For many years now we have been supplied with a rich volume of literature, much of it originating in the United States, on lean practices and principles as exemplified by the Toyota organisation. From ‘Lean Thinking’ the seminal lean textbook published by Womack and Jones back in 1996, to ‘The Toyota Way’ published by Liker in 2004, there has been no shortage of literature to guide us along the lean path. The former gave us 5 lean values to live by, and the latter gave us 14 management principles to implement.
So far so good in terms of academic analysis, but what does the Toyota organisation itself espouse as guiding principles or values? A visit to their global website reveals Toyota’s current guiding principles. These form the foundation of the company’s vision and philosophy.
Principle 1: Dedicate our business to providing clean and safe products and to enhancing the quality of life everywhere through all of our activities. Generating value for the customer, society and the economy.
Principle 2: Create and develop advanced technologies and provide outstanding products and services that fulfil the needs of customers worldwide. In doing so base your management decisions on the long term, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.
Principle 3: Create continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface. Essentially you need to completely remove the amount of the time that any work project is sitting idle or waiting for someone to work on it.
Principle 4: Support individual creativity and value teamwork through harmony. Eliminate overburdening people in the production schedule. Work to level out the workload of all manufacturing and service processes.
Principle 5: Honor the language and spirit of the law of every country and region, and undertake open and fair business activities to be a strong corporate citizen of the world.
Principle 6: Contribute to economic and social development through corporate activities in your respective communities. Understand your place in history and bring value.
Principle 7: Eliminating waste is just one-third of the equation for making lean successful. Build a culture of stopping to fix problems. Again it’s about thinking long-term. Ensure your company culture aims to quickly solve problems and put in place countermeasures to enhance quality productivity in the long run.
Principle 8: Use technology to support people not to replace people. Remove or modify technologies that conflict with your culture or that might disrupt stability, reliability and predictability.
Principle 9: Grow leaders. Grow leaders from within your organisation. Leaders must be role models and teachers for the company’s philosophy.
Principle 10: Work with business partners in research and manufacturing to achieve stable, long-term growth and mutual benefits, while remaining open to new partnerships. Have respect for them and treat them as an extension of your business.
The above principles were established in 1992, and revised in 1997 (translated from the original Japanese).
Those of us looking for concrete guidelines and tools for lean implementation may be disappointed with the above list. However they provide more insight into Toyota’s living values, and the secrets of their success, than any workshop on leader standard work or value stream mapping.
How do they compare with the values in your organisation? Is there an opportunity for modification? Is the management team in your organisation leading by example and living its values? This blog has led me to cross-reference our own Mission and Values which you can download from our website here. There is always room for improvement and I hope this article has given you some insight into how respect for the individual and teamwork have contributed to Toyota’s success.