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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Toyota & Linux : Common Management Patterns

I came across this interesting article - while I can't vouch for the correctness or pffer comments - it reinforces the fact that well run processes share a common denominator covering a high degree of range - that shows proces maturity & stability in operations. This article highlights that At the heart of Linux and the Toyota Production System,is a set of work, communication, and leadership practices that contributes to a new form of collaboration. This collaboration also relies on two infrastructure components: a shared pool of knowledge and universally available tools for moving knowledge around. Excerpts wiht edits:
The Linux and Toyota communities both are said to be sharing a common discipline in that both are composed of engineers,forming a homogeneous lot easing communication amongst themselves. But these groups are far more disciplined and rigorous in their approach to work than are other engineering communities. Both emphasize granularity: They pay attention to small details, eliminate problems at the source, and trim anything resembling excess, whether it be work, code, or material. Linux members, for example, share an obsession with writing minimal code, compiling each day's output before proceeding to the next and extirpating programming flaws as they go along. For their part, TPS [Toyota Production System] engineers are relentless in applying short cycles of trial and error, focusing on just one thing at a time, and getting inside and observing actual processes. Both groups carry those principles to apparent extremes. Linux programmers whittle away at code in pursuit not of computational efficiency but of elegance. Toyota engineers reject stampings for the Lexus hood—while flawless and entirely within spec—because the sheen, to their eyes, lacks luster.
Widespread, granular communication : In both the Linux and Toyota communities, information about problems and solutions is shared widely, frequently, and in small increments. Most Linux hacker communication is not between individuals but by postings to open, searchable Listservs. Anyone can review the version history of the code and the Listserv debates—not executive summaries or abstracts but the raw activity itself. And every code contribution is stress tested by scores of people. As a famous open-source mixed metaphor puts it: "With a thousand eyes, all bugs are shallow." The median upload to the Linux kernel is a mere dozen lines of code. The working alpha version is recompiled every twenty-four hours, so hackers reconcile their efforts almost continuously. If someone worked in isolation for six months on even the most brilliant contribution, it would probably be rejected for lack of compatibility with the others' efforts.
The Toyota philosophy of continuous improvement likewise comprises a thousand small collaborations. Toyota engineers are famously drilled to "ask why five times" to follow a chain of causes and effects back to a problem's root. This is not a vapid cliché about thinking deeply. Quite the contrary, in fact. The precept's merit is precisely in its superficiality
. Saying that B causes A is simplistic—all the complexities of multiple interactions boiled down to a single cause and effect. But the chain of thought required to discover that C causes B, and D causes C, quickly takes you into a new domain, probably someone else's. So rather than concoct complex solutions within their own domains, engineers must seek simple ones beyond them. "Doing your why-whys," as the practice is known, is not about depth at all—it's about breadth.
And as with Linux, Toyota's communication protocols enforce this discipline. Each meeting addresses just one topic and drives toward a specific outcome, even if that means the same people meet more than once in a day. Lessons are written in a standard format on a single sheet of A3 paper. And everyone learns how to craft these reports, down to the fold in the document that shows the main points and conceals the details.Quite interesting indeed. while the points may be debatable given the fact one is a commercial organisation and amongst the biggest in the world and the other one is mostly a voluntary effort- the commonality of the approach is appealing enough to ponder over Read the full article here.

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