The aim of TQM is to obtain zero defects. The larger the company, however, the more difficult it is to pin-point glitches in the production system. Why is it, then, that the overriding lower-level employees have the least say in the company’s management, when they’re the most likely to spot a problem?
Here’s how Toyota empowers lower-level management every day.
Core principles: ‘Total Participation’ & ‘Employee Engagement’
In 1951, Toyota launched the Creative Idea Suggestion System to support and increase suggestions as well as effective contributions to the company’s development. The suggestion system encourages flexible responses to change and ecompasses the principle of monozukuri, meaning conscientious manufacturing.
Shortly after the company introduced the Creative Idea Suggestion System in 1951, Toyota then established the Individual Annual Award to honor excellent suggestions system, which remains today. Recognizing excellence for creativity for an employee not only motivates them to think outside the box, but also to lose the fear to propose a new idea.
In 1974, the award system was broken into Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. And in 1974, the number of creative ideas proposed reached one million. Toyota’s creative idea award system is an excellent example of employee motivation and encouragement.
One of the focus areas in TQM is on utilizing the knowledge of lower-level employees who are the most involved in day-to-day operations. Their knowledge is often overlooked, even though they are the employees that have the closest relationship with the majority of the manufacturing process. Hence, when there is the slightest problem or room for improvement, it is the lower-level employees that are the most likely to spot it.
The Suggestion Idea Program gives these employees a chance to present their ideas without fear and have them considered by the upper management team who can assess it and carry it out successfully.
Over the years, Toyota has continued to make advancements in TQM through employee training in QC, target-setting and even TQM employee networks. As of 2011, the total number of suggest ideas hit 40 million.