How Toyota Gets Organizations Started with TPS


Last week, I mentioned it was the 25th anniversary of TSSC — formerly known as the Toyota Supplier Support Center (it's now called the Toyota Production System Support Center). TSSC helped Children's Health in Dallas learn how to reduce CLABSI infection rates 75%:

Toyota Helps Children's Health Dallas Reduce Some CLABSI Infections 75%

In this article from Toyota, they interview Jamie Bonini, who I've mentioned before here on the blog:

The Ambassador of TPS

As it celebrates its 25th anniversary, TSSC VP Jamie Bonini talks about how the group shares TPS with outside organizations

Some highlights:

Bonini says Toyota started TSSC partially in response to increased interest in Toyota after the publication of The Machine That Changed the World. Their approach was hands-on learning and coaching at organizations:

“So TSSC was created systematically share the Toyota Production System in North America with interested outside organizations. We knew you have to learn TPS by doing it, hands on. If you wanted to support organizations you had to be willing to work in their organizations side by side.”

Bonini says they've learned a lot about how to apply TPS in settings outside of manufacturing. The introduction often takes place through an initial classroom workshop before organizations are selected for the on-site teaching and coaching.

“Since 1992 we've completed over 350 projects. This year we'll be active and onsite in over 50 organizations. About 30 will be nonprofits and about 20 will be small to mid-size manufacturing companies.

Our group is 16 people who work on TSSC full time. Each person at TSSC will work on three projects at one time. So three weeks of the month they're on site at a project, and one week they're either conducting a workshop or training session.”

In the article, Bonini talks about their approach of starting in a pilot area to solve a particular problem.

This seems like a good extension of Taiichi Ohno‘s advice from his book to “start from need” and to focus on “your most pressing needs.”

“Generally, when we first get exposed to an organization, there are two things we're looking at. First, what is the product or service this organization is providing to their customers? Secondly, we spend a lot of time with the organizations asking them what they would like to improve. Once that's clear, we start thinking about what areas in the process we can improve to make the whole process stronger.”

Toyota takes them through cycles of learning until the organization becomes more self sufficient and internalizes this approach.

Note that Bonini doesn't spout some of the usual “Lean dogma” about “always starting with 5S” or what have you. The focus is on going to see and solving problems together. They don't say “always start with a SIPOC” ala some Lean Sigma practitioners (I'm not sure Toyota uses that specific tool). Bonini doesn't say “always start with a Value Stream Map” (again, I'm not sure if they use that tool).

When you watch videos about Toyota helping organizations, it's clear that Toyota is coaching on the improvement method, not coming in as the expert to tell people how to fix things.

Video: Toyota Helps Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and Their Eye Clinic

Video: Toyota Helps a NYC Food Bank & Hurricane Sandy Victims

The talk about embracing a new philosophy reminds me of language W. Edwards Deming used.

In the interview, Bonini emphasizes that the:

“Toyota Production System is an organizational culture that is created and sustained by an integrated system of three things that work together.”

The article elaborates on those three things a bit, but they are:

  1. Basic philosophy
  2. Technical methods
  3. Managerial role

I've blogged about this before after meeting Bonini and hearing him speak:

Toyota's Jamie Bonini on Organizational Culture

Lean: The Toyota Production System is Mainly About the Philosophy

They also asked Bonini about how to teach TPS to the new employees they are adding (something that's been an ongoing challenge as they grow):

We have a lot of new people at Toyota. How can we share the pillars that we live by? 

“When we work with outside organizations, we emphasize that you learn TPS hands on, by doing. You learn the philosophy by living the philosophy. So you learn TPS the same way you learn to ride a bike or swim. You learn the basic concepts, but then you have to keep trying. The people that are newer to the company will learn and experience the Toyota Way by doing it. They'll do it by applying it to their work. They'll do it by seeing how the company responds to various challenges. And over time it'll take root through experience. And that's the challenge of all leaders here, to build the type of culture where people get those experiences.”

As people say, you don't learn how to ride a bike by reading a book about Lance Armstrong…

What are your reactions to Bonini's comments and Toyota's approach through TSSC?

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 articleSafety Issues Plague Hospital(s) – Front Page of USA Today
Next articleAirplane Food: Flight Attendant Kaizen or a Violation of Standardized Work?
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.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

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