By Jon Miller | Post Date: February 16, 2007 12:15 PM | Comments: 8
There's a good article over at the New York Times on February 15, 2007 titled The 'Toyota Way' Is Translated for a New Generation of Foreign Managers. It's not about putting Jeffrey Liker's book The Toyota Way into other languages, it's about Toyota taking a more intentional approach to teaching the thinking behind the Toyota Production System to its people.
Until recently, Toyota people spoke of the Toyota Way as something that was best learned by living it while working at Toyota. It was "in the air", so to speak. Reasons I heard for not writing it down included the belief that it was best learned by doing, and that if it was written people would do only what was written and not change it. I suspect it was actually because until recently there was no need.
Now that's changed. There's only so much "Toyota Way particles" to go around, and with so many factories being built and staffed around the world, the factory air is running thin of the stuff.
The Toyota Institute in Japan has been established to teach the values that lead to the behaviors that make Toyota the most successful manufacturing company in the world. Listed in the article, these include:
- mutual ownership of problems
These are not secrets. In fact a lot has been written about these things, sometimes in these pages. According to the article, Toyota has not written these things down prior to 2001, however. Much of this is obvious it is just a question of doing the obvious exceptionally well.
“Before, when everyone was Japanese, we didn’t have to make these things explicit,” Mr. Konishi said. “Now we have to set the Toyota Way down on paper and teach it.”
Mr. Konishi is the General Manager in charge of the Toyota Institute. He doesn't explain why they didn't need to make the Toyota Way explicit in the old days. I don't think it has anything to do with being Japanese, but quite a bit can be lost in translation, and the Japanese education system is not famous for being good at teaching English.
There seems to be a bit of PR spin at work here with Toyota putting the blame for its recent quality problems and recalls on foreign workers in whom Toyota has failed to instill the philosophy of building in quality. Teaching the Toyota Way will help, but doing some serious hansei on their design process may also be needed.
The true challenge for Toyota will not be training new overseas employees in the Toyota Way, but in managing the turnover of these people in a job market that increasingly values Toyota Production System training and expertise.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.