Can Toyota keep on truckin’?


Detroit Free Press Article

Great quote and imagery here from Gary Convis:

Gary Convis, the senior vice president of manufacturing in North America for Toyota Motor Corp., remembers well the first time he stepped into a Toyota plant.

A former Ford Motor Co. assistant plant manager, Convis was hired almost 23 years ago by Toyota and put on a plane the next day to Japan. When he walked into the company's Takaoka plant, Convis said, “To me, it was like looking at a symphony,” Convis said. “Everybody knew their instrument and their music. They knew when to come in and when not to come in.”

Things seems to “just work” but that doesn't mean it's easy. I used to play in orchestras through high school and that performance requires a lot of practice, standardization, but also a sense of art. Lean isn't just a science, it's really an art of leadership that is a major part of it. Some people have no ear or no rhythm (or both) and it just can't be taught. I wonder if the same thing isn't true with leaders sometimes also.

Remember, the phrase “takt” comes from a German musical term relating to tempo and pace. Music relies on the mathematical part of your brain very much. That's one reason why there were as many engineers in my college marching band as there were music majors. Music, like lean, is very mathmatical, but they both require some “feel” or “sense” that's harder to quantify and maybe even can't be learned if you're totally “tone deaf” (or the leadership equivalent of that).

Question for Ralf or another German reader… most of us Americans pronounce takt as “tacked” but a German friend told me once it really should be more like “tucked” with a hard emphasis on the first part of the word. Which is it? Just curious.

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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. hey mark,

    the pronounciation of takt is rather like “tucked” than “tacked”. Also the -ed at the end should be pronounced like the t at the beginning.


    Andreas from Germany


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