Perhaps the best known example of what we are talking about in the manufacturing world today is the Chief Engineer for a car platform at Toyota (a job position also called the shusa). This individual is widely known by everyone in the company and takes responsibility for the success of the product in terms of return on investment and market share. Yet the Chief Engineer, like our proposed PLM, actually has no direct authority over marketing (which is done by a large marketing department), over engineering (which is done by the various parts of the large engineering department), over production (which is done by the operations department), and over suppliers (who are managed by the purchasing department, and the production control and logistics department.) Instead the Chief Engineer, working with a tiny group of assistants, is the one person who can “see the whole” and think about the necessary contributions from every functional activity and every upstream firm to create and deliver a successful product as judged by the end customer.
The PLM in the most downstream firm will be even more effective if there are similar individuals in each of the upstream firms so that for any product a quick evaluation can be conducted by a small group composed of one PLM per firm.
But this is not likely to be the case. Indeed, in today’s world very few firms have true PLMs. (One of our concerns in preparing this breakthrough guide has been that the very managers most able to benefit from it don’t currently exist in many firms!) Thus to get started, someone from one of the functional areas in the most downstream firm will probably need to take the lead and aim to achieve a breakthrough in consciousness. This individual probably will have little formal authority for overseeing the value stream and will therefore need to lead by example and by raising hopes about possible joint gains.
We can’t guarantee that anyone anywhere along a value stream can succeed in raising every participant’s consciousness to transform the entire stream. We can guarantee that anyone anywhere can raise the important issues and make constructive change a possibility where it was previously impossible … if they have the courage to act.
Anyone Can Start Anywhere
One of our most surprising experiences in developing this breakthrough guide was encountering the general manager of a supplier firm who had read Learning to See and then approached his OEM customers and his upstream suppliers proposing to jointly map their shared value streams.
Needless to say, the cus- tomers were a bit surprised at first because suppliers are rarely proactive about any- thing but selling their latest products. And the suppliers were surprised because they had previously only heard from this firm in the context of price negotiations. A proposal to jointly discuss the process of value creation was totally unexpected.
Nevertheless several customers and suppliers accepted the challenge. By jointly evaluating several sample streams they soon learned that the OEMs, the supplier, and the supplier’s suppliers were working at cross purposes on informa- tion management and conducting many activities in the wrong place at the wrong scale with a large cost penalty. Thus an effort by one firm mid-way along the value stream to raise consciousness caused all of the parties to think in new and more productive ways.