The Principles of the Toyota Way: Lean’s Origins


If you’re reading this article, it’s very likely that you’re familiar with the basic concepts of Lean. Large companies such Toyota rule it. Try it too!

Toyota Principles

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If you’re reading this article, it’s very likely that you’re familiar with the basic concepts of Lean. Large companies such as Amazon and Pixar have been using Lean methods to achieve excellence in process workflow and continuous improvement. But before becoming this worldwide methodology as we know it today, Lean had its origins in Japan.

Lean was born as the Toyota Production System inside Toyota’s manufacturing industry back in the 40s, developed by Taiichi Ohno. Only decades later, the TPS expanded to other industries and countries to become Lean in its modern form. Its core principles, however, have remained intact over time. The bright side is that all guidelines can be summarized in 14 principles.

Taiichi Ohno at Toyota Factory

The so-called Principles of the Toyota Way are systems designed to provide the tools for people to continually improve their work and maintain a healthy work environment where respect prevails. They act as daily guidelines for continuous improvement where long-term vision predominates and entire teams stay cohesive. Great, isn’t?

If you feel the necessity to learn more about Lean before diving into this article, we recommend giving our Beginner’s Guide for Future Lean Experts a read (we’re sure you won’t regret it). Check the essentials of the 14 Principles of the Toyota Way:

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01: Base your management decisions through long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals;

02: Create a continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface;

03: Apply pulls systems to avoid overproduction;

04: Level out the workload;

05: Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time;

06: Standardized tasks and processes are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment;

07: Utilize visual control so no problems are concealed;

08: Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes;

09: Generate 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;

13: Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly;

14: Become a learning organization through relentless reflection and continuous improvement.

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