By: Ken Snyder
This past week I taught the first Shingo Discover Excellence workshop ever taught in Japan. And the opportunity to do it in an American organization that has a majority Japanese workforce was particularly enjoyable. The organization requested that the workshop be delivered in both English and Japanese, and the participants were roughly 50% from each nationality. I’ve thought about – even dreamed about – teaching our workshops in Japan, and in Japanese. This was a dream come true!
I’ve had the opportunity to teach in bilingual settings before – in both English-Spanish, and English-Chinese settings. But in all of my previous experiences, I was paired with a native speaker doing the non-English language. In this case, I was responsible for doing both languages. What a challenge!
Part of what excited me is that Shingo Shigeo, our namesake, is largely unknown in Japan. The Shingo Prize is relatively unknown outside of the international business community in Japan, and the organizations we visit on our Japan study tour. Despite receiving applications from great organizations in over 30 countries around the world, we have never had a Japanese organization located in Japan apply for the Shingo Prize. Kind of odd isn’t it.
Also, I find that less than half of company managers and executives I meet in Japan have ever heard of Shingo sensei, and less than half of the people who have heard of him know anything about him. When I start telling them that he is the person who wrote the first book about the Toyota Production System, and introduced the world to pokayoke, SMED, single-piece flow, etc., they all acknowledge they know those terms. They just don’t associate those terms with the name Shingo. It was fun to open the eyes of the Japanese participants to their heritage in operational excellence.
When I lived and worked in Japan, I worked for a “small- to medium-size enterprise” (or “SME). SMEs in Japan have a difficult time because of the emphasis paid by the government and business to the large conglomerates. Because of my work experience in Japan, I’ve tried hard to recruit an affiliate organization there who can teach the Shingo Model – especially to the SME that could really benefit from the Model. That hasn’t happened yet. Here’s hoping for some day when it will.
In the meantime, I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to teach this workshop. It was a blast to teach the Shingo Guiding Principles in English and Japanese to a mixed group. It was a closed workshop with all of the participants coming from the same organization. I would love to share the name of the organization and the cool gemba sites we used for the training, but they requested that I not share.
I’ve always wanted to share back what we have learned from Shingo sensei and many others in Japan. This was truly a dream come true!