What’s A Shingo Journey?

What’s A Shingo Journey?

If youve read the Shingo newsletter or attended any Shingo event, you’ve probably heard the term “Shingo Journey.” That phrase can take on various meanings, depending on context, and it’s important to understand what it ought to mean when someone claims that their organization is on the Shingo Journey.

 Sometimes people use the term “Shingo Journey” to refer to the development of an individual as he or she progresses through the six Shingo workshops. Most often, though, it is used in reference to the improvement efforts of a facility or even an entire organization.

Shingo Journey in the General Sense

A Shingo Journey might more accurately be termed a Shingo evolution because it is a never-ending effort toward excellence. Generally, people are referring to the learning and subsequent work that takes place when an organization has decided to incorporate the Shingo Model™ into its understanding of organizational excellence. It means that the organization has begun to build and adjust systems to drive the behaviors which make up its culture ever closer to the ideal. It also means the organization has begun to use the Shingo Guiding Principles to help define what “ideal” means in any given situation.

We often refer to it as a journey to acknowledge the time and effort it takes organizations to accomplish the transformation. Without directed effort, the natural state of things is entropy, or disorder and a lessening in ability. Continuous improvement efforts in general are an opposing force to battle entropy and it requires concerted time and effort.

Three Activities to Incorporate

More than anything else, any Shingo Journey takes a tremendous amount of work. In order to be effective, that work must be directed by the right philosophies, principles, and caliber of thought, which must be acquired, maintained, and tested.

Accordingly, three different types of activities will keep an organization’s journey on track and moving forward: 1) initial learning (training), 2) maintenance, and 3) assessment.


1.     Training. The best way to get a deep understanding of the Shingo Model is by learning from an experienced instructor and then seeing the principles applied in real-life situations. The Shingo workshops are designed to provide a solid foundation in theory and then to expand that foundation with a visit to a host facility to talk with team members and assess a real-life situation. Attendees come away with the confidence to apply their new knowledge at their own organization.


2.     Maintenance. Any knowledge must be refreshed periodically with new problem-solving approaches, new enthusiasm, and new acquaintances with whom to exchange ideas. That’s what makes Shingo conferences and study tours so vital to continuous improvement initiatives. The burst of new ideas and energy you receive from these types of activities can mean the difference between burn-out and continuing success.


3.     Assessment. This is the assessment of your organization’s culture; the behaviors that determine sustainability. While many organizations choose to accomplish this by challenging for the Shingo Prize, it’s not the only way. There are organizations that self-assess after they’ve been on their Shingo Journey for a while. To aid in this type of self-assessment, there is an online tool available to give an internal perspective of how an organization measures up to the Shingo Model and to help identify gaps to fix. It’s called Shingo Insight™ and it measures the opinions of team members, managers, and executives by asking them about specific situations they see within the organization.

 The Shingo Model Makes the Difference

What’s the difference between a Shingo Journey and any other continuous improvement journey? The Shingo Model. The three types activities listed above are centered on the Shingo Model, which articulates how principles, systems, tools, and results work together to create a sustainable culture of organizational excellence.

Just as no two cultures are alike, no two Shingo Journeys are alike either. Organizations gain knowledge and momentum at differing rates, leaders choose to adapt new methods at varying speeds, budgets allow for more or less training. Regardless of how quickly or slowly an organization transforms, the important thing is that the journey never ends.

The most successful organizations we see keep training and maintenance activities moving at a fairly steady rate. They may send a group to Lean training one quarter and then send a few managers to the Shingo Conference the next quarter. Training and maintenance activities simply serve to keep the momentum strong. Between those activities is where all the real work of transformation happens.

Your First Steps on the Journey

One of the most common questions we hear from organizations new to continuous improvement is “Where should we begin?” The truth is that it matters less where you begin your journey and more that you actually begin it. We usually recommend that individuals start by taking the series of Shingo workshops presented by Shingo Licensed Affiliates. Or, attend the Shingo Conference or a Shingo Study Tour to obtain new learning and ideas. Another option is to simply put the Shingo Model booklet into the hands of managers and executives in your organization.

The idea is that you begin to make improvements to your systems that make it easier for team members to do the right things; that drive the ideal behaviors. Make it a part of your organization’s culture to examine and improve systems rather than to find fault with individuals.

The Shingo Guiding Principles resonate with people. Use them as your lead-in to help get things changing in your organization. As your understanding of the Shingo Model deepens, you’ll begin to understand how your organization’s systems and tools, when aligned to the correct principles, shape its culture and help it to achieve sustainable results.

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