Can The Toyota Way Become Your Way?
Does the name “Dr. Jeffrey K. Liker” ring a bell with you? Probably not. How about “Toyota Motors?” Just about everyone knows that name and you could be one of the millions of consumers driving one of its brands (Prius, Camry, Lexus, and so on).
Dr. Liker’s “claim to fame” is as one of the world’s foremost researchers, writers, and consultants on The Toyota Way-- the philosophies, culture, and practices that have led Toyota to its position as a premier, mass automobile designer, producer, and seller. In 1982 Dr. Liker joined the University of Michigan’s business school as a junior professor, just when the U.S. automobile industry was in serious turmoil in the midst of a national recession. U.S. automakers pointed their fingers at “Japan, Inc.” as a major cause of their troubles. Dr. Liker was invited to join a team of UM profs beginning to study the relationship between Japanese car makers’ very high quality, especially at Toyota and Honda, and their sales successes. He has been at it ever since, authoring or co-authoring eight books on how – and why – Toyota does things, beginning with The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles From The World’s Greatest Manufacturer, published in 2004, which is what this article briefly looks at.
“But, whoa,” you might say. “My organization is not a manufacturer, we don’t do automobiles or auto parts, we’re less than twenty-five employees, and we’re certainly not Japanese.
We’re not anything at all like Toyota. Why should I spend time on this article, much less on the full book?”
Valid questions. But the truth is The Toyota Way can be universally applied since it deals with universal principles of human and organizational life. Many organizations, just as varied as yours, have already done just that. These are management “best practices,” period. They can help make any organization better.