"The Customer Is God"



This quote came from a frenetic Tom Peters slide deck (link above, see slide #14).


That sounds pretty much a lean philosophy to me. Make only what the customer wants, when she wants it, and how she wants it. The market decides everything, including the price of your product (you can't just take your costs and tack on your “entitled” profit).

Is this quote from Toyota? Is it from an American company?


It's a banner hanging at the Hua Xin Dress Co, Ltd., in the Rongcheng Industry Zone.

You know what scares me more than China's low costs? China figuring out lean faster and better than us Americans have.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Hmmmm, I’m always concerned when people chant any mantra that “customer is king” or “customer is God.”

    As Dr. Deming points out in The New Economics: “There is much talk about the customer’s expectations. Meet the customer’s expectations. The fact is that the customer expects only what you and your competitor have led him to expect.

    He goes on to point out that “the customer generates nothing” and then points out many of the things we enjoy today that were never asked for by a customer: electric lights, fax, telephone, tires with air (and we could add wireless phones, internet, blogs, email, iPods … the list goes on).

    Personally as I look at the “lean movement” this appears to be somewhat of a blind spot in the philosophy and may be the key reason why many lean companies go out of business: they spend too much time listening to the customer of today when they need to be creating the customer of the future.

  2. Dear Mark,

    “The customer is God” was stated by Konosuke Matsushita, founder of Matsushita Electric Corporation in Japan and reflects the relation between buyer and seller. In Japan the buyer always have a superior position towards the seller which means what ever the customer request is, it needs to be full filled. This how customer’s being seen in Japan.

    See also link

    Tokyo Marketing & Communication Ltd.

    Jens Gulich

  3. Eric’s comments about the customer are interesting. I see his point.

    However, I believe that if we truly listen to our customers, not just hear them, we would be led to the future. This is the genesis of innovation. If I hear my customer complaining about something, rather than listen to their complaint, I am likely only to meet their current need. If I listen to the complaint, strive to achieve the root cause, and pursue continuous improvement even once I have a solution, I will be pushing the barrier between now and the future.

    With respect to Eric, I think one of the reasons why Lean fails so often is we get complacent. We’ve met customer expectations, so there is no need to pursue continuous improvement. That is why the customer of the future catches us off-guard.

  4. I do not agree for both, “customer is God” and ” customer is Kig”. really customer can not do any thing. according to economics, customer is a price taker, not the price maker. what i feel is customer is an actor who acts acording to the script of the Market.


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