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Get It Done! Soft Skills not Hard Tools are Required
By Chuck Yorke

If your organization has people, then interpersonal skills are needed.

I work with companies that are on a path they call the lean journey. Whatever you call it, it’s based on the Toyota Production System. Some manufacturers embraced it and it became known as Lean Manufacturing, expanded into the Lean Office or Lean Enterprise. During this transformation the approach became focused on tools, but Toyota’s approach is about people.

The focus of Lean Manufacturing training has been on technical skills such as value stream mapping, 5S, and set-up reduction. People skills; also known as “soft skills” or interpersonal skills haven’t been much of a priority. Difficulty in moving from a traditional to a lean organization is usually blamed on the culture of the organization. If this is true than interpersonal skill training needs to be a higher priority. Communication often determines if the transition succeeds or not. Could the “soft” stuff actually be more important than the “hard” stuff?

Somehow, many companies seem to believe that training managers to “create a vision” and engineers to map the value stream, make work instructions visible and dictate how to clean and organize will magically transform the company.

However, as we all know, it’s the people who do the work, not maps or set-up calculations. In a Lean organization, it’s the people who do the work that create the standardized work, not managers or engineers. In his book, The Toyota Way, Jeffrey Liker explains, “it’s the people who bring the system to life: working, communicating, resolving issues, and growing together.”

Toyota, on its website, states that “Improvements and suggestions by team members are the cornerstone of Toyota’s success.” Managers act as coaches and develop their people. Once again, let’s not forget, it’s the people who do the work. Continuous improvement is part of the work.

It’s easy to see (but somehow difficult for some of us to embrace) that any organization can effectively follow Toyota’s lead. Managers only need to coach and develop their people. Communication is the key. Interpersonal skills training, the “soft” stuff is actually more important than the “hard” stuff.

Copyright © 2005 Chuck Yorke - All Rights Reserved



Chuck Yorke
Chuck Yorke
About the Author:

Chuck Yorke is an organizational development and performance improvement specialist, trainer, consultant and speaker. He is co-author, along with Norman Bodek, of All You Gotta Do Is Ask, a book that explains how to promote large numbers of ideas from employees. Chuck may be reached at ChuckYorke@yahoo.com

All You Gotta Do Is Ask

All You Gotta Do Is Ask explains how to promote large numbers of ideas from your employees, something most organizations do very poorly, if at all. The people who manage such organizations are either unaware of the power of employee ideas, or they don’t know how to tap it. This easy-to-read book will show you why it is important to have a good idea system, how to set one up, and what it can do for you, your employees, and your organization. In 1989, for example, Japanese companies were averaging more than 37 ideas per employee, of which 87% were implemented. Quantifiable bottom-line savings were calculated at more than $4,000 per employee. By contrast, their U.S. competitors put little effort into encouraging employee ideas.



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