Beliefs and Systems Drive Behavior

J Francisco Ramirez R, LENSYS
Published April 29, 2015

The best decisions are made when there is awareness and knowledge of the different elements of a system, as well as how these elements are interconnected and what the outputs of the system are.

Systemic thinking is a Shingo Guiding Principle that ties together all other principles. Thinking systemically improves understanding by learning to see the system as a whole, including elements sometimes called sub-systems. In reality, most things are connected to something else in an environment that is constantly changing.

A clear example of an integrated and complex system is the human body as it is composed of different sub-systems such as the digestive, circulatory or nervous systems. Each of these sub-systems performs a function while being interconnected with the others, and only its synchronized and balanced function enables the entire integrated system, the human body, to perform perfectly.

What Would Happen If...?

Peter Hines, S A Partners
Published April 15, 2015

Think for a minute:

  •       What would happen if you went to the supermarket but forgot to pick up the kids from school?
  • What would happen if you bought a round of drinks in a bar for all but one of your party?
  •       What would happen if you booked your vacation hotel but did not book the flight to get there?

Clearly, in each case you might be embarrassed, frustrated and or an inconvenience to others. You would probably also incur a lot of waste and excess cost. Indeed, your less than ideal behaviour would be a big problem.

Now let’s think about the work situation:

  •       What would happen if you went on a gemba walk but forgot to talk to local team members at their workstation or visual management board?  
  • What would happen if you communicated with the day shift but not the night shift about an important change in your business?
  •       What would happen if you received a flat order profile from your customers but passed on a highly variable order pattern to your suppliers?

Quality is Not Free - We Have to Earn It

Alejandro Ponce, Alfra-Opex
Published April 1, 2015

After serving 14 years at a company dedicated to saving lives, by building reliable safety systems for automobiles such as seat belts and airbags, it is clear that quality is the top priority when we talk about product performance. There is no room for mistakes. With only one chance for those products to be used, it needs to be flawless, because human lives depend on them.

During my plant manager days I used to tell our associates the best problems to have are those that never happen; in other words, let´s attack quality before problems occur. To achieve this there must be a high dosage of trust at the gemba and to show respect for associates by listening to every single person and supporting them to fix any quality concern.

Enabling Employees to Assure Quality

Rajinder Singh, Solving Efeso
Published March 18, 2015

As a child, I remember vividly playing in my grandfather’s workshop that was used to repair and re-tread used, worn and damaged truck and bus tires. As we ran in and out of the workshop we saw employees working hard on different processes – buffing, loading and unloading, assembling, etc. – often waving and smiling at us as we passed by. My grandfather was a very jovial person and the complete atmosphere was very happy.

The workshop was very popular in and around the city and known for its quality and customer service. However, sometimes we would see our grandfather agitated and upset. This would only happen, as we realized later, when he received a customer complaint about quality, however minor it might be. This to him was unacceptable and a very painful experience. I think his pain was shared by all the employees in the workshop. Quality was very personal to him. He expected each person to ensure their work was perfect, as a way of showing pride in their craft and workmanship. “Nobody should be able to find any problem with your work,” he would always say. Pride in the work and ownership of what every employee did was a huge factor in the success of this small business.

Flow Where You Can, Pull Where You Can’t

Mike Orzen, GBMP
Published March 3, 2015

The Shingo Model™ captures ten timeless principles that apply to all, regardless of our beliefs or level of understanding. In my experience working with companies over the past 20 years, the principle that is least practiced addresses the idea that value should be flowed and pulled. So what does it mean to flow value? Why is flow considered a principle? How does pull enter the picture and what is its relationship to flow? Finally, why is flow the least practiced of the principles?


Value for customers is maximized when it is created in response to real demand and a continuous and uninterrupted flow. Although one-piece flow is the ideal, often demand is distorted between and within organizations. Waste is anything that disrupts the continuous flow of value.

                       - Shingo Discover Excellence Course

To Flow or Not to Flow? - That's Not Really the Question

Joshua Ebert, UL
Published February 17, 2015

In the early days of implementing continuous improvement tools at our 110-year old engineering services firm I had an opportunity to help develop visibility into our workflow. Most of our work resided on paper, in e-mail systems and in the minds of our associates. We labelled a lot of our initial efforts as “Making the Invisible, Visible.” We learned from other organizations and from lean consultants that we couldn’t improve our processes without first seeing flow or the absence of it. I believe we did good work and am proud of the various visualizations and tools we were able to produce including Dynamic Cycle Time Charts and Capacity Heat Maps.

All this work culminated in a global scheduling system that was designed to match incoming demand with the best available capacity. However, it wasn’t long before we started to get an occasional complaint from staff and/or customers that the way work was being routed potentially caused issues. This new way of redistributing the demand was revealing variability in our processes, as well as in our way of handling differing customer specifications. At the time, these new discoveries seemed like an undesirable consequence, rather than the gift they really were.  

“Embrace Scientific Thinking” - A Universal and Timeless Principle

Robert Miller, Arches Leadership
Published February 3, 2015

At first glance this seems like a strange thing to say. How does one “embrace” scientific thinking? Furthermore, why would they? To answer these questions let’s remind ourselves what a principle is. The Shingo Institute defines a principle as “a foundational rule that has an inevitable consequence.” If something is a principle, it is universal and timeless; it is discovered and understood rather than invented. At some level it is intuitive, and finally it is action-oriented, thus influencing an outcome or consequence.

Principle Based Behaviors

To embrace scientific thinking one believes deeply in the process of experimentation, is curious about “what if,” sets aside prejudices and remains open to possibilities. The scientific thinker bases decisions and actions on facts and data as well as intuition and emotion. An organizational culture that embraces scientific thinking expects and supports people and teams at all levels to be “scientists,” passionately and relentlessly looking for and systematically trying new and better ways to do practically everything.