Jidoka: Applying the “Human Touch”

When I met my boyfriend, he was driving a 1991 Toyota Corolla. It was quite the jalopy. The upholstery had seen better days. There were dents and rust.  But it ran. It always ran. Not only did my much newer Ford have more service appointments than that Corolla, but the Corolla also got better gas mileage. It was like the Energizer Bunny… it just kept going.

I never appreciated that Corolla. Until today. When I learned about lean manufacturing, Toyota, and the power of Jidoka.

Jidoka (or autonomation) is a Japanese manufacturing term that means applying the “human touch” to immediately address manufacturing problems at the moment they are detected. Employees are empowered to stop production line and solve problems without having to get permission from supervisors. But it’s not just about stopping production and fixing the immediate issue. It’s also about figuring out why the issue came to be in the first place, and working with teammates to prevent it from happening again.

There are four elements to Jidoka:

  1. Detect the abnormality.
  2. Stop.
  3. Fix or correct the immediate condition.
  4. Investigate the root cause and install a countermeasure.

The purpose, therefore, is that it makes possible the rapid or immediate address, identification and correction of mistakes that occur in a process.

Take for example this simple autonomation on the factory floor:

The problem of the containers tipping sideways could be fixed by the employee turning them upright every time, which fixes the immediate issue. But instead, the countermeasure of the rope reduces the odds of that same issue continuing to cause issues down the path. Toyota mastered this approach, and as a result, their cars are some of the most dependable (and lasting!) cars on the road.

Do you see the education analogy?

We can’t depend on formal assessments to detect “abnormalities” in student learning. We also can’t assume a packaged curriculum will address all student needs. Or think a personalized, adaptive computer program will fill in all the deficit areas.

We are the “human touch” students needs. The Jidoka.

When we let the tipped container of knowledge continue down the line, we have failed the child.

We are the ones that need to pull the cord and stop production if a child isn’t learning.

We are the ones who need to find a different method, a different resource, a different context to ensure that student’s needs are met.

We are the ones who need to reflect on our practice to determine why the learning isn’t happening.

And we are the ones who need to provide countermeasures to support each child’s growth.

We are the “human touch” students needs. The Jidoka.

Jidoka Source:
Autonomation on Wikipedia

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Use the [Internal] Force, Luke!

When people feel like they can experience success in a situation, they have more reason to put forth the effort to do so. If they feel like a situation is hopeless, or out of their control, why bother? This is the concept behind Attribution Theory. In other words, if I work hard (internal) at this, will I succeed? Or should I not bother because I know my boss never likes anything I do (external)?

This is why Carol Dweck is so popular in education circles. Dweck states that “individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning.”

Basically, people with a growth mindset use an internal locus of control to explain their successes and failures. Therefore, they are more motivated to put forth the effort needed to learn.

Use the Internal Force, Luke

In my post “I Believe in 28 out of 36 of You” I discussed Bandura and his research which shows how beliefs impact action. And that people with self-efficacy set their sights higher, try harder, persevere longer, and show more resilience in the face of failure. Sounds pretty internal, right? Not much to attribute to external forces there.

So when we talk about students and goals, how we frame the conversation has a profound impact not only on our perceived ability in their success, but also their own perceived ability in their success, which ultimately creates the conditions to internally and externally impact their success.

If we say 28 out of 36 students will pass, we can easily attribute the eight failures to external causes such as poverty or already being academically deficient when they walked in the door. But when our goal is for all students to increase their score by 20 points, external factors don’t carry the same weight. The goal requires an intentional, unrelenting focus on internal causes … on effort and belief and efficacy … for every student to feel and achieve success.

Become a Better Human.

My 15 year old daughter started a blog. A blog to encourage and empower teens based on her experiences and views of the world. Her second post is titled, “…like a girl.” In it, she talks about the negative impact the statement “like a girl” has on girls, and that girls are just as “strong and capable of anything as males are.” It was a positive message of self-worth.

And yet, within an hour of sharing it on my Facebook page, it was attacked. In one comment, she was told that “men are stronger than women and she should face the facts of biology.” Other, similar comments followed.

IMG_0379 3The dominant male voice was, ironically, reinforcing my daughter’s point: “Together as women, we are intelligent, beautiful, and powerful human beings that shouldn’t be trampled on by derogatory expressions.” His messages, even when couched in conciliatory statements like “Don’t get me wrong, great intent…”  sought to silence a young girl sharing her voice of empowerment by asserting superiority.

One thing I have learned from the voices rising up after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting is that there are people who assume power comes hand-in-hand with freedom, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to silence any oppositional voice.

Our society defines freedom as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” That’s the biggest paradox of freedom: if nothing restraints how each person behaves, it will be absolute chaos. The bully would be free to enslave the meek. It will eventually mean that only those at the top are free, and those at the bottom — the weak — are not.
Freedom is Not About Speaking Up but Choosing to be Silent

Our mission, as educators, is to build empathy and facilitate student voice and agency so they can positively advance the world. We want them to be, we need them to be, good humans. Better humans. Empathetic humans.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
– Nelson Mandela

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