Comparing Lean Principles to the 14 Toyota Principles (Part 2)

Four years ago, I read the book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean” by Andy Carlino and Jamie Flinchbaugh.  The book was very easy to read and insightful.  In the book, Andy and Jamie talk about the five Lean Priniciples which they teach.  I had already read “The Toyota Way” by Jeffrey Liker.  I liked how Andy and Jamie only had 5 principles.  It made it easier to remember, but everywhere I went people refer to the 14 Toyota Principles in “The Toyota Way”.  In light of Toyota’s recent problems people are reluctant to mention Toyota as a high standard, because they don’t want the other person start to tune them out.

In order to help others see the value of five simple principles but not lose the tie to the 14 Toyota principles, I will have a three part series that will look at each of the 14 Toyota principles and examine how they relate to the five principles from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean.”

The first question to answer is: What are the five principles from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean”?  Here they are:

The Five Lean Principles from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean

  1. Directly Observe Work as Activities, Connections, and Flows
  2. Establish High Agreement of both What and How
  3. Systematic Waste Elimination
  4. Systematic Problem Solving
  5. Create a Learning Organization

As you read the comparison, I hope to give a better feel for the behaviors and essence of the five principles from Andy and Jamie.

Part 2 will focus on Principles 6 through 10 of the Toyota Way.

Toyota Principle #6: Standardized Tasks Are the Foundation for Continuous Improvement and Employee Empowerment

The term “high agreement” means that everyone is in agreement (not just the “high” level of the company) on what is to be accomplished and how it will be accomplished (Lean Principle #2).  In one word, this is “standardization.”  The standardization allows for a baseline when a problem arises.  If standards are being followed then the problem becomes easier to diagnose.  Once the root cause is discovered, allowing the employees the freedom to improve the standard so the issue doesn’t surface again promotes empowerment and respect for people.  This respect for their knowledge of the process will help to foster more improvement ideas from them.

Standardization allows for easier systematic problem solving (Lean Principle #4). When an issue surfaces, the first question should be, “Is the standard being followed?”  If not, then ask, “Why?”  If the standard is being followed then the question is, “What is wrong with the standard?”  These are simple questions that anybody can ask.  This doesn’t require any specialized training, which allows everyone in the company to participate in continuous improvement easily.

Toyota Principle #7: Use Visual Control So No Problems Are Hidden

In a lean system, the mentality is to make problems visible and covet the opportunities for improvement.  Scorecards, 5S, standardized work, and andons are some of the tools used to create visual controls and bring problems to the surface.  These visual controls make it easier for someone to identify if there is an abnormal condition while directly observing work (Lean Principle #1).  The easier it is to see the abnormalities, the more beneficial direct observation of work becomes in eliminating waste (Lean Principle #3).  Without visual controls, directly observing work is more difficult and creates waste by asking more questions in order to understand what the normal condition should be before determining if it is abnormal or not.

Once problems are discovered, then employees can solve them (Lean Principle #4).  A root cause can be found and countermeasures can be put into place to prevent the abnormality from resurfacing.  Countermeasures usually involve putting more visual controls into place or improving the existing visual controls in order to make the specific problem visible before it becomes an issue again

Toyota Principle #8: Use Only Reliable, Thoroughly Tested Technology That Serves Your People and Process

The first part of the Toyota Principle is to use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology.  In order to do this, an organization must be dedicated to extensive experimenting and learning (Lean Principle #5) about the technology before putting it into place.  Proper experimentation of the technology is critical to applying the technology correctly for the most positive business impact.  If it isn’t applied appropriately, more waste will be created in the system.

The second part of this Toyota Principle talks about using technology that serves your people and processes.  The best way to have a clear understanding of what an organization’s people and processes’ needs are is to directly observe the work (Lean Principle #1).  If the true needs of organization’s people and processes are not met, then the technology is creating waste.  People and processes may be doing work that is not truly needed or even worse, the technology could be not used at all..  The technology should be modified to fit the organization’s needs and not modify the organization’s needs to fit the technology.

The best way to know if a technology serves the people and process is to clearly define the problem that needs to be addressed by the technology.  It is very critical that a systematic problem solving methodology is in place in order to help with this task (Lean Principle #4).  A company would not want to invest in an automated storage/retrieval system to move parts, when the true issue is the waste of transporting the material across the plant.  In this case, the technology is not serving the needs of the process

Toyota Principle #9: Grow Leaders Who Thoroughly Understand the Work, Live the Philosophy, and Teach It to Others

In order for an organization to develop leaders who understand, live and teach the lean philosophy to others, the company must allow the people to learn within the organization.  This takes a dedication to being a learning organization (Lean Principle #5).  This involves allowing the leaders to directly observe work so they can learn the processes themselves.  Once a leader understands the work, it becomes easier for them to teach it to others.  This allows the organization to learn more about itself and continually improve.

When leaders are cultivated from within the company, the transition from one leader to another becomes much easier.  There is already an understanding and high agreement on the philosophy and direction of the company (Lean Principle #2).  When an organization has established common thinking and common direction with all the leaders within the organization, the company becomes more stable and there is no ground lost in continuous improvement or a change in the company’s direction before, during or after the transition.

Toyota Principle #10: Develop Exceptional People and Teams Who Follow Your Company’s Philosophy

This is an extension of Toyota Principle #9.  If the company doesn’t develop leaders who understand the work, live the philosophy and teach it to others, then exceptional people cannot be developed who will follow the company’s philosophy.  This correlates to Lean Principles #5 and #2 from above.

Part 1 is posted here.

Part 3 is posted here.


Posted on July 28, 2010, in Learning, Principles, Problem Solving, Waste and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This is a great summary, and an excellent reference both for the “five principles” and for the “14 principles.” It’s interesting that we seem to always end up with fourteen…Toyota’s, Deming’s, Crosby’s…

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