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Updated by Waleed A. Alballaa on Sep 18, 2015
Headline for Lessons from NUMMI
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Lessons from NUMMI


Trust vs Policies


  • GM's policy against stopping the production line for fear of slacking


  • Compensating loss of trust with policies make things worse not better
  • Spend time filtering hires to save time managing them later

Consequences from failure to change have to be internalized by targets of change


  • "Turns out it's a lot easier to get workers to change if they've lost their jobs, and then you offer them back. Without that, many union members just saw the Toyota system as a threat." - about Van Nuys factory

People can change regardless of age


  • NUMMI employees were hired from the same group that was part of the factory when it was shut down before the partnership and the average age was in the 50's

Motivation beats KPIs everytime


  • Failure of GM's original KPIs to improve situation (in some cases it even had a negative effect)
  • NUMMI worker's determination to beat their Japanese counterparts resulted in parity in their quality numbers.

Change can not be localized. The whole organization must transform


Schaefer says when he realized how much of the Japanese system happened off the factory floor, it answered something that had never quite made sense to him. Why had Toyota been so open with GM in showing its operations?

Ernie Schaefer:
"You know, they never prohibited us from walking through the plant, understanding, even asking questions of some of their key people. You know, I've often puzzled over that-- why they did that. And I think they recognized we were asking all the wrong questions.

We didn't understand this bigger picture thing. All of our questions were focused on the floor, you know? The assembly plant. What's happening on the line. That's not the real issue. The issue is, how do you support that system with all the other functions that have to take place in the organization?"