LeanBlog Podcast #19 – Jim Womack, “The Machine That Changed the World” Revisited


Episode #19 of the Lean Blog Podcast brings the return of Jim Womack. Jim was sitting in Melbourne Australia, where he had been speaking about lean healthcare, a topic that we will discuss in a future podcast.

In this podcast, we talk about Jim's reflections on the book The Machine That Changed the World and its recent reissuing by the publisher (with updates). In the podcast, Jim not only talks about Toyota's success, but ways in which Toyota could fail or falter in the future. This is the first part of our discussion, I will release the second part in the upcoming weeks.

If you enjoy this podcast, I hope you'll check out the rest of the series by visiting the LeanBlog Podcast main page. Earlier podcasts with Jim can be found here (#12) and here (#13).

MP3 File

Show Notes and Approximate Time, Episode #19

  • 1:30 Jim's thoughts on “Machine,” written about “why the teams [GM, Ford, Chrysler] can't win the away games”
  • 1:55 The book before “Machine” was “The Future of the Automobile” (1984)
  • 2:15 The job of “Machine” was to describe a complete business system… “the biggest disappointment… was to have people tell me it was a great book about factories.”
  • 3:00 “You get the feeling that a lot of people read the book, but just that one chapter [on manufacturing].”
  • 3:50 Probably about a million copies sold so far
  • 4:00 The publisher said that 2007 is the year when Toyota is probably going to pass GM, so why don't we re-issue it?
  • 4:20 The new subtitle is “Why Toyota Won”
  • 4:45 “We've learned a lot since then… some of what we told you in the book is not exactly right, so we're thinking of it not exactly as a product recall, but as a model line enhancement. This is what might have been the 1991 model if we had done annual model changes.”
  • 5:30 Is there risk of a backlash with Toyota becoming #1? Jim talks about “ways in which Toyota could lose,” starting with manufacturing
  • 10:50 “They could go native”
  • 10:05 How Toyota could lose with the product development system (book by Al Ward)
  • 10:40 The Jeff Liker book on product development (“they are complements to each other,” Jim says): The Toyota Product Development System: Integrating People, Process And Technology
  • 14:30 How Toyota could fail with their dealer system
  • 15:45 Jim's essay on farmers and hunters
  • 22:40 GM and the X-cars (info here and here)
  • 24:10 Jim asks, “Can Toyota screw up? For the short term, the answer is no, for the long term, absolutely!”
  • 24:30 “Most any other company would be fat, dumb, and happy.”
  • 24:50 What about the excuses the Big 3 make about currency factors, etc.?
  • 25:30 How the Big 3 are like the Detroit Lions

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.

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1 Comment
  1. Ralf says

    Hi Mark,
    hi JIm,

    again it is a pleasure to listen to the podcast this time on the new version of “The Machine that Changed the World”:-)

    You are quite right, that the manufacturing view is still omnipresent and that is -seems to be quite clear- not the essential part of Lean Thinking. As there is a decreasing part of manufacturing on the complete work in industrial nations and the service industries are strongly increasing there is a necessity to bring Lean Thinking to that areas more quickly.

    As always in life the change is difficult to achieve especially with habits that are -at first sight- normal and good enough to proceed with (without any change:-)).

    Looking forward to a German version in the new future to be able to accelerate the Lean efforts here in Germany (mostly in middle management and at the shop floor).

    Looking forward to hold the new book in my hands soon keep up the awesome work.

    Best regards from Leipzig


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