Finding Meaning by Helping Others
Jamie Bonini is vice president of TSSC at Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America and spoke at the 2016 Net Impact Conference.
We all look for purpose in our work. I’ve been lucky in that way, and I’d like to tell you about it.
I’m an engineer by training, and I’ve learned a lot about complicated processes – like troubleshooting as we produce our car and truck plants. At Toyota, I’ve also gotten to help make the world a better place – by working with nonprofits supporting disaster relief or feeding the hungry, and businesses and government agencies when they’re struggling.
New York State of Mind
A good example is Toyota’s work with the government of New York State. New York State government was striving to improve their operations to better serve New Yorkers.
So they reached out to us to see if we could work together.
Over the years, we’ve compiled our know-how from making cars and trucks into what we call the Toyota Production System (TPS) – and we’ve found that many of its basic ideas can be applied to all sorts of other processes, even if they have nothing to do with manufacturing. We can apply the same principles to rebuild a house after a hurricane, or reduce the backlog at a small manufacturing company, or simplify the process necessary for a government approval.
We met with the New York State Department of Health and found a lot of hardworking people, but a complicated system. We helped them map out their processes --– and together we found many redundancies.
For example, it turned out that many of the steps for certificates of operation for nursing homes could be combined. So that’s just what we did.
Show Me the Numbers
Over time, the department was able to reduce approval time from 137 days to 28. That’s 80 percent. Since then, New York has expanded TPS to 38 agencies, employing 8,500 people who work on more than 400 projects.
Take a look at our partnership with the Governor’s Office of New York State:
Teach Me Your Ways
There is no one thing that makes TPS effective, but here are some key ingredients:
- Respect for people: An effective organization counts on – and empowers – its people to make things work and come up with new ideas.
- Visualization of work: When you can clearly see problems early, you can fix them before they grow.
- Continuous improvement: Lots of small steps add up to make a big difference. Even when things are going well, you can find ways to make them better.
An important part of the TPS philosophy is prioritizing the customer. Do that and everything else will flow.
Even if you’re not redesigning an organization’s operations, you can still use these methods to do your work better. Who is your customer? It may be your manager, or it may be colleagues in another group who will use the system you’re designing, or the attendees at the meeting you’re helping to organize.
For me, I find this work – helping people out -- very meaningful. And I hope yours will be too.