Last week I’ve finished reading a book: The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership. Achieving and Sustaining Excellence Through Leadership Development. It made a great impression on me. The Toyota Way changes the thinking about the business.
How to develop yourself to be in accordance with the Toyota Way? The answer is Shu Ha Ri. It is a Japanese martial art concept, and describes the stages of learning to mastery.
- Shu. Learning fundamentals about our job and duties in accordance with the company’s standard under the supervision. We and the product, we creating, should be protected against the failure.
- Ha. Being a master doing our daily tasks without any supervision or protection, but our progress should be still precisely monitored.
- Ri. Using collected knowledge to creatively solve existing problems, improving existing processes and solutions, teach others how to be a master. Do you want to be my sensei?
To understand Toyota Way we need to understand that Shu Ha Ri is an infinite process. There is always a place to learn something, then we should start with Shu stage one more time. How to develop yourself when we are at the top (or we think that we are at the top)? Toyota gives us an answer. Your knowledge may be useful in other place, e.g different department which got into troubles or even different company. This is an example for horizontal promotion. Toyota leaders are called T-type leaders. They had been working in many different departments before they were promoted vertically. They had an opportunity to grow like a tree. When you have gained deep-rooted expertise in your “home area”, it is time to broaden your leadership skills by branching out to other departments and sometimes even the entire enterprise. Horizontal promotion is as important and valuable as vertical one.