This paper asserts that problem identification and problem solving processes can be integratedinto work processes by imbedding tests that evaluate system-performance. These tests areimbedded in individual work activities, in the connections that link those who provide a product,service, or information with those who receive it, and in the overall construction of pathways over which products, services, and information take their final form. These tests make it unambiguouswhen, where, and by whom problem solving is necessary, and, as an integral part of collaborativework, these tests help improve processes and deepens process knowledge, allowing an organizationto be increasingly adaptive, both when it experiences operating difficulties and in determining howto exploit best market opportunities. These immediate tests are possible if work designs arespecified before work is performed, and these immediate tests have most value if each indicationthat a problem has occurred is followed immediately by root-cause analysis and structured problemsolving.This paper builds upon observations made in the manufacturing sector to draw lessonsapplicable to more general management concerns of delegating/task partitioning, coordinating, andtask execution. This paper shows how the specific tools of the Toyota Production System (‘TPS’)such as pull-systems, kanban cards, and andon cords are artifacts of a general, comprehensiveapproach to managing collaborative work systems that allows frequent, fine-grained problemidentification and improvement in overall organizational structure, coordinative mechanisms, andtask-performance. Therefore, this paper phrases Toyota’s practices in terms of solving problemsof work delegation, coordination, and execution.
Toyota Production System, Rules-in-Use, organizational design, process improvement
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