This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Eiji Toyoda, targets & PCCs

It might have escaped the notice of many PCCs (though not all I hope) that Eiji Toyoda died this week, aged 100. Reputedly, this is the man that led Toyota from producing as many cars a year as Ford were producing a day to the global business that it now occupies. Mr Toyoda has also been a beacon light in the quality and performance movement that has changed manufacturing processes across the world - the so called Toyota Way.

The first important thing to notice about the Toyota Way is that it is a philosophy of doing business, not a set of tools that some people mistake it for. You can read about it in any number of web sources and books: just use your search engine. But in summary there are 14 principles:
  1. Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.
  2. Create a continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface.
  3. Use “pull” systems to avoid overproduction.
  4. Level out the workload (heijunka). (Work like the tortoise, not the hare.)
  5. Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.
  6. Standardized tasks and processes are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment.
  7. Use visual control so no problems are hidden.
  8. Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes.
  9. Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others.
  10. Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy.
  11. Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve.
  12. Go and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation (genchi genbutsu).
  13. Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly (nemawashi).
  14. Become a learning organization through relentless reflection (hansei) and continuous improvement (kaizen).
One of the key elements of this philosophy is the use of targets. (Perhaps, you can see where I am going now: Police forces facing dozens of new performance targets BBC news) However, targets are a highly contentious issue in the 'right first time' approach to performance improvement. W. Edwards Deming, one of the gurus of the quality movement, consistently argued that companies should 'eliminate management by objectives' and 'eliminate fear' in his 14 points.

(Aside: why is 14 so special?)

The Toyota Production System certainly talks of targets (see, for example: "Kaizen also requires the setting of clear objectives and targets. It is very much a matter of positive attitude, with the focus on what should be done rather than what can be done" from this Toyota source.) But my understanding is this is mainly about work teams understanding what needs to be done and setting themselves goals, assessing their progress relative to these goals.

But please watch this: John Seddon (a follower of the Taiichi Ohno and the Toyota Production System & proponent of systems thinking) talking about "Cultural change is free: why targets make organisations worse" (09:50 in).

It seems clear to me that top down targets do not work. (I published my first article on the net about this back in 2003, the piece is still up there. I have blogged about this several times since as well.

And yet here we have being reported today, the fact that some (not all) PCCs find the lure of top down target setting irresistible: it seems to them to be the logical thing to do.

Despite the Home Secretary's protestations: what did she honestly expect? Create a system of political governance that focuses all the power on a single individual, emphasise the importance of local accountability, set up an electoral process that encourages a manifesto of pledges to be made, require the elected PCCs to produce a local Police & Crime Plan... and hey presto targets are set! Yes the Home Sec can proudly say that she no longer sets targets... but she has created a system which encourages their setting and deployment locally.

But what intrigues me most is not the fact that there are PCCs who have set targets but the ones who have not... There may be an element of politics here, as my colleague Bernard Rix has highlighted on his blog. It may also be that these PCCs are exhibiting a different kind leadership, and perhaps know a little bit about the stuff that Toyoda, Ohno & Seddon have discussed. Here is the list (from the BBC research) of the PCCs who have set targets:
  • Avon and Somerset - 4
  • Cambridgeshire - 12
  • Cumbria - 20
  • Devon and Cornwall - 4
  • Hampshire - 5
  • Hertfordshire - 14
  • Kent - 5
  • Leicestershire - 26
  • Norfolk - 9
  • Northamptonshire - 1
  • Northumbria - 8
  • Nottinghamshire - 21
  • Thames Valley - 10
  • Warwickshire - 6
  • West Mercia - 15
  • West Midlands - 4
  • West Yorkshire - 1
  • Wiltshire - 13
So, maybe, think about who is not on the list... instead. Are they using Toyoda's 14 principles I wonder?

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