This American Life had a great show on the NUMMI car plant, a remarkable joint venture between Toyota and GM. It sheds light on many of the reasons for the decline of GM and the American labor movement. More generally, it’s a story of a successful innovation that failed to spread, due to policy resistance, inability to confront worse-before-better behavior and other dynamics.
I noticed elements of a lot of system dynamics work in manufacturing. Here’s a brief reading list:
- Workers fear improving themselves out of a job
- TQM improvements can undercut themselves when they interact with existing organizational systems
- Firefighting is a trap that keeps lines running in a low-productivity state
- Engineering and production don’t get along (I think there’s more on this in Daniel Kim’s thesis)
- Systems have trouble making far-sighted decisions when confronted with worse-before-better behavior (but there might be good reasons)