Howard Artrip – a manager in Toyota – knows what he does. He knows when he gets up, how long he takes to get ready and get to work. He smiles when he says “I’ve maximized my sleep time”. Toyota’s philosophy of continuous improvement is his personal statement.

Sometime back, I was talking to an engineer from a highly capable and mature company about what he thinks about quality. At the end of a very colorful description about the practices and processes, he confessed that it is difficult to follow them all. It was a burden on him, and in his opinion an overhead to the system.

It is a fashion to adapt and implement the processes and techniques that are proven in some organizations. In a frenzy to implement and report the return-on-investments, most managers fail to get the spirit – and most importantly the thinking – behind these processes. One of the common mistakes is that we try to replicate the processes without understanding the context and culture in which these were set and became successful.

Value addition is the promise of most processes and techniques. At the end of the day we search for added value in the process, in the end-product, in the pile of documentation, reports, and presenations. What I find often is that we miss out in searching for the added value in our people. It may be that we think they are just techies or skilled workers, we think they appreciate the processes themselves, we think the processes have nothing to do with people and vice versa!

People need to understand the reason behind every activity, the benefits and a bit of history to enjoy their work. It is important to infuse the spirit behind the process into people, so that value is first added to them – and they realize it. They will in turn add value to products and even back to those processes.