Archive for May, 2008

Toyota’s Success is No Secret

Posted: May 5, 2008 in lean
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A colleague led me to this article in the The New Yorker online. It is one of the better “general” pieces that I’ve seen on Toyota and the core reasons for its success.

So how has Toyota stayed ahead of the pack?

The answer has a lot to do with another distinctive element of Toyota’s approach: defining innovation as an incremental process, in which the goal is not to make huge, sudden leaps but, rather, to make things better on a daily basis. (The principle is often known by its Japanese name, kaizen—continuous improvement.) Instead of trying to throw long touchdown passes, as it were, Toyota moves down the field by means of short and steady gains. And so it rejects the idea that innovation is the province of an elect few; instead, it’s taken to be an everyday task and everyone contributes.

As I’ve noted before, the culture of Toyota is its obvious secret. It’s not the artifacts that we can see everyday in its factories and offices. It’s a corporate culture that works in Japan and in Toyota’s American factories.

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The short story is I finished for the first time in my last several attempts at this race and I stayed in the peloton longer than I have over the same period of time. Though this doesn’t sound like much progress, at my age you have to savor any progress that you make.

I really didn’t start the race in a good frame of mind. I’ve been worrying about getting dropped quickly — especially after last week’s debacle race at Devils Punchbowl. My teammate and I stayed at my parents’ house in Murrieta on Saturday night and we got to the start not-so-bright but early at about 6:15 AM. Got ready, warmed up a little, and waited with 65 other riders for the start.

I felt OK on the initial climb up to Old Highway 395. Going over the top I faded to the back but I didn’t have a problems on the descent or being right in the peloton after the hard right-hand turn at the bottom of the hill. I was conserving energy on the back side of the course and the we made the very hard right on to climbing section back to the start / finish. I felt pretty good until we got to the 1 Km to the finish sign. I started coming off the back but I was hoping that the pack would slow a bit approaching the steeper climb. I was maybe 50 meters off the back when we crossed start / finish but once we got to the steeper climb I was history.

I stayed within myself back up to Old Highway 395 and just as I got to the top another racer caught me. Cutting to the chase, we ended up working together for the duration of the race. I dropped him (not intentionally as we were finishing the race — 4 laps) but as we were approaching the finish I realized that he was charging up next to me. We sprinted to the line for next-to-last (56th) and last place. I beat him by inches.

So two weeks in a row with next-to-last finishes (of those who finished). However, after comparing my Garmin data to last year this year is a marked improvements. I take my small victories where I can.