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The Toyota Way – 14 Management Principles From the World’s Greatest Manufacturer

Published two decades ago, The Toyota Way – 14 Management Principles From the World’s Greatest Manufacturer remains a relevant book for practically anyone. From running a Fortune 500 company to running a household, these principles can help improve productivity by eliminating waste. Dr. Jeffrey K. Liker has countless years of experience teaching and consulting these business principles.

The Toyota Way - 14 Management Principles From the World’s Greatest Manufacturer

Synonymous to “lean production”, the Toyota Way is not merely a playbook full of buzzwords that can be quickly implemented. Instead, Toyota runs their company holistically through a culture that is difficult to mimic and impossible to shortcut. They truly believe in long-term strategies that are set to benefit their customers, their employees, and society as a whole. And they practice this wholeheartedly.

The 14 Management Principles

  1. Base Your Management Decisions on a Long-Term Philosophy, Even at the Expense of Short-Term Financial Goals
  2. Create Continuous Process Flow to Bring Problems to the Surface
  3. Use “Pull” Systems to Avoid Overproduction
  4. Level Out the Workload
  5. Build a Culture of Stopping to Fix Problems, to Get Quality Right the First Time
  6. Standardized Tasks Are the Foundation for Continuous Improvement and Employee Empowerment
  7. Use Visual Control So No Problems Are Hidden
  8. Use Only Reliable, Thoroughly Tested Technology That Serves Your People and Processes
  9. Grow Leaders Who Thoroughly Understand the Work, Live the Philosophy, and Teach It to Others
  10. Develop Exceptional People and Teams Who Follow Your Company’s Philosophy
  11. Respect Your Extended Network of Partners and Suppliers by Challenging Them and Helping Them Improve
  12. Go and See for Yourself to Thoroughly Understand the Situation (Genchi Genbutsu)
  13. Make Decisions Slowly by Consensus, Thoroughly Considering All Options; Implement Rapidly
  14. Become a Learning Organization Through Relentless Reflection (Hansei) and Continuous Improvement (Kaizen)

While no principle is “better” than another, the first one alone provides a wonderful approach to every aspect of business and life. Too often businesses focus on quarterly earnings or simplified KPIs without seeing the big picture. Short-sighted thinking has led to the mind-boggling amount of credit card debt we see in the United States.

The final principle is common when first attempting to go “lean”, usually focusing on the “continuous improvement” part. This is definitely important, but as Dr. Liker states often in the book, you can’t use these principles simply as a toolkit. Each and every one works together, but only works if your company supports the culture to embrace it.

The importance of culture along with the need for everyone in the company to be part of the whole is what drives Toyota’s success. Yes, there are a lot of buzzwords:

The Four Ps

  1. Philosophy
  2. Processes
  3. Partners
  4. Problem-Solving

The Five S’s

  1. Sort
  2. Straighten (orderliness)
  3. Shine (cleanliness)
  4. Standardize (create rules)
  5. Sustain (self-discipline)

It would be tempting to grab a set of these or focus on one or two principles in an attempt to become lean. But short-term thinking is the opposite of the Toyota Way.

Toyota spent decades to get where they are today. And although The Toyota Way – 14 Management Principles From the World’s Greatest Manufacturer is 20 years old, Toyota, and these principles still are running strong.