Exploring the Principles of ‘The Toyota Way’ and Lean Leadership: Insights from Dr. Jeffrey Liker – LeanBlog Podcast #3


Here is the third LeanBlog Podcast, featuring Dr. Jeffrey Liker, Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineerring at the University of Michigan. Dr. Liker is very well known in the lean world and is a leader in studying Toyota's own practices and management approaches. More information about Dr. Liker and his books can be found in the show notes, below.

For earlier episodes, visit the main Podcast page, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS or via Apple Podcasts.

MP3 File

Part 2 of the interview (Podcast #4) can be found here.

LeanBlog Podcast #3 Show Notes and Approximate Timeline

  • 1:45 What originally got Liker into studying Toyota — product development and supplier interaction.
  • 3:58 Liker: “What do you see when you go on a tour? You see the factories. The see the factory's cleaner, it's better organized, the workers seem to be working hard a very engaged… so what Americans saw was really on the surface, so what they copied was on the surface.”
  • 5:06 Are people working on less surfacy issues now? Liker talks about the move toward “lean enterprise.”
  • 6:08 Back in 2000, Liker was quoted as saying “50% of auto suppliers are talking lean, 2% are actually doing it.” How do you think those numbers have changed today?
  • 7:18 Liker: “What they've done is used individual tools.”
  • 8:02 What about companies who claim to “implement” lean in 13 weeks?
  • 8:33 Liker discusses how Toyota develops leaders in advance of opening a new plant. How long will it take the new San Antonio plant to become a true lean factory?
  • 10:58 Can you pick and choose which of the Toyota Way 14 points that you use?
  • 11:08 Liker discusses mixed feelings about “creating your own system,” good in theory, but the risk is you just pick and choose isolated practices. The goal really is to become a learning organization.
  • 13:18 Liker: “We're not putting in the kanban system to eliminate inventory.” Liker discusses the balance between short-term gains and building a lean learning culture
  • 16:03 Liker uses the phrase “Genchi Genbutsu” (or “go and see”)
  • 16:08 Do you sometimes have to drag senior management out to the shopfloor?
  • 17:22 Liker discusses how finance-driven companies drive metrics that interfere with lean. How has Toyota worked to set up an accounting system that supports the Toyota Production System?
  • 20:28 Are there other Toyota Way Principles that companies struggle with?
  • 22:33 Liker uses the phrase “hansei” (or “reflection”).
  • 24:03 Why Toyota thinks you can't “implement a perfect lean system.”

If you have feedback on the podcast, or any questions for me or my guests, you can email me at leanpodcast@gmail.com or you can call and leave a voicemail by calling the “Lean Line” at (817) 993-0630 or contact me via Skype id “mgraban”. Please give your location and your first name. Any comments (email or voicemail) might be used in follow ups to the podcast.

Here is an amazon.com link to Dr. Liker's books and in particular:

Dr. Liker's consulting firm, Optiprise, can be found here.

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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.


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