ob - Working paper: 02-043 Just-in-Time in practice at...

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Working paper: 02-043 Just-in-Time in practice at Toyota : Rules-in-Use for building self-diagnostic, adaptive work-systems Steven J. Spear September 2002 Last revised: September 5, 2002 Copyright © 2001 Steven J. Spear Working papers are in draft form. This working paper is distributed for purposes of comment and discussion only. It may not be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Copies are available from the author.
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Just-in-Time in practice at Toyota: Rules-in-Use for building self-diagnostic, adaptive work-systems Working paper: 02-043 Steven Spear Assistant Professor Harvard Business School 1 617 495 6741 (p) 1 617 496 4059 (f) sspear@hbs.edu Operations Management Division nominee for the William H. Newman Award for outstanding paper based on a recent dissertation at the Academy of Management conference, Denver, Colorado, August 2002 2
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A BSTRACT This paper asserts that problem identification and problem solving processes can be integrated into work processes by imbedding tests that evaluate system-performance. These tests are imbedded 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 unambiguous when, where, and by whom problem solving is necessary, and, as an integral part of collaborative work, these tests help improve processes and deepens process knowledge, allowing an organization to be increasingly adaptive, both when it experiences operating difficulties and in determining how to exploit best market opportunities. These immediate tests are possible if work designs are specified before work is performed, and these immediate tests have most value if each indication that a problem has occurred is followed immediately by root- cause analysis and structured problem solving. This paper builds upon observations made in the manufacturing sector to draw lessons applicable to more general management concerns of delegating/task partitioning, coordinating, and task 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, comprehensive approach to managing collaborative work systems that allows frequent, fine- grained problem identification and improvement in overall organizational structure, coordinative mechanisms, and task-performance. Therefore, this paper phrases Toyota’s practices in terms of solving problems of work delegation, coordination, and execution. K EYWORDS Toyota Production System, Rules-in-Use, organizational design, process improvement - 3 -
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1 I NTRODUCTION In reaction to a race to ‘best practice’ -- as reflected in initiatives such as TQM, JIT, re- engineering, and ‘lean manufacturing’ -- Hayes and Pisano (1994) encouraged managers to re- focus on achieving strategic fit by configuring production systems ‘through a series of
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ob - Working paper: 02-043 Just-in-Time in practice at...

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