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"Human Wa【和】" and Standardized Work


In the chapter where Taiichi Ohno talks about standardized work, he concludes that applying standardized work correctly will develop “Human Wa【和】.”


The English version has translated 【和】as “harmony.”

It’s a good translation, but 【和】 has more meaning.


1️⃣ 【和】 is the original name of Japan

2️⃣ Calm

3️⃣ Mix of something different

4️⃣ Match of things like voice or pitch

5️⃣ Sum


As Ohno wrote, are we using standardized work to create such “Wa”?



In “Toyota Production System(1978),” Taiichi Ohno mentions developing “Human Wa【和】” through the implementation of standardized work.


What is 【和】?


When the Japanese met the Chinese for the first time, it sounded like the Japanese introduced themselves as people of “Wa.” The ancient Chinese initially assigned a different symbol for “Wa,” but as the Japanese learned the Chinese symbols, they chose 【和】. The country's name became “Yamato,” written as a large “Wa.” 【大和】Both are still used, like Japanese food is Washoku, and the Japanese Women's Soccer Team’s nickname comes from “Yamato Nadesiko.” The famous Manga “One Piece” recently finished its adventures in “Wa,” which the setting was in Japan.


【和】 is a core value of the Japanese.

The Seventeen-Article Constitution was published in 604 A.D. and starts with 以和爲貴, which means “Harmony 【和】is to be valued.” The opening phrase followed by “Do not rebel.” And, “When Top and Lower work together, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.” This phrase was originally from Confucianism. The Confucians used the phrase as part of courtesy, and the Japanese mixed it with Buddhism's “Harmony.” The first sentence of Toyota Principles (1935) is a modified version of this Constitution.


【和】is the original name of Japan and represents our core philosophy.


Since the Japanese have used the word 【和】 for a long time, it has many meanings. 【和】has many nuances. Here are some of those, according to the dictionary 小学館 デジタル大辞泉(1).


1️⃣ Peace without a fight, Harmony

2️⃣ Calm

3️⃣ Mix of something different

4️⃣ Match of things like voice or pitch

5️⃣ Sum

And what makes this more complicated is that the pronunciation differs. Words “Nagomu【和む】” or “Yawaragu 【和らぐ】.” Our language, Japanese, is very complicated.


But the importance is in the nuances. We can see the link to the standardized work by Taiichi Ohno.



2️⃣ Calm

Elimination of fluctuation or Mura

3️⃣ Mixing of something different

Multi-skilled operators, a Combination of Man & Machine

4️⃣ Match of things like voice or pitch

Line Balance to takt time

5️⃣ Sum

“Large Island,” ΣCT


  • Calm ➡️ Elimination of fluctuation or Mura

Fluctuations happen. Traditional thinking added allowance so that the operators could deal with it. TPS took a different path. They designed it so the operator pulls the Andon cord when the fluctuation happens. Then, the team leader responds immediately to help. After the help, the team leader will Kaizen the cause of fluctuation. This way, the processes become “calm.” “Nagi【和ぎ】” means peace of mind and heart. (For physical calmness, we use another symbol.) Besides, do you feel calm when we have so much fluctuation?


  • Mixing of something different ➡️ Multi-skilled operators, Combination of Man & Machine

“Specialization” creates efficiencies. This was the thought of the traditional manufacturing. But this didn’t create a “harmony.” Some will have more workload, while others will have less. To overcome this, TPS trained the operators to become multi-skilled. The “skills” were mixed. Mixing allows us to balance the workload among team members.


By the way, when we mix the food, one way to say is “Aeru【和える】.” Another sound of 【和】.


  • Match of things like voice or pitch ➡️ Line balance to takt time

【和】is used frequently in music. Chord is translated as 【和音】. Chant was translated as 【唱和】. And obviously, harmony and harmonics【和声】.

When the word “Takt” was introduced to Japanese manufacturing in the 1940s, the Japanese chose Haku【拍】, which means “beat or rhythm” for this word. And, it became the challenge to ensure all processes match this “beat.” In theory, everyone should start and end just like Philharmonie. Ohno's standardized work improved by changing the meaning of this “takt” to customer necessary quantity and providing help when a process is behind.


  • Sum ➡️ “Large Island”

Last but not least, 【和】means sum in mathematics.

But here, sum doesn’t mean to add up all the numbers of people. He is asking to Hakki【発揮】the teamwork. This Hakki means demonstrating a hidden capability, characteristics, or potential power. Ohno is trying to demonstrate the potential power of teamwork by implementing standardized work.



【和】 is a critical philosophy for the Japanese. And Taiichi Ohno mentioned this as part of the standardized work. Have we thought about using standardized work to create harmony among people? Maybe we need to take a deeper look at his advice.


(1) “わ【和】.” 小学館 デジタル大辞泉. 2024. https://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/word/kanji/和/ (25 January 2024).

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