Ford Folks Finally Reading TPS Books?


    Teaming up may aid Ford, Toyota

    Another article about potential collaboration between Ford and Toyota. One tidbit:

    The grapevine buzz has it that the former Boeing leader is prompting his managers to read books on the Toyota Production System, the de facto standard for lean manufacturing based on the philosophy of achieving more with and for less, and on building quality into every step of every process.

    Have the Ford people NOT been reading books about Lean and TPS so far?? I doubt it. I love books, but books aren't enough. On that topic, here's a Lean Board discussion about about Toyota Way book clubs, including a “book club” method I posted about. The “Lean Builder” blog has some summaries of Chapter 7 and Chapter 8 of The Toyota Way.

    Ironically enough, the writer of the article has a relatively new book out that combines two hot topics: Toyota and the “innovation” buzzword. Has anyone read it yet?

    The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation

    The article continues:

    Coming from Boeing, Mulally is a known believer and practitioner of lean concepts. But instilling such a system from Square One in an enormous organization, burdened by layers of bureaucracy, presents a new and different challenge. Too, he needs to learn first-hand how to apply the Toyota mindset to vehicle design. He must work to shrink development cycles to deliver relevant new products faster.

    Is the state of lean at Ford really “Square One” after all this time? What about the “Ford Production System?” What about Henry Ford's Production System. It's not like Mulally is going into an industry where nobody has ever heard of lean. Hell, Ford, the company, and Ford, the man, invented some of the concepts.

    Did Boeing only use lean as a manufacturing method, ala “lean manufacturing?” The article says that Mulally needs to learn how to apply TPS to vehicle design. Learning to apply it to “vehicle design” or “product design”, which is he learning?

    Is Mulally reading this book? Or had he already read it?

    The Toyota Product Development System: Integrating People, Process And Technology

    Anyone have input?

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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. On a different note.

      Late 2002 I had a meeting with Toyota F1 and I remember telling me that they aimed to become F1 world champion within 5 years. 2007 should be the year according to their plan. Being a Ferrari supporter I hope that won’t happen. We shall see.


    2. I own the book, “The Elegant Solution”. It makes some interesting points in the first few Chapters. (I haven’t read beyond that). The author says the following:

      The TPS is an elegant solution, the manifest outcome of an invisible discipline around innovative problem solving.

      He also mentions Toyota’s textile roots:

      3 underlying principles ot Sakichi Toyoda’s loom
       Ingenuity in craft
       Pursuit of perfection
       Fit with society

      The Definition of the Elegant Solution:

      Elegant Solution=one in which the optimal or desired effect is achieved with the least amount of effort

      A few other tidbits:

      Work like an artist. Work like a scientist.

      Ingenuity is equal parts creativity and application.

      The right question is far more important than the right answer
      New School Rules
       Question everything. Then do it again.
       Start every conversation with a question. Even if the conversation is with yourself
       Answer every question with a question
       Ask at least one dumb question in every meeting
       Begin every idea, recommendation, or suggestion as a question
       Have three questions you always ask someone
       Develop the single question that drives your work

    3. Of course Ford people have been reading Toyota System books for quite some time, but reading the books and being able to change the management system of a large company like Ford is two different things. I think I read a blog on Lean’s dirty little secret recently that suggested it is much easier to do Lean in a growing company…. Having Respect for People and not cutting workforce when you make improvements has not been done at Ford with the shrinking of market share. The term vicious cycle comes to mind when I think about Ford’s poor management style, shrinking market share and inability to really get TPS culture across the company.

    4. Lester, you are absolutely right. It is so much easier to do lean when you can use freed up people and space for growth. That way, you don’t kill lean efforts by having to lay people off.

      It’s better with hospitals…. there is such a shortage of skilled lab techs and nurses, that the hospitals HAVE to get more efficient. There’s no reason to lay people off because they’re already struggling to find enough good employees as it is.

      I might pick on Ford, but I don’t mean to demean anyone and the very difficult and real challenges that people face there every day.


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