GE Podcast with Katie Anderson

Andon That Note Podcast Interview with Katie Anderson

The podcast episode that inspired Larry Culp, CEO of GE, to read and recommend my book Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn: Lessons from Toyota Leader Isao Yoshino on a Lifetime of Continuous Learning.

Earlier this year I was invited to be a guest for an internal General Electric (GE) podcast (with the fabulous name and play on words for all you lean aficionados) “Andon that Note” with Brette Smith and LaToya Moore, continuous improvement leaders at GE. We talked about key takeaways from my award-winning book Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn and how leaders at all levels can embrace a continuous improvement mindset and set their teams up for long-term success.

Fast forward to September 2022 when I received a dozen messages in my email and LinkedIn inboxes from colleagues at GE saying that GE CEO Larry Culp had just sent a message to all GE employees (nearly 170,000 of them!) that he had just read my book and highly recommended it to everyone to read.

It was a huge honor to know that he’d read – and enjoyed the book – enough so to recommend it to all GE employees!

Just a few weeks later, after I posted on LinkedIn that I was thrilled for Larry’s endorsement of Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn that:

Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn was endorsed by Larry Culp, CEO of General Electric as a “highly recommended” book to all the employees in his company!

His team reached out to me to see if I would be interested in leading a “Fireside Chat” discussion with Larry to talk about my book and his leadership at GE through lean at the Association for Manufacturing Excellence Summit in Dallas, where we were both scheduled to attend (he to give a keynote and me to be part of the AME author showcase and represent the AME San Francisco Bay Area Consortium that I lead).

Of course, I said yes!

It turns out, as I learned from Larry himself on stage, that he had heard my Andon That Note podcast episode and was inspired by several comments I made about getting leadership alignment through hoshin kanri (strategy deployment) and a leader’s role, that he brought my book along as part of his summer vacation reading!

(See my LinkedIn post here.)

Reflections on Fireside Chat with Larry Culp

I will share more reflections from the Fireside Chat discussion with Larry Culp, his key takeaways from Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn, and what I learned about Larry’s approach to leadership and lean in future articles. In the meantime, I wanted to share my Andon That Note podcast – with the words that inspired one of the world’s most prominent CEOs to read and recommend my book – with you!

Being able to amplify Mr. Yoshino’s wisdom and insights from important moments in Toyota’s history in becoming the successful learning organization we know today – with the world means so much to me. Of course, it means so much to know that my words have influenced Larry Culp and led him to recommend Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn among his top leadership books (including Good to Great and The Machine that Changed the World).

I love partnering with companies to share what I’ve learned about how to apply and practice these principles to create a people-centered learning culture.

I am so grateful to Larry Culp and GE for embracing the messages of Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn and inspiring so many leaders and senior executives to embrace lean leadership as the way to achieve important business results.

Andon That Note Podcast Episode: Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn

Listen to the Full Episode!

Dive into this podcast to hear …

  • The differences between lean leaders and traditional leaders
  • Lean tools versus Lean management styles and philosophies
  • What is a leader’s role and purpose
  • The importance of going to gemba
  • How to do “what’s needed” versus “what’s decided” and learning how to best support employees
  • How to maintain “self awareness” as a leader and develop and Chain of Learning
  • The process of creating Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn
  • Lessons on making mistakes from Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn
  • Understanding lean management from a traditional leader perspective

“Andon” That Note – Clever Play on Words

The name of this podcast always makes me laugh as it’s such a great Lean insider play on words.

The Japanese word “andon” actually means “signal”. Below is an excerpt from my book Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn on the meaning and significance of this word and how it is used at Toyota:

“Andon” in Japanese means light or lamp. In this case, the worker triggers a light on the shop floor to signal that they need help to resolve a problem on the line.*

Originally at Toyota, andons were actual cables that workers would pull in the event of a quality problem or an issue impacting their ability to complete the task in the allocated amount of time. Later, at many factories, these cables to pull became buttons to press. The purpose of the “pull the andon” system is to make sure that the worker at each station will send only a good quality car to the next station. A key concept behind this practice is that a worker is also a quality inspector and has responsibility to not pass defects or errors down the line. And it also reinforces the importance of the team and group leader responsibilities to support the workers on the line and respond with help.

When line workers find a defect on the car, their responsibility is to try to correct it before it leaves their station. However, if they believe that they cannot finish the correction while the car is in their own area, the worker should pull the andon cable for help.

When the andon cable is pulled, a signal — often a light and/or sound — is made and the team leader is expected to immediately go to the station of the worker who is having trouble and help resolve the issue. When the problem is resolved, the team leader turns off the andon light.

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