Interesting Quote from Steve Spear


I recorded an upcoming LeanBlog Podcast with Steven J. Spear yesterday. He's promoting his new book Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance the Competition and How Great Companies Can Catch Up and Win. I'll post a full review, but initial reading is very fascinating (and I've heard some of the stories and the thesis of his book during a few of his speaking engagements). I think this is going to become required reading in the Lean world, his book. Has anyone read it yet?

So, I asked Steve about how he got started with Lean. When working for Toyota in Japan (in the 1980s), he was first sent to work the assembly line at a different company. This was done so, when he came to Toyota, they had “created the opportunity to be surprised.” Spear had to first see a non-Toyota factory so he could be surprised by how Toyota did things.

He generalized the comment and said that they key to Toyota's culture is “creating opportunities to be surprised.” What an interesting thought. Most companies hate surprised. They hate problems. I guess that's one of the fundamental differences that's hard to copy.

Oh, BTW, Spear has a blog now, too.

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1 Comment
  1. Andrew says


    Yes, I’ve read it. An amazing book in my opinion. It takes us beyond the level of tools and approaches to some “meta-tools”: the capabilities that underly Toyota (and other great organizations) success. Steve Spear and Kent Bowen actually laid out this frame work in their seminal article “The DNA of the Toyota Production System” (HBR, Sep-Oct 1999) where, among other things they describe the four rules and four capabilities of the Toyota Production System. The new book presents a series of tests of the theory – example after example of success and failure examined through the lens of the four capabilities.

    I don’t need to belabor it… you all need to read it!


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