Monozukuri through Hitozukuri

During our study tour to Japan with senior leaders from Aditya Birla Group in April, we had the rare privilege of being addressed by Mr. Takeo Furuya, Project General Manager, TQM Promotion Division, Toyota Motor Corporation. I was struck by one phrase from his presentation: ‘Monozukuri cannot be achieved without Hitozukuri’.

For deeper understanding, I referred to masters:


Sensei Masaaki Imai explains on p 270 of the second edition of his book Gemba Kaizen:

Monozukuri means “making things”, but it has a deeper feeling of Craftsmanship & pride in manufacturing.

Norman Bodek, who has been called the ‘Grandfather of Lean’ explains it rather well:

Monozukuri is a term that can be best translated as “the process of creating superior products through pride of       workmanship, manufacturing excellence and continuous improvement”. Its closest English equivalent is                 “craftsmanship”, which suggests that the work product is a labor of love, one that requires an extremely high         level of skill that might take a lifetime to master.

So, how is this high level of skill achieved? Through Hitozukuri!


Continuing with Norman Bodek’s help:

Hitozukuri is an organization’s commitment to lifelong development of the skills and knowledge of all employees. Denso, one of Toyota’s major suppliers, has a saying, “Monozukuri is Hitozukuri”. To achieve Hitozukuri, masters from inside and outside the organization provides lifelong training and mentoring of employees.  This enables the employees to:

• Learn new skills and technology to increase their value to the organization

• Become “masters” of their current positions and serve as mentors to junior employees

• Learn new skills and technology to increase their value to the organization

• Become “masters” of their current positions and serve as mentors to junior employees

• Advance within the company to positions requiring new knowledge and skill sets

• Develop a level of self-confidence and self-reliance that grows over time

• Create and implement ideas to improve work processes and the organization as a whole

Jon Miller, co-founder of Gemba Research, and later MD of Kaizen Institute, refers to this subject in one of his     blogs. Let me quote:

At Toyota they say  物づくりは人づくり or "making things is making people" (monozukuri via hitozukuri) or "develop   people and then build products". Their commitment to developing people is clear and they take this seriously. It's   part of the culture and management system, and a massive competitive advantage since they depend on this to     build in quality and maintain productivity.

CONCLUSION: Monozukuri (product excellence) cannot be achieved without Hitozukuri (people excellence).

This core thinking reflects in the following picture captured on an LCD screen in the Toyota Museum in Nagoya:


The ‘Respect for People’ pillar manifests itself in Hitozukuri.

Here is what Praveen Gupta, author of Business Innovation in the 21st Century & several other books, has to       say:

Often leadership tunes out employees' voices. Instead, the leaders tend to make most of the decisions rather than listening to their employees. Corporations hire educated and experienced

People to work for them, and then tell them to perform without giving them time to think. As a result people are busy, but the results may remain questionable. Employees are working harder than ever but they often are more disengaged intellectually. 

Corporations say employees are assets but treat them as liabilities. When corporations are managed for financial turnaround, they typically recruit financial, legal and operational professionals whose first focus is on headcount reduction. Instead, they should be engaging the minds of their employees to revive the company.

It is appalling that company after company struggling to survive and turn a profit ignores its intellectual capital which has the fastest cycle time and highest return on investment. Instead, they perpetuate ineffective strategies to their death. It has been said that it is a crime for an executive to waste society's valuable resources by directing them at unproductive uses.


This brings us to some reflections:

If Hitozukuri is part of the core philosophy

1. Can it co-exist with the culture of working with ‘temporary’/ ‘contract’ manpower so prevalent in Indian               organizations?

2. Whether there is need for ‘Education & Training’/ coaching & mentoring budget for front-line employees; as also allocation of their time on an ongoing basis?

3. Is there an ROI for this expense? (If anyone thinks ‘Training is expensive’ he needs to sit down calmly               sometimes & evaluate the overall cost of ignorance!)

4. Do Leaders play their role in coaching & mentoring their people in order to develop them?

5. Will the organization or its’ leaders ever need to ask, ‘How do we motivate employees?’ Isn’t every highly skilled craftsman intrinsically proud of his craft & self-motivated?

6. Will employees highly skilled in their craft; and trained in structured problem solving be better equipped to         contribute to accelerate ‘continual improvement’ towards excellence, compared to ‘traditional’ breed of                   employees?

I think the answers are obvious, and pretty much ‘no brainers’. However, practicing Hitozukuri as an organizational culture/ way of life (not a temporary plug-in, not a quick-fix) is easier said than done.

· Indian & African Managers live in an hierarchical society. They are not socially groomed and psychologically         schooled to think of front-line employees as ‘respectable’. Notwithstanding common slogans of ‘human resource - our most valuable resource’, it is rare to find organizations with HR policies that invest requisite time & money       towards Hitozukuri over a long term. 

· Job hopping at executive levels is common – leading to short-term executives/ revolving door syndrome! This is   an additional handicap in building employees/ desired culture for the long term.

· Ironically, some Managers consider it legitimate to use Operational Excellence/ KAIZEN™ ‘tools’ to improve               productivity & reduce manpower!! The impact this has on manpower morale, employee motivation &                     organizational culture can only be imagined!! 

That makes ‘Operational Excellence’ tough. Not that the ‘tools’ are tough, it is the people building element & the culture building element that makes it tough. For those who succeed, there is huge reward on the other side of the ledger. Due to short-term thinking, and need for

Quick-fixes, very few realize the full potential. Most skim the surface. 

Inspire of all the handicaps, the good news is that there are able & stable Managers/ entrepreneurs out there, both in India & Africa, who understand Hitozukuri instinctively, and are driving a fulfilling business. Here is wishing that this breed multiplies

By Mr. Vinod Grover : Founding Partner & Chairman of Kaizen Institute India Africa Middle East


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