How Toyota Turns Workers Into Problem Solvers – Differences between Toyota and GM

HBS Working Knowledge:

Steven Spear is asked what makes a good TPS-style manager, he says it all comes down to problem solving.

“The team leader and group leader were capable of teaching these [problem solving] skills in a directed, learn-by-doing fashion, because they too were consistently trained in a similar fashion by their immediate senior. We found that in the best TPS-managed plants, there was a pathway of learning and teaching that cascaded from the most senior levels to the most junior. In effect, the needs of people directly touching the work determined the assistance, problem solving, and training activities of those more senior. This is a sharp contrast, in fact a near inversion, in terms of who works for whom when compared with the more traditional, centralized command and control system characterized by a downward diffusion of work orders and an upward reporting of work status.”

Reading about the GM management shakeup this week, with CEO Rick Wagoner also taking on the GM North America President responsibilities, the move was characterized as a way of “making sure all the decisions run through him” and to “shorten the lines of communication and decision-making” (Detroit News). For all the talk of GM copying Toyota at an operational level, the differences in management philosophies couldn’t be more stark. At GM, information flows up, where the smart people up top make all the decisions apparently.

Does the TPS mentality that Spear describes flow all the way to the top? Is Toyota CEO Fujio Cho the “chief teacher” or the “chief decision maker”? Do both models have equal merit, does it depend on the situation, or is Toyota’s model clearly better?

Please check out my main blog page at www.leanblog.org

The RSS feed content you are reading is copyrighted by the author, Mark Graban.

, , , on the author’s copyright.


Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please scroll down to post a comment. Click here to receive posts via email.


Now Available – The updated, expanded, and revised 3rd Edition of Mark Graban’s Shingo Research Award-Winning Book Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Engagement. You can buy the book today, including signed copies from the author.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Please consider leaving a comment or sharing this post via social media.

Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Post a Comment

CommentLuv badge