The Toyota Way

The Toyota Production System has long been seen as the basis of Lean and companies for decades have looked to the business practices and culture of Toyota to improve their own organization. The company published “The Toyota Way 2001” to summarize and clarify the methods that make up the philosophy of Toyota. The Toyota Way embodies the underlying principles of TPS with principles making up the two main pillars:

Continuous Improvement - The idea that the company should never be satisfied with where they are at and are always working to improve the business.

  • Challenge: A building block for continuous improvement, it’s important to meet embrace and meet challenges with courage and creativity.
  • Kaizen: Kaizen is the essence of continuous improvement. It is a mindset that encourages everyone (from all levels of work) to identify areas of improvement and make small changes to benefit the business.
  • Genchi Genbutsu: This means to go and see! In order to properly problem solve, managers and leaders go to the factory floor and observe processes for themselves.

Respect for the people – The concept that individual effort or good teamwork creates the success of the business, it also translates to the communities and stakeholders served by the organization.

  • Respect: Respect for the people is a central concept to not only Toyota but is also found deeply embedded in the Japanese culture. Workers feel comfortable making suggestions and management believes their employees are capable of implementing changes.
  • Teamwork: Everyone, from top-level management down to the frontline operators understands the organizations goals and are working together to achieve them. The company works to develop individuals’ skills, commitment, and responsibilities to create a team of committed workers.

The Toyota Way outlines 14 principles for management that support the two main pillars, summarized as:

  1. Base management decisions on long term philosophy, even if it is at the expense of short-term financial goals.
  2. Create a continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface.
  3. Use pull systems to avoid the waste of overproduction.
  4. Level out the workload (heijunka).
  5. Build a culture of ‘stopping to fix problems’ to get quality right and avoid defects.
  6. Standardized tasks are the foundation for continuous improvement (kaizen) and employee empowerment.
  7. Use visual controls so no problems are hidden (5S).
  8. Use only reliable and thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes.
  9. Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy and teach it to others.
  10. Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy.
  11. Respect your extended network of partners & suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve.
  12. Go and see for yourself (Genchi Genbutsu) and thoroughly understand the situation.
  13. Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options (nemawashi) and then implement rapidly.
  14. Become a learning organization through relentless reflection and continuous improvement.

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