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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