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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Toyota’s Challenge for the Lean Movement

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: lundi, mars 7, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

The main lesson from the Toyota affair is that the lean movement will now have to live on it’s wits and not on the coat tails of Toyota. It will grow and prosper if it deconstructs the many lessons learnt from Toyota and turns them into actionable practices, frames of reference, learning pathways etc to enable other organisations to build their own functional equivalents and achieve demonstrably superior performance. Simply copying Toyota’s practices misses the point and does not work without understanding and internalising the thinking behind them and adapting them to the circumstances facing organisations in different industries and at different points on their lean journeys.

Really clear descriptions of how Toyota actually manages every aspect of it’s business are a vital starting point. We can now also learn a lot from other organisations that over the years have developed their own versions of what Toyota has done. Ex post attempts to retro-fit our own theories onto Toyota are usually mistaken and are unhelpful and a distraction. What these real descriptions give us is a frame for thinking in the right way about a situation, problem or gap we are trying to close and some starting hypotheses about the right countermeasures to try to address them. What actually works in practice in a given situation can only be determined through many controlled experiments. These in turn give us further hypotheses about what might work in a different situation and context next time. They also often send us back to the original example when they do not work as we thought they would.

Building this knowledge base from carefully chosen controlled experiments is the real work of a lean transformation. Sharing the results from many experiments in communities of practice and building a lean culture from telling these stories is the key. But the lean movement has to go one step further to seek out the opportunities for the next set of experiments to deepen our knowledge and to test and verify practices that work in one place but need modification to work elsewhere. If we have the courage to use the same scientific, experimental approach to evaluating what works and what does not then we will build a robust body of knowledge and practice that will change the work of management and stand the test of time.

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