’s on the menu today?

Elisabeth Swan: Of course, Tracy. This month, we review an app that facilitates seamless communication through bad grammar.

And then for In the News segment, we’re going to find out why Pearl Harbor Airman meetup with a Black Belt from the Hawaiian Electric Company. That’s an interesting one. It all sounds really warm and sunny.

Either way, we’ll fill the question from a learner about customer complaints.

And for Today’s Special, Tracy, you get to interview Jeffrey Liker who brought us the seminal book, The Toyota Way back in 2001 and just recently came out with The Toyota Way to Service Excellence.

So stay tune. Lots of great info coming your way.

Elisabeth Swan: Awesome.

Tracy O’Rourke: Let’s get to the Appetizer.

Appetizer of the Day: WhatsApp

Elisabeth Swan: OK, Tracy. I know you’ve been using this one for a while. So, why don’t you tell everybody about WhatsApp?

Tracy O’Rourke: Yeah. It’s more of a pun than bad grammar. But this app is really fun. First of all, it’s a messenger app. It’s free. It’s available on mostly Android and other smartphones. More than one billion people in over 180 countries use this app to stay in touch with friends and family anytime anywhere. It’s very popular. It’s really easy to use. It’s very user-friendly.

The cool thing about this and why it’s different than texting is because it uses your phone’s internet connection to send messages so that you can avoid SMS fees. So that’s really cool too. And the nice thing about it is you can create group chats that are up 256 people at once like that maybe a little bit more than you need but that’s OK. Having the ability to have that many people in groups can be very beneficial and easy.

How I’ve used it the most in actuality is with my Gaelic Football team believe it or not. So we’ve got up to 40 women on this team and we use WhatsApp to coordinate our practices, what bars, meeting up for drinks after practice. We do also do fundraisers. So often, we’re sending a note to our team saying, “Hey, what’s going on with this? Do we have everything we need?” It’s just very easy to keep that conversation going. It easily syncs to all of your other chats for your computer or whatever device that is most convenient for you.

The other thing is it also allows you to do voice and video calls very easily. So you don’t have to worry about expensive calling charges. So if you have international friends, WhatsApp seems to be the most popular app. So I have friends in Ireland. I also have friends in Mexico. It doesn’t skip a beat.

And what I didn’t know that you can also send PDFs, spreadsheets, and slideshows without the hassle of email and you can easily share these things. So it’s a great app. It’s free. It’s international. It’s easy to use.

What did you think, Elisabeth?

Elisabeth Swan: Well, I was new to it but I love the fact that as soon as I downloaded it and just opened it, all of my contacts were available but only the ones using WhatsApp, and immediately reached out to someone in France who wrote me right back, another one in Ireland who wrote me right back. So, I saw the total facility with anyone you know that’s overseas.

Of course, you have a different idea of productivity, using it with your Gaelic Football team to make sure you all go to the same bar. I appreciate that too, Tracy. But I didn’t know you could send PDFs and things like that, PowerPoint, so that’s amazing.

So it used to cost money I found out but it’s now free forever. So, great app. I’m going to use from here on end.

Tracy O’Rourke: That’s great. And I’ll continue to use it to find out where my friends are drinking.

Elisabeth Swan: Go, Tracy. You’re listening to the Just-In-Time Café Podcast. I’m Elisabeth Swan. And up next, it’s Lean Six Sigma In the News.

In the News

Elisabeth Swan: Ok, Tracy. Explain what’s going on with this Airman in Pearl Harbor going to the Hawaiian Electric Company?

Tracy O’Rourke: Oh yeah, there are lots of fun stuff going on here. I mean Pearl Harbor Hawaii, the military, it’s all combined in this article. And this article was online publisher with I believe DVIDS, D-V-I-D-S. It’s the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System. This article was written by Jerry Bynum in Honolulu and it’s basically a news article on the Air Force implementing continuous improvement and it’s specifically designed for a course for leaders and how they can use process improvement to improve organizational effectiveness and efficiency through the Air Force, which is really cool.

They also four methodologies to help improve the Air Force, Lean, Six Sigma theory of constraints, and business process reengineering. So what I really like is they look at the different methodologies that were available, figure out which ones were most application to their organization and then design a curriculum and a program around that, which is really cool.

One of the really cool things that I really liked about this article was that the Air Force actually partnered with the Hawaiian Electric Company in Honolulu. And they got a chance to go on a tour. They were able to really see outside of their organization, which is really world-class benchmarking to see how Lean can really apply at Hawaiian Electric Company. So that is really exciting. I love tours.

I’ve seen lots of different organizations and I’m always amazed at how people apply this stuff to help their challenges that they’re running into operationally and also seeing and hearing the leaders and what they’re doing in their organizations to really make this stuff work and keep it top of mind. That’s what I feel like leaders really struggle with is keeping this stuff top of mind because honestly, if you’re a leader and you forget about it, you’re people are going to follow your lead. They’re going to be, “Well, it’s not that important. It was the flavor of the month. I’m just going to do what I was doing before.”

Elisabeth Swan: I hear you, Tracy. This is interesting because it wasn’t one to go. In another podcast, we covered another defense organization and they had toured a cement factory. So I think there’s something going on here as you said. They’re doing just benchmarking, seeing how this process improvement worked well in other arenas, which is really nice to see.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. And I’ll just finally say shout out to Colonel Timothy Soderholm which basically he said this course is showing us how continuous improvement can help improve efficiency in how they operate. And they’re really working hard to translate continuous improvement language into something that their people can understand and be receptive to.

And that’s kind of our mantra too, isn’t it Elisabeth? I mean we really want to make problem-solving easy to understand, accessible, and it shouldn’t be complicated, right?

I mean we really want to make problem-solving easy to understand, accessible, and it shouldn’t be complicated, right?

Elisabeth Swan: Absolutely. That’s the way it should be.

Tracy O’Rourke: You’re listening to the Just-In-Time Café Podcast. I’m Tracy O’Rourke. In a short while, we’ll get to hear my interview with prolific author and business professor, Jeffrey Liker. But first, it’s a Q&A from one of our subscribers.

Q&A

Elisabeth Swan: Tracy, here’s a question that resonated with me. Why are customer complaints considered indirect data collection? And that’s a concept that we put together when we’re talking about voice of the customer. There’s indirect and there is direct. So let’s just define indirect versus direct voice of the customer feedback.

Direct customer feedback is you actually asked a customer, “How do you experience our product, our services?” And they tell you, “Here’s what I think of your product, your services.”

Indirect basically means they’re unaware of you’re either watching them or listening to them and this could be anything from watching someone in a hotel lobby, how easy is it for them to figure out where to get to check-in? That’s indirect voice of the customer. So seeing how they use our process.

So the difference is they know you’re sort of visibly in front of them or you’re on the phone with them, you’re asking them questions versus they don’t know. You give them a gift basket at a hotel and later on, you go figure out, well, what did they take out of the gift basket? What do they leave? Did they take all the bananas and leave the apples? What happened? That’s different. That’s indirect.

And you want to have a mix of indirect and direct because you want to know what did they say to your face, what did they do when you’re not looking, right? It’s often, if you say, “Just reaching out and saying, ‘Well, how did you experience our product?’ They might feel like, “Wow! That’s so nice of you to even ask me.’” And even if they didn’t have the greatest experience, they might just go, “It was great. I love it.” Because they are appreciating you’re reaching out. So you need a mix of both to get that real voice of the customer.

Tracy O’Rourke: I agree. Voice of the customer is so important. And we tend to assume often without asking. And so, having that dialog and that hybrid mix of getting indirect and direct is a great strategy.

…having that dialog and that hybrid mix of getting indirect and direct is a great strategy.

Elisabeth Swan: Coming up next is Today’s Special. Tracy, give us a little preview of your interview with Jeffrey Liker.

Tracy O’Rourke: Really exciting to talk with Jeffrey Liker. He is the Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan. But he has also authored so many books and so many articles. He has so many significant contributions to the Lean industry. I cannot wait to talk with him.

And I am going to talk a little bit about his book that he wrote with Karyn Ross but I also want to know a little bit about the man, right? Who is this guy? What does he like to do when he’s not working? I think that’s kind of interesting. I just would love to get to know him a little bit.

And we’ll also talk a little bit about transformation, Lean transformation, and some of those challenges.

Elisabeth Swan: Tracy, I’m also looking forward to this interview with Jeffrey Liker. I love that you got to interview both co-authors for this book. Great book. Please look for the review on our website.

Tracy O’Rourke: And don’t miss the next episode of the Just-In-Time Café. We’ll be finding out about going to the gemba at Amazon from Elisabeth’s interview with Bob Zimering.

Today’s Special

Tracy O’Rourke: I just wanted to give a brief introduction about Dr. Jeffrey Liker. He has made significant contributions to the Lean community and beyond. He is a Professor Emeritus of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan, and owner of Liker Lean Advisors and a partner in the Toyota Way Academy.

Dr. Liker has authored 15 books and over 75 articles and book chapters. And his biggest bestseller is The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles From the World’s Greatest Manufacturer. Is that your bestseller?

Jeffrey Liker: Yup. Absolutely.

Tracy O’Rourke: And that was the first book you had written.

Jeffrey Liker: Well, I’ve done edited books before. But it was the first book that I – was a real book, not just an edited book.

Tracy O’Rourke: Oh, wonderful! OK. And your latest book which we will be highlighting today with Karyn Ross, The Toyota Way to Service Excellence: Lean Transformation in Service Organizations. So you’ve also – your books and articles have won 13 Shingo prizes for research excellence. And in 2012, you were inducted into the Association of a Manufacturing Excellence Hall of Fame as well as the Shingo Academy Hall of Fame in 2016. How does it feel?

Jeffrey Liker: It’s a little strange because when you think of people in hall of fames were dead. I’m still alive.

It’s a little strange because when you think of people in hall of fames were dead. I’m still alive.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yeah, true. And you’ve got a long life ahead of you.

Jeffrey Liker: Yes.

Tracy O’Rourke: So Jeffrey, you have really accomplished anyone’s dream really in your career. I’m really interested about the man, you. Tell us a little bit about your interest outside of work. Do you have children?

Jeffrey Liker: Yes, married for 45 years to Deb Liker. My son, Jessie, is 27 years old and he got a dual degree between performance of viola and conducting and teaching and educating high school students. He is now the Orchestra Director for high school in Michigan. He runs about six different orchestras and he teaches music to fourth and fifth graders.

And my daughter, Emma Liker, is 24. And she is a great writer. She writes more fiction and novels and she is a graphic artist and she does incredible drawings on a digital tablet mostly of graphic novels.

And so anyway, the two of them are quite busy and active. And they also do some work for me to help me for example with PowerPoint presentations and art and critiquing my books.

Tracy O’Rourke: So, I’m going to ask you something. You’re a father, and every father’s dream is that their children adore them. So what do they think about your amazing success in the Lean community?

Jeffrey Liker: They know about it. I don’t think it’s that unusual. I think they just sort of gotten used to it because that’s the way it was with them growing up.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yup. Good. Have they ever seen you speak?

Jeffrey Liker: Yeah, I think but not a lot. But like for example, when I accepted the awards for the Hall of Fame, they were there. And they will usually make some snarky remark after I speak.

Tracy O’Rourke: Just as children should.

Jeffrey Liker: Yes.

Tracy O’Rourke: So let’s talk a little about your book. You talk about having a true personal north. So tell us, what inspires you? What is your true north? What makes you do what you do?

Jeffrey Liker: If you get into me personally, many of your listeners are probably familiar with the Myers-Briggs. And in the Myers-Briggs, an INTJ which is an intuitive, introverted, thinker, judger. So it’s four different letters. The bottom line is that I’m pretty much cerebral and intellectually-based and fact-based and not so much the opposite of thinking is feeling. So I’m not so much feeling-based as thinking-based. I’m not that extroverted although I’m sort of the middle. And as a judger, I like to get things done.

So the ideal – one of the ideal career paths for somebody like me is what they call an applied scientist, which I think fits very well because I have a PhD in sociology and all my work has been very applied.

Fast forward 2002, I was hired through a strange set of events, I was hired as an Assistant Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at University of Michigan. And I was in a weird position because I was – I had an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering and I had a PhD in sociology, which is exactly what the Department of Michigan was looking for. And one of the projects was the US-Japan auto study at University of Michigan, which is a very large study. It involved sociologists and psychologists, scientists, and engineers and accountants and everybody in every function you can imagine. And the question was, why are the Japanese so good at making cars compared to the American companies? And they asked me to do part of that.

…why are the Japanese so good at making cars compared to the American companies?

What excited me about that was it was a chance to use my sociology background because in this case, it’s a study of another culture. And also, the Japanese were known for their work organization which is very people-centered in a different way than the socio-technical systems or autonomous work groups. It wasn’t just like let the work groups do their own thing. But the Japanese were very structured.

But in any case, I saw a kind of rekindling of that early interest in engaged people who are excited about their jobs and at the same time who are working within a very structured technical system that’s focused on productivity and quality and exceeding customer expectations. That to me was very exciting. It was intellectually exciting to the extent that it excited me that they were actually getting a lot out of their people and treating their people well. But it was focused on real, concrete results, not just on people being happy because they are treated with respect in their autonomous.

…it was focused on real, concrete results, not just on people being happy because they are treated with respect in their autonomous.

So the Japanese approach made sense to me. And then as I dug deeper and deeper into the Japanese auto companies, I found that Toyota was closest to my kind of dream company of a company that truly respects people and unleashes their creativity but at the same time is very, very focused on the customer, very focused on getting results, focused on cost, quality, delivery, all the things Toyota is known for.

And repeatedly in every part of the company whether it’s supply chain or product development or manufacturing, they repeatedly get incredible effort out of their people, incredible results out of their people, and people feel connected to the company. They feel social and personal connection to the company.

So that excited me and that’s what kind of fueled my passion for the last almost 35 years.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wow! It’s great to have that kind of passion around something. And you’re right. I mean you were sort of like a scientist observing and trying to figure out what’s making this entire thing work. Do you find that applying Lean to service organizations is harder than applying it in manufacturing? What are your thoughts around that?

Jeffrey Liker: I think in a lot of ways, it’s harder. In other ways, it’s very natural. Later, I got involved in studying Toyota’s production system and applying that in companies. For example, I worked with John Choate and Mike Rother consulting to Ford when they were developing in the 1980s the Ford production system. So I came with some hands-on experience with applying the Toyota production system to other companies and other cultures.

So the idea of real customer in a service operation wanting high quality service just in time is a very good image and it’s very easy for people who are in service operations to understand who their customer is and also to be excited about better supporting their customers.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. I have spent – most of my career has been in administrative and service processes. And I think one of the biggest challenges is something you just mentioned, is sometimes the biggest challenge is making the process visible and getting people to focus on process and not people because we can’t see the processes. They are invisible. We see people. Therefore, we blame the people.

…sometimes the biggest challenge is making the process visible and getting people to focus on process and not people because we can’t see the processes.

Jeffrey Liker: Right.

Tracy O’Rourke: And I work a lot in government. So trust me. There have been really big challenges with understanding who the customer is. And to no fault of the people that work in there, they have just so much oversight and the stakeholders come in and let’s just say, changed the process based on what they want to see. So it’s very easy to forget who the customers and then processes getting crazy.

Jeffrey Liker: Yes. So I think Edward Deming said something about how in service, the biggest problem is that people don’t realize they have a process. And you can’t improve a process until you realize you have one.

…the biggest problem is that people don’t realize they have a process. And you can’t improve a process until you realize you have one.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. And there are entire organizations that are not process-focused or driven. In your book, you wrote, “A culture of service excellence is a slow build, takes constant vigilance to sustain but it’s the only true path to greatness.” Can you tell us a little bit more about this perspective?

Jeffrey Liker: The effort it takes to do that perfectly is a lot of effort. And in addition to that, you are trying to do it better than your competition, whatever it is you provide as a service. And your competition is getting better and you’re trying to get better. So the bar keeps getting raised higher. And it’s not that different from say, running a competitive race, and it could be Olympic race or it could be marathon and you’re trying to train to win to be the best you can be.

And the problem is that if you win, let’s say you win the marathon this year and you’re at your peak, you can’t sustain that just simply by relaxing for the rest of your life, nor can you sustain say, a marriage that’s going really well by simply letting it go on automatic pilot.

And really what service organizations are about are relationships, providing services to somebody else, and to be the best you can be in providing that excellent service. Even if you were to say, perfect the process, you still wouldn’t be able to push automatic pilot and say just keep this going. It would take continual effort.

And in fact, the time when you’re the best is the hardest to repeat, to replicate.

Tracy O’Rourke: And I’m sure you run into this in your consulting. Leaders probably get turned off by that, right? They’re like a slow build. Well, can’t you give me faster build? Constant vigilance, can it be a little automatic pilot? And finally, it’s the only true path. They’re probably like, “Well, it doesn’t have to be totally true.”

I find leaders really struggle with the amount of commitment that is required to be successful. So what do you say to a leader that sort of is saying, “You got anything that’s maybe a little easier for me to implement?”

I find leaders really struggle with the amount of commitment that is required to be successful.

Jeffrey Liker: Well, one of the things I sometimes ask them is what is the standard you are trying to meet? And then I also ask them to reflect on their own personal life. You asked me about my children. So I ask them about their children. Would you be satisfied if your son or daughter were – did really good C+ work and could do that pretty routinely without a lot of effort by you and a lot of extra effort by your child? They don’t have to knock themselves out doing homework. They don’t have to really study hard. They don’t have to think really hard. Would that be – would you be satisfied with that for your child?

And I’m sure that – and particularly, these high-level executives, they are very achievement-oriented and they want their children to be brilliant and going to Yale and Harvard and Princeton and doctors. So, they seem to have – so it seems to me that more times than not, they have a double standard, one standard for themselves personally and their family, outside of work and a different standard for work. And for work, doing the minimum necessary to keep customers coming back seems to be good enough as far as they are concerned. And if that’s true then they really don’t need performance excellence or service excellence. They just need to kind of get the service out there and get by and do and have say, service mediocrity but in large quantity.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. And we see a lot of that.

Jeffrey Liker: Yes. Yeah. Mostly, that’s true. And I think we as customers have gotten used to mediocrity and when we see service excellence, we know it, we feel it, and we’re excited about it and it stands out but we don’t expect it.

And I think we as customers have gotten used to mediocrity and when we see service excellence, we know it, we feel it, and we’re excited about it and it stands out but we don’t expect it.

Tracy O’Rourke: We can think of a lot of – I also teach at UCSD. I teach the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course there and when we talk about customers and excellence, I ask somebody, “Has anyone had an experience that might be unfortunate as a customer of something – of someone’s process, an organization’s process?” And the hands come flying up. There’s no shortage of bad customer experience out there.

Jeffrey Liker: No. No. People just laugh when you talk about bad customer experiences like waiting on the phone forever and being put on hold and listening to music because everybody has experienced that. But it’s just the way it is.

Some of the organizations we talk about in the book, that’s what’s so surprising about them is that they are not satisfied with that level of mediocrity and they do things that surprise and delight the customers. That’s kind of the cliché but they literally every day are shocking customers because they actually care and they listen and they provide excellent service.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. I really enjoyed some of those stories, Zingerman’s 5 ways to lose a customer and sharing that with all employees. I really enjoyed the stories about Menlo innovations and particularly how they hire people, which I think is also very innovative. And I think that’s one of the most rewarding things about the work that we do is like the favorite stories of the reward of seeing people shine either applying it or benefiting from this kind of work.

Jeffrey Liker: If you go back to Menlo, what they’re doing is providing custom software. And Richard shared in us, the CEO, and he is very passionate about providing customers exceptional software that does what they – it makes their life simple. But his – the term he uses is joy. It actually brings joy to life. So that’s his standard. If he has software that works and you say, “OK. Yeah. It does what it’s supposed to. It’s worth the money. Good job.” He has failed as far as he is concerned.

So his standard is, “Wow! That’s amazing. I’ve always had to do this work around but the menu just popped up and it was obvious and I put in the information and it went right where I expected and I got the summary tables I expected and it’s just incredible. I couldn’t believe it just worked the way it was supposed to.” That’s what excites him.

So he tells a story of a product which at the time was their biggest product and it was this test equipment to test blood samples and to test these blood samples and get analytic results. They took machines say, the size of a big Xerox machine in an office, one of these big bulky things. And what this company was doing was creating something like the desktop printer model that you would have on your desktop. And doing the same thing, very small and accessible, and part of the benefit of that is lots of people could use the results. Lots of technicians who had to wait for doctors to analyze the data could use the results. So it’s liberating the data about the blood samples. And it had to be very simple, very simply – easy use interface.

So that worked for a year on. And as I say, it was their biggest client. And they were following delivery of the first unit that had the software in it and they were tracking it on the internet and watching it and they are expecting to hear from the customer. And they don’t hear anything. And they’re watching their watch and they don’t know whether to call and bother this customer or just. So they’re waiting and waiting. And as times going on, they are convinced that it doesn’t work and that was a big problem and we’re screwed and we’re going to go out business.

And finally after being on a kind of death watch, Richard picks up the phone and calls. And the customer says, “Oh Richard! Great to hear from you.” And Richard said, “What’s going on with the tool we sent you?” He said, “Oh yeah! We got it out of the box and we started using it right away. We’re running blood samples. It’s great.”

And apparently, they hadn’t waited for technical support or explanations or anything. They just got it out and started using it. So that was a joyous story or that cheered and we’re all excited because that was the ideal for them. Take it out of the box and just start using it.

Take it out of the box and just start using it.

Tracy O’Rourke: Right. Yes. You retired now. You retired from being a professor last summer. So where are you spending your time these days?

Jeffrey Liker: I do a few courses. Most of my career has been responding to people asking me to do things, and that include The Toyota Way, which was the publisher, McGraw-Hill, asked me to write a book in their series. They had The Mckinsey Way and they had The Disney Way. And they had decided to do The Toyota Way and they had gotten my name. They asked me to do The Toyota Way. And it could have been any company. It could have been The Starbucks Way. But it happened to be at that time The Toyota Way. And they asked me to do it and it made a lot of sense to me and I very quickly said yes. And that led to for example, this podcast.

So one of the things that came up was – because a training company in England called Leadership Network and they do master classes and they contacted me and asked me if I do a master class on the Toyota Way, particularly on Toyota leadership. One of my other more recent books is The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership. And they asked me if I would do a 3-day master class that included a plant tour of a Toyota plant.

And most people could not make that happen but I took the time to contact people I know in Toyota Europe and arranged for us to visit the Toyota plant in the UK, which is in Burnaston in the UK. It’s one of the first overseas Toyota plants like we have the Georgetown, Kentucky plant here. The UK plant was the first in Europe.

So I do that about four times a year and I go over there. And one of the three days is touring the plant. And then I have mostly high-level continuous improvement executives, the global directors of continuous improvement for a company or it could be the COO of large company but high-level people. And they are interested in leadership in a kind of a big picture view of what Lean is. And then that’s extended to doing it in Texas, at the Toyota plant in Texas. And we’re going to do a tour of Japanese plants, so Toyota plants in Japan next fall.

So that again, that was in response to request but because of the request, I was able to do something much more than the customer expected when they asked me. So I do a lot of that. I have a consulting firm in Mexico, ALFRA Consulting in Monterrey. And I have helped built build up their firm from a very small firm to they have about 30 people and they do Toyota Way training and consulting and I am their adviser. And I go down there about a half dozen times a year and I teach them and I teach their customers and I do various short courses.

I spend a lot of time in the last three years with Mike Rother learning about Toyota Kata and I wrote about that quite a bit in the services book. So these are various things I do. And I’m also working on more books. I have a book on Lean process development with Jim Morgan, one of my PhD students. I wrote a book with him called The Toyota Product Development System. And this book is about both my continual learning about Toyota and what they have been doing in the product development area as well as Jim’s experience helping turned around Ford and their vehicle programs and all the great vehicles you see coming out of Ford. Most of them – I mean I think all of them now were under Jim’s responsibility for the bodies of the trucks and cars. So we’re working on that.

I’m working on a book on Lean government. You mentioned Lean government. And I have some colleagues who have been – who came out of Toyota and they were trained in the Toyota production system very deeply and they’ve been working with the Arizona state government. They didn’t – again, they didn’t have the kind of blockages that people have when they say, “How does Lean apply to processes that are administrative?” They are kind of going crazy about it in Arizona. It’s really working and the government leaders at the top level are very excited about it.

It’s really working and the government leaders at the top level are very excited about it.

So, they just wanted my help and helping them to think about it and write it. I came up with this title off the top of my head. I don’t know if it will stick or not but they like it. But it was Government For the People By the People. I thought that was catchy because that’s where – it’s our American way supposedly. But that’s really what Lean government is about I think is people continually improving the way they provide services to customer.

Now, if there’s any place where you would expect there to be a mission bigger than making money, it would be in government, right? So you kind of sacrifice your life and get paid as a civil servant so that you can serve the public.

Tracy O’Rourke: You’ve got a lot going on. I can see why you’re maybe not teaching anymore because the university semesters get in the way of all this fun travel. I want to thank you so much for joining me in the Café today, Jeff. I really enjoyed speaking with you. I’m really looking forward to all the exciting stuff and following you on what’s happening in your world. So, thank you so much for coming.

And I also want to thank our listeners for listening.

Jeffrey Liker: Thank you, Tracy.

Tracy O’Rourke: Thank you, Jeff. Thanks for visiting us everybody from the Just-In-Time Café.

Elisabeth Swan: And remember, there are two fabulous episodes per month now. So we’ll see you in two weeks.

Tracy O’Rourke: Bye.


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Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner at GoLeanSixSigma.com, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Managing Partner at GoLeanSixSigma.com, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. For over 25 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.