8.2. Emphasis on Training, Training, and More Training

To build a multiskilled workforce, Toyota institutionalized a number of training programs, both on and off the job, that teach problem-solving skills. During their first 10 years at the company, employees are thoroughly trained in the fundamentals of thinking their way out of problems. Akio Matsubara described the philosophy behind this approach:

When an employee solves a problem, he or she makes a contribution to corporate policy, which ultimately is connected to user satisfaction. We inculcate our employees with the idea that learning to solve problems well is the absolute minimum requirement for success at Toyota. There is simply no way this can be learned in just a few days of training, which is why it is critical that we retain the OJT system.[]

Another feature of OJT at Toyota is the principle that each employee must have the freedom to make decisions based on his or her own judgment. Rather than follow a strict set of rules, employees make decisions based on a rough set of guidelines that direct the organization. Employees are encouraged to always consider the broader perspective by thinking as though they were managing at two levels higher in the organization. "I learned how to think thoroughly in my training," said former Toyota Senior Managing Director Zenji Yasuda. His first assignment in Toyota was to procure springs, and he was asked to predict what the market for springs would be like three years, five years, ...

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