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I made a few tweaks to the content of the third edition of my book Lean Hospitals based on some input from Jamie Bonini, vice president of the TSSC group within Toyota. They are the ones that did the great work with UCLA Harbor Medical Center and others, as highlighted in “The Toyota Effect” videos and earlier work with the NYC Food Bank.
Jamie talked with me and contributed a number of thoughts and ideas about the Toyota Production System and what we might describe elsewhere as “Lean Culture.”
There's a triangle diagram on the TSSC webpage that describes an “integrated system” that consists of:
- technical methods
- managerial methods
All of this is “focused on people development,” Jamie told me for the book.
The model starts with people and human development in the middle, as “people are the most valuable resource,” says Bonini.
This is a triangle that I first heard mentioned almost exactly 10 years ago by Gary Convis, a former Toyota executive and I had included my own version of the diagram in earlier editions of the book. I had never seen the official Toyota version of it… had just created my own based on the description.
Jamie told me, in one discussion, that the philosophy is the most important thing. That doesn't mean it's the only thing. From what I've seen, Lean tools are an offshoot of the philosophy. A certain philosophy leads to the development of tools or methods like “andon cords” or 5S. The tool without the underlying philosophy is definitely missing something.
What is that philosophy? Jamie says it has four parts:
- Customer first; provide customers with what they want, when they want it, and in the amount they want it
- People are the most valuable resource; Deeply respect, engage, and develop people
- Continuous improvement (kaizen); Engage everyone each and every day
- Shop floor (gemba) focus: Go to where the work is done to find and solve problems
If any of that philosophy is missing, I'd say that's where so-called “Lean” efforts starting seeming more like L.A.M.E. than Lean.
When I've complained about cost-cutters who masquerade as Lean thinkers, Jamie told me:
“There are cases where people are pushing Lean, just focusing on tools and the results those tools can get. It can be powerful… they can great results, but it's a double edged sword. But they're not using them with the right managerial approach and philosophy.
They're getting exposed to just one third of an integrated system.”
The philosophy, the mindsets, and the ways of thinking… those are the most important elements of Lean or TPS. They're also the hardest to really understand and the most difficult to copy.
How does your organization line up against those four points of Toyota's philosophy? Do you have your own philosophy that is still compatible with Lean methods? Can an existing organization hope to actually adopt a new philosophy? That's far more difficult than copying a few Lean tools.
I'm hoping to have Jamie as a guest on the podcast soon, where we can discuss this in more detail. What questions would you have for him? Please leave a comment on this post.
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