Dennis Pawley | Toyota | Visteon Corp. | Jamie Flinchbaugh
by Fara Warner
TO CHANGE HOW YOUR COMPANY WORKS, CHANGE HOW YOUR PEOPLE THINK.
How do you help doctors and nurses at a hospital get the right medicine to the right patients? It’s not just a logistics problem; it’s a test of how well — or how poorly — people in different areas divide up a complex task. And it’s one of many mind-expanding case studies for 44 employees of Visteon Corp., a leading auto-parts supplier.
In a weeklong workshop in Novi, Michigan, 25 miles outside of Detroit, employees are discovering a new way to think — by thinking about a different industry. Through this exercise, they see that the hospital’s problems have parallels to their own business.
Call it lean learning. Rather than indulging in the habit of making systems bigger and more complicated, Visteon chose Lean Learning, a five-day boot camp. The lesson: To refocus your organization or instill innovation, you have to think lean.
Yet lean thinking, for all its here-and-now implications, has its roots in the days of Henry Ford and was perfected by Toyota. For decades, companies in all kinds of industries copied obvious aspects of Toyota’s lean production system. But all that imitation generally failed to remake companies in the Toyota image.
So did the Toyota emulators use the wrong tools? Not quite, argues Dennis Pawley, a former Chrysler executive. Pawley left Chrysler months after its merger with Daimler-Benz in 1998, and in his final years at Chrysler he tried, and failed, to drag the company within spitting distance of To-yota. “We had all the tools,” Pawley says. “But what I failed to recognize was that the way people think is far more important than the tools they use.”
Joined by Chrysler refugees Jamie Flinchbaugh and Andy Carlino, Pawley created Lean Learning. He begins class with Harvard Business School cases about work-production issues. But he focuses mostly on reshaping the way people think.
During the workshop, Visteon employees map everything they do on a factory floor onto whiteboards and take a virtual “waste walk.” They notice where they need to make changes — both mental and physical — to their routes to make the factory work better. “It helps you understand where you are, so you can start getting to that ideal state,” explains Flinchbaugh.
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