Toyota Suggestion System – Japanese Kaizen ideas by employees. In Japan alone, there were 580,000 ideas implemented in 2003. Millions and millions of creative ideas are being implemented every few years by thinking Toyota employees. How could any company manage so many suggestions? It would seem like supervisors and managers would have not time to do anything but review the suggestions and approve or deny them. Part of the secret lies in the fact that Toyota reports at 99% implementation rate for Kaizen ideas by employees.

Middle Management Encouragement

Supervisors and managers encourage and even require thinking about kaizen ideas by their staff. This involves training and coaching so that ideas that may not be good suggestions are developed over time into ideas that can be implemented, at a rate of about one per month. It is part of a supervisor’s daily job to help his or her team think about their work and find ways to make it better. Many of these ‘teian’ or kaizen ideas, are small improvements in quality, safety, productivity, environmental management, etc. Some of these ideas may be the type of improvements we make without thinking about it, or writing them down to keep track. Some of them may save a $1, and a few of them may save thousands of dollars.

Almost every manager at a company with a healthy suggestion program will say that the financial results from these creative kaizen ideas are not what is most important. What is more important is to have everyone thinking everyday about improving their work, everyday. Toyota has in effect turned every worker into a “knowledge worker”, to some extent, through their commitment to the creative idea suggestion system, or kaizen by everyone everyday.

2016 Update
Today, it is understood that achieving greater and more sustained levels of operational excellence is the result of embracing core principles of a continuous improvement culture. Operational excellence is the result of successfully adapting to the changes that continually occur in and around an organization. One continuous improvement strategy, the worker suggestion program, is often recommended to help companies tap into the unrealized potential of their workforce.

A suggestion system only works if it is part of an integrated effort to create a continuous improvement culture. Implementing a suggestion system will contribute to the future health and growth of a company, but only if it is tied to a foundation that supports the core values of continuous improvement.

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