Toyota Culture Book Review I

I'm reading the new Liker and Hoseus book, Toyota Culture. Essentially this book is about how Toyota has taken the unique human systems (human value stream, if you will) painstakingly developed in Toyota Japan and transferred it into a very different Western culture. In short it requires change. If you are a leader and in particular an HR manager wondering, "how do I fit in with this lean thing?", you need to get your hands on this book. As I poke through this book a number of things jump out at me that scream TWI:

Page 25 - “Perhaps because of the profound influence of Sakichi Toyoda, who believed in contributing to group and society, but was also a brilliant inventor, Toyota seems to stand out in placing a high value on both group and individual achievements.”

Since TWI trainers encourage people to establish and improve their own work standards , it is not surprising to see the perfect fit with Toyota’s philosophy of valuing people and their ideas. The missing element in western society seems to be getting individuals to look past the individual rewards and recognize the benefits to the group. Perhaps we make too much hay out of encouraging the line operator to see the “big picture” and don’t balance the emphasis we make on individual and group benefit when an improvement is made? Perhaps we should take a smaller step, not overwhelm the person and encourage them to see the “medium picture” for her team? This seems to be the general approach that Toyota has taken within the gemba: a team leader, who sees the slightly bigger picture above, is able to paint the picture for the team within the scope of that team’s work. Is this the way Toyota deploys the “top-down, bottom-up” management system? Funneling and filtering the big picture down into meaningful chunks of information for the person doing the work in the gemba?

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