Bookshelf: Toyota Culture: The Heart And Soul of The Toyota Way

Bookshelf: Toyota Culture: The Heart And Soul of The Toyota Way

By Jeffrey Liker and Michael Hoseus, McGraw-Hill, 2008, 562 pages, $27.95

Jeffrey Liker's 2004 book The Toyota Way is a must-read for plant managers and lean thinkers alike. The book delves deep into the business practices that took the Toyota Motor Corp. from its meager beginnings in 1930 to, as Liker puts it, "the world's best manufacturer." As part of a series of follow-ups to that book, Liker teams up with Michael Hoseus in Toyota Culture to explore how Toyota selects, develops and motivates its people to drive excellence throughout the production process.

Liker is a professor of industrial and operations engineering at the University of Michigan and co-owner of consulting firm Optiprise. Hoseus serves as executive director of the Center for Quality People and Organizations and is a former group leader and plant manager at Toyota's Georgetown, Ky., plant. Together, the two auto industry veterans discuss the Toyota culture and how it translates into a committed and engaged workforce. They summarize the Toyota management principles in what they call the 4P model: problem solving, people and partners, process, and philosophy.

The authors note that many so-called "lean operations" on the surface appear to do everything right. "However, the most impressive thing will be seeing evidence of people on the floor actively engaged in daily problem solving. Unfortunately, we rarely see much evidence of any of these things," the authors write.

One story that captures the spirit of the Toyota culture is told by Hoseus, who relates an incident that occurred when he was sent to a Toyota Camry plant in Japan for training as a group leader. While working on the line, Hoseus made a mistake that caused a defect. At first, Hoseus says, he considered letting it go and hoping nobody would notice. But his conscience got the better of him, so he pulled the andon cord to stop the line. Instead of berating Hoseus for his mishap during an afternoon safety and quality meeting, the group clapped and patted him on the back.

"I couldn't believe it, after double checking with an interpreter just to make sure, they were applauding me because I made a mistake and admitted it," Hoseus wrote. "I felt like a million bucks, and guess what I did the next time I made a mistake?"

That's just one of the many valuable anecdotes related throughout the book, along with step-by-step methods and detailed descriptions of how to develop your own "Toyota Culture."

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