What is Yokoten & Why Don’t Most Companies Use it?

When it comes to safe and efficient operation of a workplace, most people are used to reading Japanese terms like Kaizen, Gemba, Gembutsu, Kanban, and more. Many companies, however, overlook the term Yokoten, and the many benefits it can bring. Barry Jeffrey posted an interesting article to the LinkedIn Group, “Gemba Academy,” where it generated some interesting discussion and ideas. The article is titled, “The Art of Yokoten,” and provides helpful information to let people know what Yokoten is, and why it is so effective at Toyota Motor Company.

To summarize, the article explains that Yokoten is a concept where every time a problem is found, the team not only finds a solution to the problem, but also looks for other areas where that problem could repeat itself in the future. Even though it requires a significant amount of time and resources to identify other potential areas where the problem could surface, it will be more efficient in the long run by avoiding these issues. The article gave a very good quote to illustrate Yokoten, which is,

“To find a problem once is good, it’s an opportunity to improve. But to find it a second time means the system has failed.”

“Sharing the Love”

Dean Dickinson on LinkedIn commented on the post saying,

“I always describe Yokoten as ‘sharing the love” passing on the vital countermeasures to other departments and group colleagues.”

This is a good comparison, and a great simplified way of explaining the concept.

Lacking Discipline

Also on the LinkedIn post, Paul Cary made a comment that brought up an excellent point. He said,

“Yokoten as a concept is incredibly powerful and effective, implementing it as a core concept is very difficult. In the article Dean mentions that in a Toyota facility or across Toyota the principle is implemented with discipline and rigor. I think this is a key point for many western companies fail to have the cultural discipline to implement such a powerful tool.”

Toyota specifically, and the Japanese culture in general, is known for their discipline. The same can’t be said for most other countries around the world. In order to implement Yokoten, companies need to accept the fact that they may invest a good amount of resources trying to track down where a problem could occur, only to find that it won’t. So many companies are so focused on the bottom line for the upcoming quarter, that they fail to think about the benefits that will be realized a year or more down the road.

This is likely the biggest challenge that needs to be overcome in order to see Yokoten accepted and adopted in American companies, and other companies around the world. Most other strategies that were developed by Toyota are able to offer companies easy to understand benefits that can be seen and measured quite quickly.

While it will undoubtedly take quite some time for Yokoten to be generally accepted and implemented around the world, the fact that a growing number of people are talking about it is a good sign. Large and respected groups, such as the Gemba Academy on LinkedIn appear to be very supportive of this concept, and the results when implemented will speak for themselves.

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