Teaching TPS in the US


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This is a great Q&A with Seizo Okamoto – president of Toyota's truck plant in Princeton Indiana focusing on the challenges of teaching the Toyota Production System to US workers.

The focus on teaching as the best method to continue learning is very clearly communicated throughout Mr. Okamoto's responses. He also stresses challenging teams with questions rather than dictating answers, the necessity to implement TPS as a total system, and maintaining the goal using TPS tools to surface issues (not necessarily to cut heads or reduce cost!).

Here is the best question and answer from the article:

Q. Is it different teaching the Toyota Production System to American team members than it is to teach it to Japanese?

A. It's not so different. Americans are eager to learn. American team members are more serious about job security, so their motivation is higher than that of the Japanese. The Japanese are more obedient to the boss. Americans show more individual initiative. Once they understand why we have to continue kaizen, we get a much better result than you'd expect.

Makes you wonder, with greater eagerness to lean, more motivation due to job security worries and with all that initiative why have the domestics not been able to latch onto the same successes through kaizen? There can't be many excuses left…

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Luke Van Dongen
Luke, an auto industry engineering veteran, blogged here from 2005 to 2006.


  1. Could it be that most companies fail with lean because they’re focusing only on cost, namely labor…. they starting laying people off as soon as they can. What better way to kill any enthusiasm for kaizen. The problem isn’t with American workers, it’s with dopey American management.


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