Toyota’s Training Center


Toyota University Opens Admissions to Outsiders –

The headline is a bit misleading, it should say “Toyota Opens, Then Closes Admissions to Outsiders.” The WSJ article is about the Toyota University site in Gardenia CA. It had been open to paying outsiders (or free students from the police or military). Toyota has such internal demand now for the lean classes, that they have shut it off from outsiders.

Based in Gardena, Calif., the Toyota program was started in 1998 to train the company's employees in its distinctive business philosophy and “lean-thinking” approach to producing cars.

Here's the example of teaching problem solving to the LAPD:

In 2005, Capt. Findley cast about for ideas to streamline the LAPD's jail division, a hub of inefficiency and low morale. A converted Cmdr. Downing recommended the Toyota program.

For the two dozen hard-nosed officers, the connection between making cars and processing thugs came slowly. Matthew May, a Toyota instructor, coaxed them along by asking questions like: “If you were a part of a car, what would you be?” The discussion led to discovering the most important part of any machine: The part that isn't working.

This helped the officers zero in on a persistent problem. If a prisoner awaiting processing at an outlying jail asked for treatment, protocol dictated they had to be taken to a regional jail first. Once treatment was done there, the officer had to take the prisoner back to the outlying jail for booking. Applying Toyota thinking, the officers realized they could save a lot of time by booking prisoners first at the outlying jail. A different officer could then take the prisoner for treatment, freeing the arresting officer to go back out on the streets.

I guess it can be assumed that a criminal is not the “customer” of the jail process. See below for a link to an “A3 Report” that was done by the LAPD students (it was hosted on the WSJ site, but I am also hosting it). I don't see a copyright restriction on the A3, so here you go:

A3 Report Example (ppt file)

Toyota's methods won't solve all the jail's problems, of course. It remains short-staffed and will soon have to contend with even more bookings in a new crackdown on gangs, but Mr. May says the LAPD's strides prove Toyota's methods can be adapted elsewhere. “If you can do it with LAPD,” he says, “you can do it anywhere.”

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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. I believe the A3 to be highly flexible and able to adopt and adapt to existing structures within the business. For example, I posted the following article on one of my blogs:

    Integration of A3 into the DMAIC framework ( In it I suggest that you can overlay the DMAIC framework with A3 to give us:


    1. Theme & Background, including problem statement


    2. Current Condition (process map)


    3. Root Cause Analysis


    4. Target Condition
    5. Implementation Plan


    6. Follow-up Plan
    7. Results Report

    This gives you a much more powerful approach than merely A3 alone. You can now use the DMAIC tools in the correct context and most appropriate stage. It also allows you to overcome some of the limitations which have been leveled at the DMAIC approach.



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