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Teaching the Toyota Way

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The ‘Toyota Way' Is Translated for a New Generation of Foreign Managers – New York Times

Here's a very good article from the NY Times, a few days ago, that talks about Toyota's relatively new process training worldwide managers in The Toyota Way principles.

As reports abound of Toyota's quality slipping, one reason given is that Toyota has grown too quickly for the Toyota Way to remain consistently applied.

“There is a sense of danger,” said Koki Konishi, a Toyota general manager who heads the institute. “We must prevent the Toyota Way from getting more and more diluted as Toyota grows overseas.”

It's interesting to see this problem in Toyota. We certainly see the Toyota Way (or the Toyota Production System or Lean) diluted as other companies adopt it. We see the ill effects of companies implementing just parts of TPS or moving away from core concepts (such as companies that wrongly use kaizen efforts to drive layoffs).

An illustration of that concept within Toyota:

“…some executives like Mr. Konishi complain of managers at Toyota factories who have not adhered to some of the company's most basic creeds, like allowing workers to stop factory lines when they spot defects. Empowering factory workers has long been central to Toyota's quality control.”

The article focuses on an American manager, Latondra Newton, who works at Toyota's Erlanger, Kentucky headquarters. It traces, in part, her journey of understanding the Toyota Way. In part, it talks about the practice of openly tracking individual metrics on the wall, something Latondra was, at first, very uncomfortable with:

This is part of the Toyota Way. The idea is not to humiliate, but to alert co-workers and enlist their help in finding solutions. It took a while for Ms. Newton, a general manager at Toyota's North American manufacturing subsidiary, to take this fully to heart. But now she is a convert.

“For Americans and anyone, it can be a shock to the system to be actually expected to make problems visible,” said Ms. Newton, a 38-year-old Indiana native who joined Toyota after college 15 years ago and now works at the North American headquarters in Erlanger, Ky. “Other corporate environments tend to hide problems from bosses.”

The article also highlights how Toyota is evolving (kaizening??) their culture as they become a more global company:

Toyota's culture, she said, is still grounded in a Japanese-oriented brand of group-think. But in some cases, Toyota has also adapted it to fit American culture, she said, dropping group calisthenics at American factories, for example, although that is still common at Japanese plants.

Interesting stuff. Thinking to your own workplace, one challenge or question: Does your workplace (and leadership) support the open display and solving of problems, or do you cover things up, make things look good??

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent book is an anthology titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus. His next book, to be released in 2018, is Measures of Success.

2 Comments
  1. Anonymous says

    Interesting article…

    Does anyone know what those “colored bar charts” are? When I visited Georgetown, all I saw with individual names on it was the TWI-Job-Instruction-style training matrix.

    I suppose this could be an individual performance measure in that it has target dates for training, but it is not a color bar chart…

  2. Mark Graban says

    Where were those charts? I don’t see it in the pictures with the article or in the accompanying slide show.

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