Toyota Thinking is Hard to Copy

Dollars and Sense: Company leaders must drive innovation

Here’s a short and sweet commentary about the Toyota problem solving process, “Ohno Circles,” and mention of a new friend of the Lean Blog, Matthew May.

It asks, in part:

In American culture, we usually seek the quickest solutions to problems without considering the problem in-depth.

In general, we are not a culture that places a premium on the value of thinking. How many of us would have the patience to stand in an Ohno circle and observe a process for even four hours?

There’s one reason why Lean and TPS is so hard to copy, huh?

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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 book 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.

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3 Comments on "Toyota Thinking is Hard to Copy"

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  1. Eric says:

    You know..I dont believe this idea that Lean/TPS cant be accomplished by American workers. Frankly I dont think LEAN places a value on thinking. I think it places a value on doing EXACTLY as you are told. That may be the problem with American workers, who think their own ideas are more valuable than the companies (unless properly motivated.)

  2. Mark Graban says:

    Wow, Eric, where does that cynicism come from? Doing exactly what you’re told? That’s not “lean.” The Lean approach values the idea of doing things a standardized way, but the employees doing the work have a hand in creating that standard. That’s different than a manager telling people what to do. Employees also have a responsibility to improve the standard work — to “do what you told yourself to do” while also figuring out how to do it better.

    Now, plenty of bad managers have probably implemented “lean” as “do exactly what you’re told.” Lean shouldn’t be oppressive. If it is, it might be L.A.M.E. (“Lean as Misguidedly Executed”), as I’ve called it here.


  3. Mike T says:

    Having spent 6+ years learning and implementing Lean, I can say that if a person believes Lean is “doing EXACTLY as you are told”, that person has not been exposed to the true philosophy of Lean. He or she has only seen the portion management wanted to utilize (which would be horribly ineffectual, by the way.) It’s a shame, as that person is always the one going to other workers and other companies complaining about how Lean doesn’t work or respect people…

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