How Toyota Culture Helps Companies Outpace Their Competition
The Toyota Production System (TPS) has been the model for Lean implementation across the world since it was developed and refined by Taiichi Ohno in the 1960s and 1970s. Countless books and articles have been written about it; however, the culture that allows it to thrive has been less well studied. In Toyota Culture by Jeffrey Liker and Mike Hoseus, the authors reveal how Toyota selects, develops, and motivates people to commit to the goal of building high-quality products. [Note: Hoseus, former HR executive at Toyota’s plant in Kentucky, will be a keynote speaker at the 2020 Continuous Improvement Conference.]
Toyota’s application of Lean thinking is first and foremost about culture. The primary principles of the Toyota Way, as described by the company itself, are continuous improvement and respect for people. These are underpinned by the cultural elements of challenge, kaizen, respect, teamwork, and Genchi Genbutsu (go and see for yourself). And yet, perhaps because of differences in Eastern and Western culture, the tendency in the West is to view Lean as a toolkit that can achieve specific objectives. That approach can bring improvement, but will lose momentum without the foundational beliefs and values to sustain it.
It’s clear that Western culture poses particular challenges to adopting Toyota’s cultural tenets because of strong individualism, short-term outlooks, and a different way of thinking about cause and effect. Toyota Culture explores how Toyota transferred its culture to the U.S. and other countries. Toyota did not compromise on core tenets of developing people, problem solving, standardization, and long-term thinking, but wisely recognized that it needed to adapt to national cultures.
The book delves into the efforts that Toyota undertakes to select employees that are inclined toward teamwork and will fit well with the culture. Managers are taught to continuously support and teach the concepts of team problem solving, a clean and safe workplace, clear and open communication, visual management, and servant leadership, among others. HR managers are expected to spend much of their time on the factory floor.
A fascinating aspect of Toyota’s cultural thinking is the People Value Stream. This mimics the Product Value Stream in differentiating between value-added and non-value-added time, only in this case it identifies value-added time as that which is used to attract the right people, develop people to do quality work, engage people in improvement, and inspire people to learn and grow. In light of this perspective, how often in the span of your employee’s careers is your company adding value? After a company grasps its current situation, it can develop a future vision and come up with a plan to close the gaps. Doing this supports the notion that employees are truly a company’s most important assets.
Toyota Culture is an important book for anyone studying how to create a work environment that will help a company improve faster than its competition.
Learn more cultural wisdom from Toyota at the 2020 Continuous Improvement Conference. You can browse our other recommended books at ci.printing.org/recommended-reading-list.
2020 Continuous Improvement Conference
The 2020 Continuous Improvement Conference (April 5-8 in Columbus, Ohio) is the only industry event focused on helping printing and converting companies achieve operational excellence and Lean leadership. Attendees directly link reduced costs, lowered waste, and increased profit margins to ideas gained from conference presentations and networking. The conference is presented by PIA and SGIA, with association support from FPA, FTA, and TLMI. To learn more about the event, visit ci.printing.org. Click here to register to attend.
Jim Workman is the Vice President for the Center for Technology and Research for the Printing Industries of America. The Center provides companies with the knowledge to make smart decisions about technology, the tools to help them manufacture efficiently and productively, and solutions to immediate technical challenges. In addition, Jim is responsible for the InterTech Technology Award competition, custom training and consulting activities, and its annual Continuous Improvement Conference. He also serves as managing director of the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts (TAGA).