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03 February, 2023



Jishuken is a form of problem solving using gemba kaizen combined with a kaizen blitz, but it involves more than solving a problem. Jishuken is management directed kaizen that includes learning. As stated on Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky Inc.'s web site, jishuken is a "management-driven kaizen activity where management members identify areas in need of continuous improvement and spread information through the organization to stimulate kaizen activity."

Usually, organized kaizen activities are initiated solely for the purpose of improving an existing, known problem area. In contrast, a jishuken activity is targeted at developing TPS skill and application. ...jishuken activities are generally performed for employees requiring some TPS skill improvement. Theoretically, a jishuken could be conducted anywhere within the operation, but similar to ODJ thinking, the activity is commonly carried out in an area already identified with a specific business need. So although the primary focus will be on developing TPS skill and application, the jishuken itself should also drive some improvement to daily operations.

The leader of the jishuken is always someone who has deep TPS knowledge and skill. Many times during my career the jishuken leader was the most senior-level TMC employee in the department or maybe even in the plant (our Japanese present led jishuken activities when I was a manager at the TMMI facility). The jishuken leader serves as the facilitator, the coach, the motivator, the judge, and many other roles. The most significant characteristic of the jishuken leader, however, is that he be a 'seasoned' veteran.

Normal kaizen activities are based on suggestions coming from all employees. It is a bottom up system of continual improvement. Jishuken, however, is initiated by managers. It begins with management identifying an area in need of improvement. The improvements targeted by jishuken are typically linked to overall business goals, and the problem is solved, or goals achieved, by the managers doing kaizen themselves.Jishuken has both a learning goal and an improvement goal.  It brings managers together, in the physical location where the work is being done, to solve a problem using continuous improvement methods. On the learning side, it helps managers improve their coaching and teaching skills so they can better lead others who are doing kaizen.

Jishuken is not Kaizen

A major difference between kaizen and jishuken is that kaizen is a culture, and jishuken is an activity. For kaizen to work it must be a part of the corporate culture. The actual methods for making suggestions and acting on them vary, but a kaizen mindset drives the generation of suggestions as well as driving the actions taken in response to the suggestions. That means kaizen is culture.
Jishuken, on the other hand, is a specific, intentional set of activities. The purpose of those activities is to use kaizen principles to solve a problem, while at the same time building the kaizen culture and training management to be better able to use kaizen principles.
Seen more clearly, jishukens, like many TPS activities have both a learning goal and a productivity goal: As they harness manager teams for problem solving needed by the production process, jishukens help managers to improve their ability to coach and teach problem solving to others, specifically production workers. Jishukens perform a vital role in TPS because they help managers to be better teachers by developing skills that can be passed on to future generations. Jishukens regulate, reinforce, and maintain the company's values, beliefs, and behaviors. Participation in jishuken gives managers a common language and a common approach to problem solving across the organization.
This means that jishuken is a culture building tool. It does this in a number of ways:
  • It shows management's commitment to kaizen. Since jishuken is done in the plant, at the physical location where the problem exists, everyone sees upper level management's involvement in and commitment to kaizen.
  • It spreads kaizen principles and information throughout the entire organization.
  • Jishuken builds and grows the kaizen culture. It demonstrates how problems are solved from the bottom up, and promotes interaction between production, operations and maintenance workers, and management.
  • Jishuken helps managers to improve their ability to teach and lead problem-solving kaizen teams. They develop their kaizen skills through the practical, real-life application of kaizen principles.

How to do Jishuken

The jishuken process involves a cross-functional team of managers who have the goal of solving a specific problem. This means jishuken starts with identifying a problem a putting together a team.

Identify an Area in Need of Improvement

Typically the problem is an area needing improvement identified by the jishuken leader, sometimes in consultation with other managers. Signs of an area in need of improvement can be increasing waste, deviation from standards, or quality problems.

Select a Team

The team should be a small cross-functional team consisting of from five to seven managers. Depending of the problem, this team may be divided into smaller groups, with each group assigned to address one aspect of the problem

Toyota Eight-Step Problem Solving Process

The team then uses the Toyota eight-step process of problem solving. The eight steps are essentially the W. Edwards Deming Cycle, an iterative four-step process called Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA).
  • Plan:
    1. Clarify the problem: Quantify the problem by asking the five "W" questions: what, when, who, where, why, plus how.
    2. Break down the problem: Break the problem into small units to identify symptoms and their causes. For example, is this a universal problem, or a machine specific problem?  What are the contributing factors to this problem?
    3. Set a target: Identified the desired goal. What is the team to achieve?
    4. Analyze the root cause: Find the root cause of the problem.
    5. Develop corrective measures: Determine what will be done to solve the problem.
  • Do:
    1. Implement the corrective measures: Make the changes necessary to eliminate the root cause of the problem.
  • Check:
    1. Evaluate both the results and the modified process: Were the corrective measures successful? Were there unintended consequences?  Were the targets achieved?  If not, repeat the process.
  • Act:
    1. Standardize successful processes: If the corrective measures were successful, incorporate them into the standards that govern the area(s) impacted by the corrective measures.

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