Toyota Execution Not Close to Being Copied

Posted on May 7, 2008  Comments (2)

The Open Secret of Success

Toyota’s innovations, by contrast, have [focused] on process rather than on product, on the factory floor rather than on the showroom. That has made those innovations hard to see. But it hasn’t made them any less powerful.

At the core of the company’s success is the Toyota Production System, which took shape in the years after the Second World War, when Japan was literally rebuilding itself, and capital and equipment were hard to come by. A Toyota engineer named Taiichi Ohno turned necessity into virtue, coming up with a system to get as much as possible out of every part, every machine, and every worker. The principles were simple, even obvious – do away with waste, have parts arrive precisely when workers need them, fix problems as soon as they arise. And they weren’t even entirely new – Ohno himself cited Henry Ford and American supermarkets as inspirations. But what Toyota has done, better than any other manufacturing company, is turn principle into practice. In some cases, it has done so with inventions, like the andon cord, which any worker can pull to stop the assembly line if he notices a problem, or kanban, a card system that allows workers to signal when new parts are needed.

Very true, except one thing. Toyota’s innovation is not limited to process and execution. Toyota’s long term vision results in very dramatic innovation (that granted is not getting the press today – check back in 20 years, I think you will be reading about it then). For some examples see: Toyota’s Partner Robot, Toyota as Homebuilder, Toyota Engineers a New Plant: the Living Kind and The Birth of Prius.

A company truly driven by a focus on continual improvement, respect for all employees and reasonable executive compensation might be a company serious about adopting Deming and Toyota management principles. It is hard for me to imagine such a situation that doesn’t truly seek, as the primary aim of the organization, to benefit many stakeholders (workers, owners, suppliers, customers…) not just executives (or just executives, board and owners…).

Related: Toyota Management Develops the New CamryBetter and DifferentDeming and ToyotaToyota Keeps ImprovingMore Positive Press for Toyota ManagementGood Execution is Important

2 Responses to “Toyota Execution Not Close to Being Copied”

  1. Jurgen Appelo
    May 14th, 2008 @ 12:48 pm

    I believe Milton Friedman, possibly the greatest economist of the 20th century, when he said that the single goal of a company is to make money.

    Social responsibility to various stakeholders doesn’t change that goal. Social responsibility is simply one of the best ways of beating competitors, as Toyota has shown. Respect for all stakeholders is simply a means towards an end (shareholder value).

    See: Rethinking the Social Responsibility of Business
    http://www.reason.com/news/show/32239.html

  2. Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » The Contradictions That Drive Toyota’s Success
    July 8th, 2008 @ 10:03 am

    Experimentation is key to gaining knowledge and improving. And Toyota has steadily improved their method of experimentation building on the PDSA/PDCA cycle…

Leave a Reply





  • Recent Trackbacks

  • Comments