How To Inspire A Culture Of Continuous Improvement With TPS

The Harvard Business Review examined how a culture of continuous improvement increased metrics for several healthcare organizations in the United States and Canada. It concluded that those who had implemented the Toyota Production System (TPS) were successful, while those that let it slide were not. This philosophy can be applied to all sectors - where there is a culture of continuous improvement, the team is more engaged and outcomes improve.

What is the Toyota Production System (TPS)?

TPS is a whole-company management style Toyota designed to improve production and quality. It rose in popularity in the 1990’s, appearing in pop culture in the movie “Office Space” and transforming management style from being hands-off to hands-on. While similar systems from that time period have come and gone, TPS has remained as a foundational management tool that works largely due to its simplicity. 

There are two pillars of TPS - jidoka and just-in-time production. The more commonly adopted pillar is just-in-time production, which revolutionized global supply chains. But jidoka, which translates to “automation with a human touch,” is the pillar we’ll mostly be addressing here. Jidoka is meant to address problems both as they occur and proactively so that defective products and solutions are not produced. 

Both pillars are used in white-collar management, with “just-in-time production” used for overall project management and “jidoka” for continuous improvement. The implementation of both pillars is referred to as lean management.

Implementation of TPS in Healthcare

The Harvard Business Review article looked at how the implementation of TPS or the lack of it affected outcomes in healthcare organizations. Specific examples include:

  • Thedacare’s quality performance fell from best in the US to the middle of the pack when a TPS-driven manager left
  • St. Mary’s General Hospital ranks as one of the three safest hospitals in Canada, a vast improvement from pre-TPS principles when it had a high level of patient safety incidents
  • The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto reduced central-line infections by 45% and emergency wait times by 14% through lean management processes

In the case of St. Mary’s, a whole-organization approach involved educating the Board about TPS principles and choosing a new manager to carry them on who was educated in lean management. 

All of this looks great for improving outcomes, but what if your business isn’t in the healthcare sector?

Being “Hands-On” With The Front Lines

In almost all of the scenarios described in the Harvard Business Review article, management had regular contact with frontline employees to reinforce quality, safety, and continuous improvement. In the situations where the managers got too busy or new management came in that didn’t engage regularly with frontline staff, metrics dropped. 

The key to this engagement is to not approach it as a micromanager, but as a manager that is making themselves accessible and, where possible, digging into the meaty tasks to help. This can look like a daily huddle, a weekly team meeting for no other purpose but to discuss issues and give compliments, or being available when needed on Slack or similar tools.

Installing A TPS Operating System Organization-Wide

To truly work, TPS has to be implemented at all levels, much like the operating system of a computer. The Hospital for Sick Children’s blueprint is an excellent example to follow, with a plan for implementation, how to manage critical issues, staff education, and internal and external surveillance being some of the key components. 

When lean management is used at all levels, staff know exactly what to do in the event of a crisis, and managers are familiar with all of the processes in an organization so they can pitch in where needed. Most importantly, metrics are measured so everyone can see how the work they are doing is improving business outcomes.

Choosing The Metrics To Improve

Part of the process for implementing TPS is understanding what problems are preventing the organization from moving forward in key areas. Shining a light on problem areas and tying metrics to their improvement will remove roadblocks to production. 

While the usual metrics such as revenue growth and productivity must be considered, metrics tied to the improvement of problem areas should be included alongside these until the problem is solved. 

Enter Prodoscore - our employee productivity monitoring solution that is a must-have for any metrics-driven business. With Prodoscore data, you can get a firm handle on the productivity of an individual, a team, and your entire organization. There are so many processes and technical solutions out there that promise improved productivity - wouldn’t it be nice to be able to measure and see if they’re working? 

Having these analytics at hand lets you template your star performer’s work habits so they can be modeled by other staff, learn when team productivity is down so you can figure out a solution, and much more that can help you continuously improve and drive success. 

While some may view TPS as a legacy system, its simplicity and focus on continuous improvement have made it an engine of growth for many businesses worldwide. In the age of AI, it is worth reintroducing to provide the human touch to automated processes. 

Productivity is a metric most businesses want to see improve, since it is frequently tied to revenue growth and employee satisfaction. If you want to measure the productivity of your business, consider our employee productivity monitoring solution, Prodoscore. It will help you build your own blueprint for success. Contact us for a demonstration.

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