Ken has been the executive director of the Shingo Institute since 2015. He developed an interest in Japanese business practices while living in Japan during the time he was a student. His interest led him to major in Japanese history from the University of Utah and then to pursue an MBA from Harvard Graduate School of Business for the purpose of working with a Japanese business expanding to the United States.
He joined the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business in 2008.
Before joining the Huntsman School, Ken was president of Marketing Communication Inc., an operating division of Taylor Corporation, where he directed a group of six companies while growing revenues from $25 million to over $80 million.
In this episode, Ken shares his favorite mistake story about his time at Taylor Corporation, when he thought he had made an improvement in their process for collecting data from 6,000 dealers — but everybody went back to the old way. Why did the change fail to stick? What did Ken learn from this? How does this influence his teaching today? We discuss that and more!
Questions and Topics:
- General question: When is it a matter of backsliding or the change was never adopted?
- Tell us about the Shingo Institute and its namesake Shigeo Shingo…
- Lean Blog Interviews podcast with Ritsuo Shingo
- Is it hard for companies to sustain performance after being awarded the Shingo Prize?
- Not just tools, but Principles
- The Shingo Model
- Learning and improving — not just you but the Institute
Scroll down to find:
- Video version of the episode
- How to subscribe
- Full transcript
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Ken Snyder: The Journey of A Masterful Business Leader
Meet Ken Snyder, a leading figure in the world of business and academia. He holds the esteemed position of being the Executive Director at the Shingo Institute. Moreover, he illuminates the corridors of Utah State University as a senior lecturer.
Early Inspiration and Ambition
Born in the United States, Snyder developed a fascination with Japanese business customs and practices while living in the country as a student. This eventually led him to pursue a major in Japanese History at the University of Utah. Moreover, he obtained an MBA degree from the illustrious Harvard Graduate School of Business, aiming to collaborate with a Japanese company expanding in his homeland.
Snyder’s professional journey began at Marketing Communications, Inc., an operating division of the Taylor Corporation. Here, he successfully directed and managed six companies, propelling revenues from 25 million dollars to an incredible 80 million dollars. In 2008, he joined the ranks of educators at the John M. Huntsman School of Business, Utah State University, sharing his wealth of knowledge with eager, young minds.
The Lesson from Mistakes
An individual's journey to success is often marked by mistakes, and Snyder's story is no different. During his tenure as president of Progressive Impressions, a Taylor Corp. company, they faced issues with project onboarding for marketing pieces, with different data jockeys using distinct approaches. This lack of consistency prompted the need for a standardized system, and Snyder was keen on implementing this change.
The team created a document to lay out a standardized work process, which Snyder believed would lead to an improvement. However, he realized later that everyone had reverted to their original way of working. Faced with this realization, Snyder pondered the reasons for the discrepancies.
A System for Sustainable Change
The answer came to him at a Shingo conference in 2017, in a presentation on system design by Brent Allen of Lifetime Products. Allen highlighted the need to modify the system to make the new ways easier and the old ways more challenging. Moreover, he emphasized the importance of a feedback loop.
Snyder realized the missing piece in his attempt at standardization was the lack of feedback. The change did not stick because there was no mechanism to ensure its sustainment. This realization marked a turning point. Incorporating a feedback loop to check new standard procedures, provide assistance, and document necessary training has been key in implementing lasting change.
Legacy at the Shingo Institute
The Shingo Institute, named after Shigeo Shingo – a driving force behind the Toyota production system, carries forward his valuable teachings. Getting its start as a prize to acknowledge North American manufacturers, it's now recognized as a global standard, honoring recipients in various industries worldwide. Snyder's guiding hand, carrying the wisdom of his past mistakes and the insights gained serves as a valuable asset to realize their mission for organizational excellence.
Emulating Toyota: Sharing Knowledge and Aligning with Society
Toyota's dedication to imparting knowledge and aiding society, ranging from the realm of their suppliers to non-profits, is an inspiration. Sharing insights not only benefits others but broadens Toyota's perspective by analyzing challenges confronted by different sectors. This exchange of knowledge has provided opportunities for lasting learning and networking, which vouches for the significance of active engagement with the wider community.
Remembering The Shingo Lineage: Shigeo Shingo and Ritsuo Shingo
Despite never meeting the esteemed Shigeo Shingo, there were plenty of opportunities to learn about his philosophy and impact through his son, Ritsuo Shingo. The latter carried the torch from his father, working with Toyota for 42 years, which equipped him with intimate experience and knowledge about the firm's operations and principles.
Ritsuo Shingo's undertakings in China portray a broad landscape of responsibilities, handling manufacturing, the truck plant, and R&D centers, making him an important figure in the global Lean community. His insights, wisdom, and experiences mingled with those of the Shingo Institute, allowing them to advance in their mission for organizational excellence.
The Evolution of the Shingo Model: Embracing Principles Over Tools
A significant milestone in the history of the Shingo Institute was revising the Shingo Model. Realizing that recipients of the Shingo prize were intermittently unable to sustain excellence, the Institute ushered significant research efforts to comprehend the root of this issue.
The early assessment model was found to insufficiently address the behavioral elements of the improvement process. Discovering that the successful companies shifted their focus from results to behaviors represented a paradigm shift. They progressed by reinforcing preventive behaviors, focusing on proactively addressing potential issues, rather than reactively dealing with them after they occurred.
The revised Shingo Model encapsulates these insights, evolving from a tool-centric framework to a principle-oriented perspective. The central idea was to foster a culture of preventive behaviors in organizations, positioning it as a reliably instructive model.
Shaping the Future of Lean Practices
Though Ken Snyder's journey mirrors the evolution of the Shingo Institute, there was a compelling link to his own experience with Japanese business practices. Many of the Institute's guiding principles, like ‘Respect Every Individual' and ‘Lead with Humility', resonated with his understanding through ‘osmosis.' The updated Shingo Model provided Snyder, and many others like him, with a concrete framework for teaching their hard-won insights.
As championed by the Shingo Institute, lean practices are essential for contemporary organizations. Lean organizations were better equipped to navigate tumultuous times, like the COVID-19 pandemic, with resilience and strategic foresight. In spite of some negative views about the future of lean, the principles underline a promising avenue for efficiency, quality, engagement, and joy in workplaces. It is a reminder that the Lean journey continues, continuously improving and adapting to new challenges.
Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes)
Mark Graban: Well, hi everybody. Welcome to my favorite mistake. I'm Mark graven. Our guest today is Ken Snyder. He is the Executive Director of the Shingo Institute and a senior lecturer at Utah State University.
Mark Graban: So Ken's been the executive director of the Institute since 2015. Earlier in his life and career, he developed an interest in Japanese business practices while living in Japan while he was a student. This led him to major in Japanese History at University of Utah, and he pursued an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business with the intent of working with a Japanese business that was expanding in the US. He joined the John M. Huntsman School of Business there at Utah State University in 2008, and previously he was the president of Marketing Communications, Inc.
Mark Graban: An operating division of Taylor Corporation, where he directed a group of six companies and grew revenues from 25 million to over 80 million. So, Ken, thank you for joining us. Welcome to the podcast.
Ken Snyder: Thank you, Mark. I'm glad to be here. Yeah.
Mark Graban: And we have lots to talk about for the audience. I've known Ken for a decade, I think since we first crossed paths, and I'm learning during our prep, and I'm going to learn more during the episode of some of your prior business experience. So it'd be interesting to hear a little bit more of your history and your perspectives.
Ken Snyder: I've got the scars to go with.
Mark Graban: That business experience too, and I know your students and people involved with the Institute are getting to learn and benefit from some of your experiences and scars.
Ken Snyder: Well, I will talk about one of those because it wasn't until I came to the Institute that I realized the mistake I had made, or the solution anyway to the mistake I had made. It's one I had pondered for many years. So I'm looking forward to telling that story.
Mark Graban: Okay, well, good. So that's a good segue into the story and the lessons learned. So I guess I'll go ahead and tee you up. You're already thinking about it, so I'll let you get right into it. Ken, what is your favorite mistake?
Ken Snyder: My favorite mistake? Mistake is maybe not the right word, but you'll see, the biggest thing I couldn't figure out at the time, but then later got finally understood what I should have done in the moment. But the times I noticed it the most, I was president of a company called Progressive Impressions. It was one of the Taylor Corp. Companies.
Ken Snyder: Later I got promoted to be a group president. But this is kind of mid career. The time period is the 1990s roughly, and we were a leading database marketing company and we did marketing provided marketing services for distributed sales networks. So for example, the agents of insurance companies and the dealers or the value added retail dealers for large computer companies, those were some of our clients. And because in most cases, there were a few cases where central had a centralized database, the main company that had this distributed salesforce, but in most cases the databases were held by the dealers or the agents or whatever.
Ken Snyder: And I'll just use the example of the computer company. They had 6000 dealers around the world and we were doing a dealer oriented marketing piece that was customized to those dealers, but largely funded by corporate headquarters. So our contract was with corporate headquarters, the dealers provided their data to us. And this was before the internet was used for data exchange. So we got, for example, 6000 dealers.
Ken Snyder: We got 6000, either tape, disk, cartridge, you name it, and no consistency at all. And once we landed a contract, the first thing that would happen would be we would do this project onboarding, process or system, if you will. And we had a bunch of data jockeys who would then take those 6000 things. We'd assign a lead data person who would then accumulate all the data, format it, put it in the right fields, get it all ready so that we could use it to customize the marketing pieces and have all the customer information of where the promotional piece was going to go. So what we discovered was that each of the data jockeys had their own way of doing things.
Ken Snyder: They're all experts, they're all smart, they all think their way is the best way. But it was. Everybody did it differently. And we thought, this is not good, we need to figure out the best way to do it. And so we got them all together and kind of forestay what's the best way to do this step, what's the best way to do this step, what's the best and went through step by step by step and had them all agree to it.
Ken Snyder: We documented it, created this standard work document for onboarding data, and then I walk away thinking we've made an improvement. Come to find out a couple of months later I'm sitting in a meeting and one of the data jockeys running the project we're onboarding mentioned something that wasn't part of the standard work that we had talked about. Yeah, and I go, I thought we did it that way. And he said, oh no, I don't do it that way. So then I started to go back and look and see what the other guys were doing too.
Ken Snyder: And pretty much everybody had gone back to their original way of doing everything their own way. So the standard work we created was no longer standard, we were back to the old way, which was every individual did it their own way.
Mark Graban: Well, when you say went back to it sounds like it really never moved away from it.
Ken Snyder: Never moved away, yeah. I started thinking we did this big effort to try to standardize and make it better for everybody, but each of them had this opinion that it suboptimized their ideal way of doing things, even though somebody else's ideal was very different than their ideal. And it got me thinking, why did we revert back?
Mark Graban: Or why was it never changed?
Ken Snyder: Why did we never change? I thought we had decided that we were going to do it this new way.
Mark Graban: So how many of those 6000 people had input with you in designing that new approach?
Ken Snyder: You probably this is a group of about ten to 15 people. Okay. Yeah. So we're getting data from 6000 sources, but there's only ten to 15 people who are trying to get them to do this data onboarding the same way. Okay, but why didn't they adopt this new way of doing it?
Ken Snyder: This wasn't the only time I experienced thinking we had made an improvement and not having that improvement stick. And I started noticing it more and more that it would go through some sort of kaizen event, we would improve something and then I'd go back later and people are doing it the old way. Right.
Mark Graban: And kaizen, for those who don't know, is a Japanese word that would you agree? It means basically improvement or improvement.
Ken Snyder: Yeah, we went through some sort of improvement activity and the improvement didn't stick. So. Thank you, Mark. I should use the English word, it's okay. So I noticed this pattern a few more times and I never could quite understand what it was about, the improvement efforts that we had made and why they didn't stick.
Ken Snyder: When I thought everybody was bought in, I thought everybody had agreed this is a better way for everybody, and then you go back and you find out. So I also noticed, though, that I always found out after I had seen it happening the old way, after I thought we had decided on a new way that was a consistent pattern. Right. And this one kind of stuck with me for a long time. Okay.
Ken Snyder: And I thought about it off and on over a course of many years. I'd get promoted, I then joined the faculty of the university. And I'm still wondering, what was it that made it not stick and never quite got it? Fast forward to, I think it was 2017. I am sitting in one of our Shingo conferences listening to a presentation by Brent Allen, who was an executive vice president for Lifetime Products.
Ken Snyder: And we had invited Brent to give a presentation. He says, we've been doing some interesting stuff with systems design. And I thought, oh, I'd like to see what they're doing. I know they're experimenting in ways that would be interesting for me to learn about and see what it means for the Shingo Institute and all of that. And I'm sitting there and he goes, we found that we'd make lots of changes and then we'd go back and people had not really changed and they're doing it the old way or that, tried it for a few days and then gone back the old way, tried it for a few weeks gone back the old way.
Ken Snyder: He's talking exactly about this problem. I go, yeah, this is really interesting. And he says, what we found is the following things need to be in place in order for something to stick. He says, first of all, you've got to change the system. And I thought, OK, what do you mean by that?
Ken Snyder: I'm thinking, what do you mean by that, Brent? And he goes, you got to change the system so it's easy for them to do it the new way and hard for them to do it the old way. You've got to change the nature of the work. And then that was the first thing he said. And I went, okay.
Ken Snyder: I thought we kind of did address that. That was part of the reason making the change, but maybe we didn't make it harder. And then he said, though and this is the part that Riddy caught, he said, we found that we needed to do. And he used the word audit. And we don't use that now in our systems design workshop that we have at the Shingo Institute.
Ken Snyder: But we use the word feedback. There needs to be some sort of a feedback loop, some way to go check to see and make sure everybody's doing it the way that you've now decided the new standard work will be done. Yeah. And it was like that one kind of really hit home, because in every case I could think of it, I found out about it either through walking around and seeing or in a meeting, and somebody says they're doing it. It was like, Wait a minute, that's not what we decided.
Ken Snyder: How we're going to do that? I found out kind of accidentally afterwards, not purposefully making sure it was being done the new way, but finding out accidentally by observing or random observation and or in a meeting or something like that.
Mark Graban: You get a report via somebody admits.
Ken Snyder: Yeah, somebody just says they're going to do it the way they're going to do it. And wait a minute, that doesn't fit with the way we decided we're going to do it. It dawned on me that in every system change we made, for example, in this onboarding system, we may have documented the new way to do it, but we never built in any kind of a feedback loop or an audit function, a way of ensuring that. And then he says, what we found this is going back to what Brent said in his presentation. We found that at first, even when you try to make it easy for people to do the right thing and hard for them to do the wrong thing, it's still easier for them to do it the old way.
Mark Graban: It's usually more comfortable.
Ken Snyder: It's more comfortable, and it's easier for them because they're used to it. And until they get used to this new way, there's a period of adjustment where you really need that feedback loop, where this is harder than I thought it was going to be. Because or I didn't know how to do this, so I went back, did it, my old whatever. And without that feedback loop, you don't get that information coming back to you. So you can say, how can we make it easier for you?
Ken Snyder: Or, what kind of training do you need to be able to make this work better? And I just assumed we'd agreed on it. So it was done.
Mark Graban: Yeah.
Ken Snyder: And that was a mistake. That's where, really, the mistake was in not thinking, there needs to be some follow up, there needs to be some follow up, there needs to be some feedback loop. We need to go watch and observe to make sure it's being implemented. And I'm sitting there in Brent's thing, I'm going there was a real AHA moment for me because this had bugged me for years. And I get asked all the time in the Shingo Institute, we just make improvements, but they don't stick.
Ken Snyder: Right.
Mark Graban: You're not the only one making this mistake. I've made that.
Ken Snyder: And it's a question people ask all the time, too, is, why don't we make improvements? But they don't stick. And to me, this was the thing that I was missing. Now, maybe something is missing in the way other people do improvements and the way they implement them. But what I found is it's really common that we don't make it easier, we make an improvement, but we make it hard for them to do the new way, and it's still easier for them to do the old way.
Ken Snyder: Or even if we make it easy for them, there's something missing that makes it easy for them. And so, like an obstacle, they don't have the trainer. They don't know how to do that. Oh, this is the procedure, but I don't know how to do that, so I'm going to do it the way I know how to do then. And then there's just the comfort that comes from doing it the way you know how to do it the most.
Ken Snyder: And you've got to have some sort of feedback as to, no, you can't do it that way or put up an obstacle to make it hard for them to do it the wrong way was something I'd never thought of before when Brent talked about that. So it was like so many AHA's in there about how can we make it stick? But it all came down to designing the system the right way. You got to design the work differently. You've got to put some sort of feedback or audit loop in there.
Ken Snyder: You've got to go and observe and verify, and you've got to document. If there's things you figure out in that process, you got to document it so everybody knows it, and you can share it with all the other ten to 15 data jockeys who are supposed to be making the same improvement at the same time. You've got to get them together and talk about the problems they're having as they do it, too, and we didn't do any of that.
Mark Graban: Yeah, well, it sounds like there were things you did right. It's not like you designed it and that it was a unilateral decision, like you engaged people.
Ken Snyder: Engaged people. Yeah. But it still didn't stick. Yeah.
Mark Graban: There are times where people will nod their head and agree, but they might think, well, that makes Ken happy. Okay, I'll agree.
Ken Snyder: But I am sure there's some of.
Mark Graban: That going on, too, my way. And I'm not saying there's anything nefarious there, but it sounds like one of these tough to navigate where there's a difference maybe between authority and influence. It sounds like you needed to influence rather than having authority of thou shalt do it this way or that sort of authority based way that some people try to drive change, which also doesn't always work because people will find ways around that authority. But you mentioned the question I was going to ask was about the word audit, where I could see there are times where people think the word audit sounds very authority based, where now, okay, we're going to audit you, and if you're not doing this way, there are going to be consequences.
Ken Snyder: So Brent used the word audit. They build an audit function into their systems in Lifetime. We worked with this. We did more research in systems and did a lot of I tried and Sean tried to read a whole bunch of systems books just to get up to speed on systems design, system components. Deming wrote a lot about systems, but he never really clarified what are the elements you have to have in a system, and there's a lot of confusion about it.
Ken Snyder: But we eventually did that research effort and put it together into a systems design workshop that we launched. And in the process, Brent had retired from Lifetime and we brought him in as a faculty fellow for the Shingo Institute. And he helped us he joined our group on a regular basis and helped us design the system design workshop. And in the course of discussion about the term audit, we decided that's not the right kind of connotation to use. It does imply compliance, not feedback.
Ken Snyder: And so we said what we need is a feedback loop. And that's the word we used in the workshop. Now, it doesn't have to be an audit, but that's the word that they used at Lifetime at the time. But I use the word today just to give you an idea. Somebody's got to go check on it, though.
Mark Graban: Sure, I agree there. Yeah.
Ken Snyder: So what we decided as we talk about what's ideal state is the person who leads the system. So in the case of it should be the It manager who looks over, in the case of our system, the ideal of what we should have done was the It manager regularly goes and checks to make sure that the people are following the standard work. And if there's people who are having difficult time following the standard work, get them together and say, what's the problem here? How can we fix it? How can we make it easier for you to do it this new way that will keep it standard between everybody?
Ken Snyder: That's the kind of feedback loop we didn't have in the system.
Mark Graban: Right.
Ken Snyder: But what I learned is when you make a significant change like this and you standardize everything across a group of people, that there's going to be some hiccups, and you've got to have a way of addressing those hiccups. On a timely basis and then ironing out those issues so it's easy for everybody to do it the new way, which is, we've all agreed would be a better way if it actually worked. But they're having the struggle, making it work, and then they just give up because of that struggle, and they drop back. And you've got to be able to address that in real time.
Mark Graban: You've got to help people through the learning curve and the discomfort and doing something a new way might be at first less efficient yes. Until people power through the learning curve. And there's all kinds of business dynamics where I'm not saying this applied to your situation, but I think of similar situations where people are sort of being forced to adopt a new way and then they're being punished for that short term inefficiency through performance measures or incentives or you'd say, well, that's unfair. Like a constructive feedback loop would maybe help leaders say, okay, we need to give some allowance for this learning curve and working our way through the change curve to the new efficiency instead of giving up and saying, oh, this is slower. It didn't work.
Mark Graban: Well, maybe we just haven't gotten through the change yet.
Ken Snyder: Right. And that's exactly what we were missing, was that follow through, if you will.
Mark Graban: And that idea of a feedback loop and it's not just the word, but I think the mindset and the principles behind it. I think of one of the best leaders I've worked with in healthcare, Jim, who was the director of the lab at Children's Hospital Children's Medical Center in Dallas, who would use language, he would talk about getting that feedback. And we were working to introduce standardized work and improve processes into his hospital laboratory. He was a student of Peter Senge and systems thinking, and he was a really thoughtful leader who really cared about his people. And he would talk about and sort of distinguish, I think used the word barriers.
Mark Graban: Jim would talk about making sure you really hear what he called legitimate barriers. And that sounds a little judgmental, but I think he was trying to separate the things that we need to address to be helpful versus, let's say, just the complaints of this is new, this is uncomfortable, versus we need to tweak the standardized work in order to be even better. He was sort of trying to separate and focus people toward feedback that could help us improve as opposed to complaints.
Ken Snyder: Yes. Sometimes complaints do give us, as leaders, insights into where we let's look at the complaint. What's a reason behind the complaint. Sure. Usually there's a good reason behind the complaint.
Ken Snyder: Yeah.
Mark Graban: And he wasn't trying to be dismissive.
Ken Snyder: Right. Don't be dismissive. That's the point I want to make. Is there's a reason somebody is having trouble with a certain issue and they may not have a solution, but they do want to report, I got a problem here. Yeah.
Mark Graban: Well, and part of that feedback loop, boy, we may need to ask why a number of times, I think if we dig into the quote unquote complaint so if somebody says, on some level, I don't like this new way, I don't want to do it. Well, instead of saying, no, you have to. You could dig and, well, tell me more about that. Why don't you like it? I think sometimes leaders don't dig beneath the surface to figure out then what is the legitimate concern.
Ken Snyder: And I found that the better trained people are, the better their ideas, the more their complaints turn into suggestions on how to improve. Because now they have a way of looking at it with the training that they have of it goes from this is a problem or I'd like to solve this problem this way and give me the resources or give me the time or whatever to do. So I think a great way to bridge that is raise the skills of your people, because then they can contribute in more valuable.
Mark Graban: Well, Ken, I appreciate you sharing that story and your reflections and what you've learned and how the Shingo Institute helped you. I mean, I've attended many of the Shingo conferences, and there's always great speakers with insights and new ideas and things that are really helpful. So tell the audience a little bit, then, about the Shingo Institute and in particular, I think, connected to these topics of mistakes and preventing mistakes and learning and improving the namesake of the Shingo Institute. Tell everyone about some of the history there.
Ken Snyder: That's great. I'd love to do that. So the Shingo Institute is a program within the Huntsman School of Business at Utah State. It's named after Shigi Oshingo, who was one of the people who was a father, if you will, of the Toyota production system. He never worked for Toyota, but he was hired by Toyota and worked for them as a consultant.
Ken Snyder: Over the course of roughly 27 years, he taught a quarterly P course, productivity course, a week long workshop of lean systems and tools, and Toyota would cycle about 30 people every quarter through Shingo's workshop. And so over the course of those 27 years, he taught about 3000 Toyota leaders in this workshop. So he knows from that experience he knew a lot of the Toyota people, and he did a lot of outside work with Toyota. As he in the course of working with Toyota and with other clients, he developed many of the terminologies that we have in the lean world today. For example, Poka Yoke is a Shingo-ism.
Ken Snyder: He's the one who came up with the term, how do you error proof so you don't pass a mistake that's made down the line to the next step in the process? You error proof it so that you prevent that error from becoming a mistake and a defect, if you will. He also developed the thinking behind and the terminology that we use when we use the word smed or single minute exchange of die, or more commonly, we now just use the term quick changeover. How do you get to where you can have a quick changeover so you don't shut down your production line or some other process that may be as you go through the change, everything gets disrupted. How do you make that change over as short as possible and keep the flow of the process going as much as possible?
Ken Snyder: He also developed the concept of one piece flow. He called it non stock production. But non stock production and one piece flow are essentially the same thing. We've renamed it a little bit from the way he described it, but he's the one who came up with the methodology, the thinking behind it, if you will, and wrote a book about. So he's just one of those pioneers that was very influential both within Toyota but also in the broader world.
Ken Snyder: Over the course of his life, he wrote 17 different books. I've got the full set of them up here instantly. This is the Shingo Library of Books.
Mark Graban: If you the original Japanese, the original.
Ken Snyder: Japanese, many of them first edition copies, many of them with his notes for the second edition. Incidentally, he had things that he wanted to change for the second edition. He'd make in the first edition.
Mark Graban: Some Kaizen between the editions.
Ken Snyder: Yes. And his son Ritsuo Shingo, which I think you've probably met. I have gave the full set of books to us from his father's library for the Institute to keep, and I have the privilege of keeping it right behind my desk for easy access. But what a great leader and thinker in the world of Lean, a true pioneer, and we're honored to be named after him. In 1988, we invited Shigeo Shingo to come to our university, and one of my predecessors, Vern Bueller, had arranged for him to receive an honorary doctorate.
Ken Snyder: And when he came for the ceremony and that induction ceremony to become a doctor, if you he, Vern Buehler and Norman Bodek, the three of them got together for dinner, and over dinner, they asked Mr. Shingo if it was okay if we used his name to start a prize. And Shingo said, yes, he would be honored. He says the initial focus of the prize was to be on North American manufacturing. And he so the idea was to recognize manufacturers in North America for the great work they do in adopting your teachings in Toyota production system.
Ken Snyder: And that and he said, the world needs American manufacturing to be strong. And if having a prize will help that, then, yes, please use my name to help make American manufacturing strong. Well, it's grown beyond manufacturing, and it's grown beyond North America. We now have recipients in over 30 countries of the Shingo Prize or a Shingo medallion, and it has spread to other industries as well. Right now, I would say about 20% to 30% of our recipients are North American manufacturers.
Ken Snyder: And we have lots of other recipients in other parts of the world and lots of recipients in other industries besides manufacturing. It's become a true global standard, which I think Shingo would be happy about. I don't think he wanted us to limit our influence to a certain geography in a certain industry. He would be happy with how we're learning to apply those principles in other ways in other industries and in other yeah.
Mark Graban: Yeah. And this was happening at a time, know, Toyota, obviously, with Japanese roots, was expanding with facilities not just North America, but other had. One thing I admire about Toyota is their willingness to share and help other companies and society. Toyota has a group I know you're familiar with Ken TSSC, that works with not just their own suppliers, but with hospitals and with nonprofits and companies in areas unrelated because they want to share their knowledge. And as I've heard from companies, I interviewed somebody on this podcast, Mike Kaeding, who runs a company that designs and builds and rents apartments.
Mark Graban: They worked with TSSC. And as he described the know, this is an opportunity for Toyota to learn from the process of helping another company.
Ken Snyder: Right.
Mark Graban: So I'm not surprised that Mr. Shingo, even with his indirect connection to Toyota, had that interest in sharing and helping with others.
Ken Snyder: Yes, it was wonderful. I never met Shigeo Shingo. He passed away in early 1990s, and I wasn't involved with the Shingo Institute then, but I did get a chance to know his son very well. Unfortunately, he passed away just a couple of months ago. Right.
Ken Snyder: But really wonderful man. And he went to work for Toyota worked for Toyota for 42 years before he hit mandatory retirement age and then started getting more involved with us and others that in our network around the world. And I know he's been a huge influence, and to us, he was kind of like a living brand, if you know what I mean. Somebody who embodies all the things we're trying to teach, has all this experience of what we're trying to teach and has the name to go along with it.
Mark Graban: Yeah. It's a fascinating turn how it was not just the family connection to his father, but the fact that he worked for Toyota and ran Toyota's business in China.
Ken Snyder: Yes, he was in China for 13 years overall, and he ran actually three different aspects of their business in China over the course of that. He's the very first production plant, which made mini buses, and then he was put in charge of their next major investment, which was the hino truck division, building a truck plant. And then he was in charge of the research center. Yeah. So he had a couple of different roles in China, and then he worked with the China office when he was in Japan.
Ken Snyder: That was part of what got him assigned to run the first startup there in the first place. So, lots of experience in.
Mark Graban: I likewise never got to meet Shigeo Shingo, but I did get to meet Ritsuo Shingo through attendance at Shingo conferences and our mutual friend Norm Bodak, who has also sadly passed away in recent years. But the opportunity to not only hear him speak, but to talk informally with him and to then have a connection, and I'll put a link in the show notes, I think about two years ago, was able to have him as my guest on the podcast I do about Lean Manufacturing.
Ken Snyder: Oh, good.
Mark Graban: And there's just a lot of great stories and wisdom captured there. So I'm very grateful for that and all the opportunities for learning and meeting great people that I've had personally through the Shingo Institute. Good, so a public thank you.
Ken Snyder: There's a little bit of the history of the Shingo Institute, the prize add a little bit to the history. We found that a lot of prize recipients weren't able to sustain excellence over time after that. I'm sure there's some people out there going, yeah, us too, or whatever. It's hard to keep that continuous improvement, keep moving forward. But we did some research in the early 2000s into why was that happening, why were organizations getting to a Shingo Prize level and then deteriorating in their performance after that?
Ken Snyder: And that's in 2008, published what we now call the Shingo Model. We had a model before, an assessment model before that, that it consisted of systems, tools, and results. And that's what kind of we thought people were able to sustain that, but it wasn't sustainable. Something was clearly missing. And when we dove into it and researched it, we figured out that we're missing some important pieces around behavior.
Ken Snyder: The companies that kept getting better and better are the ones that had focused, changed their focus from results to behaviors. And I'll just give a quick example that one of the companies we visited, a Shingo Prize recipient organization, they kept getting better and better with safety. They were measuring how many safety catches there were and how quickly they addressed those safety reports and how quickly they resolved them. So that nobody could ever get hurt that way. And they were measuring that.
Ken Snyder: And then they said to us, we don't have to worry about people getting hurt or losing time lost because of injury, because we don't have any injuries. And we know if we do the right things up front, we can prevent those injuries from happening. So we don't have to worry about measuring injuries. We just worry about preventing them. And that was a really impactful thing to us, that seeing that kind of action by many organizations, those preventive behaviors got us thinking about in the model, how can we create this culture of preventive behaviors?
Ken Snyder: In 2008, we published well, the other thing that we found is those organizations could always answer the question, Why? We'd ask them, Why did you do this? And they would give us a very clear answer, and Why did you do that? And we collected all those whys into what we call the guiding principles. We phrased it in the form of an action verb followed by an important topic.
Ken Snyder: Respect is being the action verb, every individual. Because if you don't, then people won't feel included. They won't get engaged. But if they feel respect now, what does respect mean? We published the new model in 2008 and started assessing the Shingo Prize to that at that point.
Ken Snyder: And then a lot of people said, can you teach us what this means? What do you mean by how do we do this preventive behavior? What are these guiding principles? How can we implement them in our organization? And that's where we started developing the workshops then.
Ken Snyder: So we've been doing the workshops now for about 17 years when we published the new model. And it's been, we think, a very powerful impact had a very powerful impact on the community and helping raise everybody together. So that's an important part of our history. I don't want to skip over either.
Mark Graban: And not just history, but the current day.
Ken Snyder: Yeah, current day.
Mark Graban: I'll put a link in the show notes. I'll encourage people to visit the Shingo Institute website to learn about the workshops. The model, the guiding principles, is all laid out there. But before we wrap up Kenya, I'm looking at this list of the guiding principles. And many of these, I think, are connected to core themes of the My Favorite Mistake podcast.
Mark Graban: Yes, mentioned already. Respect every individual realizing, for example, I mean, look, we're all human. We all make mistakes. That's part of our human nature, I think, can be respected. Leading with humility guests who come on here, yourself included, who have the humility to admit a mistake and the strength to admit that mistake and to focus on another principle, seeking perfection, embrace scientific thinking and then assure quality at the source.
Mark Graban: That, to me, is about mistake proofing, preventing mistakes. There are other guiding principles on the list.
Ken Snyder: But let me list with regard to this systems thing where I missed it. To me, it was we didn't focus on the process well enough.
Mark Graban: Another principle there.
Ken Snyder: Yeah, another principle.
Mark Graban: And we didn't focus on process, and.
Ken Snyder: We did not think systemically. We didn't look at the system to say, what's missing in the system that's failing. And those two just jump out at me on this one. I knew we had done something wrong. I was hopefully humble enough to recognize, I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but I'm doing something wrong.
Ken Snyder: Took me years to figure out what we did wrong, but at least you did. But yes, it was kind of that ah-ha moment that I wanted to share today.
Mark Graban: Yeah, well, I appreciate you doing that. And these principles are so interconnected. So we think about we're seeking perfection. We're focusing on process. We're assuring quality at the source.
Mark Graban: But then when something goes wrong, to me, part of Respect every individual is we don't blame individuals for systemic problems. Instead of being punitive, we can be helpful. We can connect them into the improvement process to prevent whether it's other mistakes, other causes of harm. It's really hard. I mean, these are all so entangled.
Ken Snyder: They are.
Mark Graban: But intertwined in a good way. Intertwined.
Ken Snyder: Intertwined. You can't separate them out. If you don't lead with humility, you don't recognize the problem that you may have caused. And if you don't focus on process, you never discover that there's a problem there in the first place.
Mark Graban: And I appreciate the focus of getting beyond tools to guiding principles, because I think tools can be born from principles. I think without some of these principles, we wouldn't be driven to use mistake proofing methods, because we would just tell people to be careful, and we would punish them when they made a thankfully, you know, we can do better than that. And if we didn't have the tool handed, to think, you know, reflecting on these guiding principles would lead us to create some of these tools that Shigeo Shingo and Toyota and others have created and shared. So, I mean, we can learn from others, but I think it's stronger learning. We also have principles.
Ken Snyder: Just one personal reflection. I started studying Japanese business practices in the late 1970s as a college student and then joined a Japanese company in 1980. And I'd learned a lot of the principles just through, for lack of a better word, osmosis, just by living them and doing them and all that. I had never heard them articulated in a way that I could use to teach others. And when the Shingo model the revision to the Shingo model in 2008 came out, it was like I was like, this is so great, because this is all the things that I've tried to teach these people all these years, and I've never really had a good framework to use to teach them.
Ken Snyder: And finally, here's something that's out there that I can just kind of use this and say, this is the way to do it now. It was actually the year I transitioned out of industry and joined the university. I wish I'd have had it 20 years earlier and had access to it and been able to use it to teach people in my organizations. What am I trying to explain to you? I'm trying to explain why do we want to have one piece flow and stuff like that?
Ken Snyder: I built a one piece flow factory. Well, pretty close to it, almost perfect, but not quite. It still had some things, but we went from beginning to end in 20 minutes to give you an idea. It was a good factory in that regard, and we had very little inventory, but I couldn't explain very well why. And I think they got it just through the same osmosis that I learned.
Ken Snyder: But there wasn't a good way to articulate it and a good way to teach it. It was something they learned over time because we did it, we built it and we did it, and then they got to go, this is better than having all that stacks of inventory that we see in the other factories around here. But it was wonderful to have a new model, a model that we could use to teach with and help people understand with better what we need to do. So, yeah, I just think very highly of the Shingo model, and when I got a chance, I became an examiner, got involved with the board, then became the executive director, and just loved the work. We yeah, yeah.
Mark Graban: Well, that shows. And thank you for the role that you play and continued evolution and growth of the Shingo Institute. The guiding principles are a helpful articulation, because one other thing that comes to mind is the old expression about the goldfish having trouble describing the water that surrounds it in its bowl. I think a lot of people who come up through I've met a lot of former Toyota people who came up through that system, and there are certain things that are just so implicit, it can be difficult to really clearly articulate. And I think that's where sometimes the benefit of people like a mutual friend Steven Spear or Jeffrey Leicher or others, or even Norman Bodak to some extent, right outside observers who then, from that perspective, can help frame and articulate ideas that are then more explicit and transferable.
Ken Snyder: I've had a chance to interview a bunch of Toyota leaders in Japan. And you ask them about different things Toyota does and they just kind of give you like I found that the leaders of Toyota who have had to run operations outside of Japan, where they have been forced to try to teach this to their own workforces. Like Ditzo could understand much better how to explain what Toyota does. The others just lived it. They never had to explain it.
Ken Snyder: It's because that's the way everything already was. And that's the way they learned it was through this kind of osmosis that I learned it through, and they have a difficult time explaining it. The ones who have experience explaining it are much better at explaining, incidentally, sure. Get all these foreigners in my plant, and I got to figure out how to explain why do we do things that way? And they've learned how to do that.
Ken Snyder: Yeah.
Mark Graban: And I'm grateful for that, and I know many others are as well. So, Ken, I'm grateful for you coming on and being a guest and sharing and modeling, both personally and I think for what the Shingo Institute has done, identifying opportunities for improvement and leaning into reflection, research, learning evolution. I appreciate that, and I think that sets a great example for others. So thank you.
Ken Snyder: Thank you. There's a lot of good left to do in the world through Lean, and some of the people I know think Lean is dead, and I don't think so. Especially as we've come out of the pandemic, the organizations that were good at this got better, and the ones that weren't good at this suffered. We need to tell that story better and show the advantages to everybody that this is a better way to run your organization. You can get better ROI, you can get better quality.
Ken Snyder: You can get better worker engagement. You can have a much more fun time time with everybody can have a more fun time at their workplace. It's just better in so many. Yeah. Yes.
Mark Graban: Well, that's a great note to end on. So, again, thank you to our guest today, Ken Snyder, executive director of the Shingo Institute and Senior lecturer at Utah State University. Really, really enjoyed it, Ken.
Ken Snyder: Thanks, Mark.