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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: The essence of the Toyota Way is respect for people and continuous improvement

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

I read Mike Rother’s response and he gives an excellent  detailed explanation beyond which I will undertake.  I think there are two problems suggested by the question  First, the definition of lean as “eliminating waste” is inherently limiting.  Second, there is an implicit assumption that everything one should do should eliminate waste, and no activities should be undertaken that actually are not considered “value-added activities.”

These are both limiting assumptions.  Here are some examples of wasteful activities one would eliminate if we make these two assumptions:

–all maintenance, especially preventative maintenance
— any inspection
–any material handling
–any accounting

I could go on but you get the point.  You literally would shut the company down overnight if you “eliminated waste.”

As Mike Rother is suggesting the real essence of the Toyota Way is respect for people and continuous improvement.  In fact, within Toyota they say respect for people is the foundation for continuous improvement.  And a key component of respect for people is investing in them, in training, job security, and their morale.  It is very important to understand that the concept of making investments does not disappear with lean.

A common example is reducing batch size which requires additional material handling trips.  So you are adding wasteful material handling as an investment in reducing inventory.  What you are really doing is “lowering the water level” and exposing problems to encourage continuous improvement.

Investing in people from Toyota’s perspective is the one investment with the greatest payoff in the long run.

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