Toyota’s Video Showing How TPS Helps Healthcare; Recent NASA Report Exonerates Toyota?


Toyota has produced a series of videos that show how their innovations, technology and otherwise, have benefitted people outside of automobiles.

One video that caught my eye was their 80-second video about the use of Lean and the Toyota Production System principles to improve care at Allegheny General Hospital in Pennsylvania.

Update: The video seems to be no longer available, unfortunately.

Allegheny is the hospital where Dr. Richard Shannon did such innovative infection reduction work using Lean methods, as documented in sources including Naida Grunden's book The Pittsburgh Way to Efficient Healthcare: Improving Patient Care Using Toyota Based Methods. You can listen to my podcast with Naida here.

In the Toyota video, Nancy Banks explains that the Toyota Way is:

  1. Continuous Improvement and
  2. Respect for People

Banks adds:

“If you have a process, you can improve it. That's what TPS is all about.”

She explains that errors and defects are often caused by inconsistency, waste, and overburden. Lean and TPS helps people reduce these problems in any setting, including healthcare. Some use the Japanese words of mura, muda, and muri. Often, the emphasis is on muda (waste), but it's important to focus on the other two. For example, overburden leads to errors or leads to people being forced to cut corners to be able to get things done, which also often leads to errors.

Until the “unintended acceleration” problems, Toyota has been known for and associated with high quality over the past 20 years or more. But, recently, this reputation has taken a nasty tumble.

In recent news, Toyota has been somewhat (or completely?) vindicated by the NASA report that shows none of the vehicle accidents were caused by electronics problems or throttle control problems (read this article from the outstanding writer Ed Wallace, from my local Fort Worth paper: “Mainstream media owe Toyota an apology“). Maybe now people have to be less apologetic for Toyota's association with quality improvement efforts? Maybe we can focus more on what's wrong with our opportunistic politicians and our oft-hysterical media? You might also want to listen to my recent podcast with Jeffrey Liker on this topic.

Is Toyota less of a dirty word in your organization with the recent reports? Or did you not even hear of this in the media? Or have people not been wound up about mentioning Toyota or TPS in your workplace?

What do you think of the Toyota video? Did you cringe at “we had to standardize everything” as an inaccurate oversimplification, as I did? I doubt they really standardized everything to the n-th degree, but rather they focused on things that mattered for patient outcomes and for freeing up nurse time for patient care.

People from the hospital mentioned how you're always making things better and you're improving everyday, with Lean and TPS – a powerful and important message. One woman added:

“Toyota has changed my outlook on healthcare. I have a lot of hope where I didn't have hope before.”

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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 recall a bevy of NASA scientists sitting at a long table expounding and pontificating about the exhaustive testing which had been carried out to find the elusive cause of the Space Shuttle Challenger accident.

    Then Richard Feynman poured ice water into a glass……..

    Sometimes the answers are far simpler than what we were expecting.

  2. […] Pedal and I find it curious that the gavel of justice was held by none other than NASA. See Mark Graban’s Leanblog for more […]

  3. When I work with groups on Lean, whether it be training or events, I have a discussion about Toyota and their recent issues. I think it’s important to get that discussion on the table and talk frankly about what happened. My take has always been that Toyota taught us how TPS and Lean work, and they are the masters of this process. They are also human and make mistakes. Seeking perfection does not mean perfection has been reached, and that’s OK. Despite the problems, though, the Toyota Production System is the basis for what we teach – not “Japanese” or “automotive” or any other sources that can be used to distance ourselves from Toyota. It’s Toyota. And it should remain so.

    • Dean – I’ve had many similar discussions with people in the last 18 months. I’ve made the same points as you did and as Toyota’s CEO did – it’s not a failure of TPS, but rather a company that grew too fast and got away from its roots.

      But the latest reports and Jeff Liker’s book seem to suggest that Toyota really didn’t do very much wrong… I guess the media and politicians make mistakes too, including fomenting hysteria and jumping to conclusions.

      Yes, you can argue that Toyota reacted slowly, but it seems they have less to be ashamed of than previously thought.

  4. Great points, Mark. I discuss a few things about Toyota with groups, including the opinion that being the number one car company and being a Japanese company makes them a target. And that the recall numbers are not significantly different than other car companies with similar issues. On the other hand, I don’t want to be a Toyota apologist, since there were mistakes made and people were injured as part of the accelerator problems. So I separate TPS from some of the growth/expansion/culture issues so they don’t distract from the lessons we can learn.

  5. In addition to manufacturing and health care operations, there is a lot of elimination of waste potential in managing your administrative value streams: finance, human resources, document management, information technology, training and a host of others.


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