What Toyota Team Members Have to Say

Productivity Press recently published a very special book -- One Team on All Levels: Stories from Toyota Team Members, Second Edition. This book, written by Tim Turner and his colleagues at Toyota's Georgetown, Kentucky facility, is far from another technical explanation of the Toyota Production System (TPS) -- It is rather a clear illustration of the culture it creates.

One such insightful recollection was provided by Raymond Bryant, an assistant general manager in the assembly department. He writes:

We often say that the most valuable resource we have is our workforce, the team members. I don’t just believe this, I know it.

Our company functions on the basic principals of the Toyota Production System (TPS). The Toyota Way guides us as we go about doing daily and longer term operations. When asked, "What is TPS?" the reference is usually to the tools widely talked about (andons, kanbans, etc.). As one of the many students of TPS (we all are still studying and learning), I have come to the conclusion that the success of TPS is in the commitment of our workforce to pursue it.

The tools are easily copied and put into place. They are, for all practical purposes, simple. The ability to understand and use them is equally as simple. The commitment to use them seems to be the struggling point for many organizations. Why? This is the "million dollar question."

I believe that our success is in the very simple understanding of what TPS really is. This I would define as:
1. Always doing the right thing.
2. Always knowing that you can do better.

The significance is in the "simplicity" of these two concepts. All of our workforce, each team member, can understand, make decisions, and feel proud of these two guiding thoughts.

Pulling the andon is simply "doing the right thing." Alerting your staff or assistant manager when a problem has come up in a project is also done for the same basic reason. The one making the decision to notify and possibly seek help, along with the one that is receiving the news and/or request both know that this is the "right thing" and expected in our culture. This naturally carries beyond our work life into our personal life.
We sadly lost a team member some time ago in an automobile accident. Along with the strong support you might expect to see of the family during the days after this tragedy, many of the team members and leaders gathered together several weeks later to complete a home project that he had started. This was the "right thing to do."

My role is pretty basic in the grand scheme of things:
1. Setting clear goals that, if met, equal success (this requires face-to-face discussions to clarify and provide the why behind them) approving the ideas and methods suggested on how to reach those goals (this requires even more discussions, primarily listening, coaching, and the willingness to see many other points of view).
2. Supplying the support and/or resources needed (this really requires the highest amount of listening skill, because the secret is knowing when not to give input).

A successful manager knows not "when to say something," but when "not to." Thousands of minds, all working to "do the right thing." Everyone understanding that "we can always do better."

What are you thoughts of Raymond's ideas? Have any of you visited Toyota's facility in Kentucky?  Have any of you experienced Toyota's leadship firsthand?


Gary Irland said...

A characteristic of Toyota's approach that gets little press is their idea system. It allows (requires?) all employees to submit improvement ideas. These ideas are between the submitter and their supervisor and do not require a bureaucracy to get results. This is the "thousands of base hits" approach that defines a true continuous improvement organization.

Toyota Logistics said...

Good post - Good blog - Great article . I love it so much , you can explain so clear about Toyota company culture. Thank for share the valuable poast

Supply Chain Management said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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