Toyota Thinking is Hard to Copy


    Dollars and Sense: Company leaders must drive innovation

    Here's a short and sweet commentary about the Toyota problem solving process, “Ohno Circles,” and mention of a new friend of the Lean Blog, Matthew May.

    It asks, in part:

    In American culture, we usually seek the quickest solutions to problems without considering the problem in-depth.

    In general, we are not a culture that places a premium on the value of thinking. How many of us would have the patience to stand in an Ohno circle and observe a process for even four hours?

    There's one reason why Lean and TPS is so hard to copy, huh?

    Please check out my main blog page at

    The RSS feed content you are reading is copyrighted by the author, Mark Graban.

    , , , on the author's copyright.

    What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

    Did you like this post? Make sure you don't miss a post or podcast — Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.

    Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

    Get New Posts Sent To You

    Select list(s):
    Previous articleNew Web Forum on Visual Management
    Next articleIs China’s Chery Lean?
    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. You know..I dont believe this idea that Lean/TPS cant be accomplished by American workers. Frankly I dont think LEAN places a value on thinking. I think it places a value on doing EXACTLY as you are told. That may be the problem with American workers, who think their own ideas are more valuable than the companies (unless properly motivated.)

    2. Wow, Eric, where does that cynicism come from? Doing exactly what you’re told? That’s not “lean.” The Lean approach values the idea of doing things a standardized way, but the employees doing the work have a hand in creating that standard. That’s different than a manager telling people what to do. Employees also have a responsibility to improve the standard work — to “do what you told yourself to do” while also figuring out how to do it better.

      Now, plenty of bad managers have probably implemented “lean” as “do exactly what you’re told.” Lean shouldn’t be oppressive. If it is, it might be L.A.M.E. (“Lean as Misguidedly Executed”), as I’ve called it here.


    3. Having spent 6+ years learning and implementing Lean, I can say that if a person believes Lean is “doing EXACTLY as you are told”, that person has not been exposed to the true philosophy of Lean. He or she has only seen the portion management wanted to utilize (which would be horribly ineffectual, by the way.) It’s a shame, as that person is always the one going to other workers and other companies complaining about how Lean doesn’t work or respect people…


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.