Toyota’s Success is No Secret

Posted: May 5, 2008 in lean

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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