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Benchmark Lean

Why Is It So Hard to Copy the Lean Success of the Toyota Production System (Lean TPS)?

To some, Toyota might seem surprisingly open with its Lean TPS information. After all, Lean TPS is the primary reason for Toyota’s success and recent dominance in the auto industry. Why wouldn’t they guard their secrets? Even more, why would the give access to their facilities to both Lean practitioners who will take their learning straight to Toyota’s competitors, and to authors like Jeffrey Liker (The Toyota Way) who will put it right into a book?

It’s because they know that Lean TPS is hard and that their competitors would take years to catch up. And that’s if Toyota stopped moving forward.

Take Two Pills and Be Lean In the Morning

Take Two Pills and Be Lean In the Morning

I’m sure if the secret to TPS was the formula for a special Lean pill that took effect immediately, Toyota would be much more tight-lipped.

The real reason for their openness lies in human nature.

Let’s ask this question instead. Why isn’t everyone able to keep healthy and fit? The prevalence of obesity worldwide is rising, and it isn’t because of a lack of knowledge. We know more about health now than ever.

It’s because the short term costs of fitness are higher than the short term benefits, even though the long term gains are exceptional and unquestionable. Who wants to wait for the benefit of cardiovascular health when the joy of eating that donut is often only an arm’s reach away? The enjoyment of sitting on the couch watching reruns gives immediate pleasure; the benefit of going out for a run might not be felt for a couple of hundred more miles. Is it any surprise that the diet pill industry is booming? We want huge benefits with little work.

But in reality, there is only one formula for a person to be fit. Eat appropriate (i.e. small) sized portions of healthy food and get lots of exercise.

Lean is the same way. The Lean formula is well-published, but every day is filled with countless make-or-break decisions. And each of those decisions takes hard work and a gut check to make the right one. Tracking down the source of a problem and fixing it for good may take hours of work and lots of frustration. Isn’t it easier to just take care of the symptom every time it pops up? Of course, doing that won’t build lasting success, but it will make today easier.

So, why is Toyota so open? Because they know that most competitors won’t make the right choice each and every time a hard decision is needed. But more importantly, they know Toyota’s employees and leaders will.

 

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