By Jon Miller | Post Date: February 3, 2010 3:28 PM | Comments: 2
by DJ Duarte
With the New Year celebrations behind us and our commitments to better living engraved in stone, it was once again time to welcome a new group of wonderful clients to Gemba's JKE (Japan Kaikaku Experience). Yes, another successful learning tour to help people along their lean journey. This time though something about the group was very different. They were from Chile and spoke mostly Spanish, Portuguese, a little English and not a word of Japanese. Did that matter? I really don't think so. In fact, I think the language barrier was an added value to the experience. Allow me to explain.
You see, most participants from the various companies visit Japan wanting to experience the Toyota Production System (TPS) up close. They always ask functional kinds of questions about how management goes about supporting this system. Some want to know about the suggestion systems, leadership roles, reward mechanisms or even the training aspects of the business. These are good things to understand but it sort of misses the most important aspect of TPS, that of reinforcing the right behaviors.
This group from Chile came to the JKE looking at things from another angle, that of understanding how their culture can help to align with the Toyota Production System, the lean system they are implementing in their company. This intrigued me more and more as the tour continued. You see, they saw this visit to Japan as more of a cultural experience and TPS was just one topic on the overall learning agenda.
The people in this group tried everything from eating strange foods like tofu and raw fish, drinking Japanese sake and sour plum juice, to expressing unique Japanese phases that delighted our Japanese hosts. "No fear" is a great way to describe this wonderful group of people.
However if the truth be told, they had something that was a blessing to experience from a facilitator's perspective: presence and humility. Always wanting to try different things is good but how one goes about doing it can also be just as powerful. The language barrier was actually causing all of us to use the other influential talents that we are given such as body gestures and visual expressions. We really took the time to listen and explain things to one another. How we gestured or how we visualized the system was as or if not more important than the translation by the guide.
All of this came full circle on the second to the last day when we entered a wonderful ryokan , a traditional Japanese inn. We began to share with our group members the different reason on why or how to wear the Japanese robes, what the power and purity of the onsen (hot springs) has on people, and why this is linked to aligning TPS with their culture. It was at this point when one of the members said, "This is like a movie." Another said, "No it is more like a dream."
DJ Duarte pictured leftmost first row, wearing washcloth cap
The upcoming trips this year are May 9-15, 2010 and September 12-18, 2010. Contact us to learn more.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.