I grabbed this as an audiobook, as I haven’t gotten around to buying it yet despite being on my to-read list for the last couple of years. After listening to the entire thing, I am adding it to my must-read collection. I truly enjoyed it and loved the level the author documented the Toyota Production System.
I won’t describe TPS here, and the basics of lean thinking, continuous improvement, and but I will list some of my takeways:
1. Toyota wasn’t founded as a car company. It’s not even in their mission statement. Rather, they are about the good of the country, the good of the employees, and their good for society. It so happens that making cars is one way to get there.
2. IT doesn’t solve everything. I concluded this myself about five years ago, which is why I pushed to get away from IT and into software and software products. While “Does IT Matter?” tackles the issue from a different angle, The Toyota Way tackles it from challenging the difference between knowing information about what is happening and doing something about it. Toyota ensures the focus is always on execution. If you execute, often you don’t need systems/documents to identify what’s wrong (like project plans, thick requirements docs, etc).
3. Toyota’s capabilities are steeped in culture. Their processes are outputs of their culture, not inputs to their business.
4. Keep things simple. If you’re focused on execution, it’s a people business, and people need to execute.
5. Give things the proper time to incubate. Their patience in developing leaders, managers, and capabilities in the North American market is impressive. They weren’t focused on turnaround time; they were focused on building the right culture in North America. I love the author’s one comment – “the concept of green MBAs right out of school is foreign to Toyota.”
To be honest, the “granting time to incubate” is the one that is hardest for me to embed in my thinking. I’m naturally aggressive, and naturally want to get things done ASAP, often at the expense of mid- and long-term benefits like knowledge-building. After reading this, I am going to turn my products into programs, and manage them as ongoing businesses instead of short-term revenue generators.