Should Your COO Learn Japanese?


By Bill Waddell

(Note from Mark Edmondson: Here's a recent article written by LEAN Affiliate Bill Waddell that I think many of you will find interesting.)

The terms “Lean Manufacturing” and “Japanese” are hardly synonymous. This may come as a shock to a number of manufacturers, and even more consultants, who seem to think that a prerequisite to becoming lean is rote memorization of the Japanese language. In fact, the originators of the Toyota Production System were very forthcoming that they learned it all from Henry Ford.

Most Americans think that Ford's great contribution to manufacturing was the assembly line, but there is no mention of assembly lines in Shigeo Shingo or Taiichi Ohno's writings about the Toyota manufacturing powerhouse. Rather, the principles learned from Ford that made an impression with Ohno and Shingo are based on the relentless pursuit of continuous flow, absolute quality, and effective synchronization. The economic objective Ford, and later Toyota focused on was continually improving real cash flow, rather than the theoretical objective of Return On Investment.

But while Americans are memorizing the seven types of ‘muda' (waste) and proclaiming their lean experts to be ‘sensei', these principles learned from Ford were lost on the American manufacturing community. It turns out they were lost on much of the Japanese manufacturing community, as well…

What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

Did you like this post? Make sure you don't miss a post or podcast — Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.

Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

Get New Posts Sent To You

Select list(s):
Previous articleSunday’s Demand Spike for Pizza
Next articleRebuilding US Manufacturing
Mark Edmondson
Mark Edmondson is passionate about achieving rapid, breakthrough results during a company’s lean transformation. With 30 years of front-line experience while working with over 80 companies, Mr. Edmondson developed a philosophy of helping companies create a culture that sustains operational excellence through low cost yet transformative changes.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.