Sunday, May 22, 2011

Review: The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement by Jeff Liker and Jim Franz

This book is deep enough to be virtually required reading for anyone implementing Lean.  Why?? 
Jeff Liker walks the talk. This alone makes this book truly credible and makes it a necessary read for each of us seeking process excellence.   I got the chance to read it soon after publishing and I found it very appealing. 

In this latest effort, Prof. Liker and coauthor Jim Franz take us deeper than kanban and hoshin kanri to the real philosophy behind Toyota's consistent expertise in manufacturing. The authors use insight and experience to tell the story of WHY Toyota has achieved excellence. The consistent theme is the PDCA cycle. This practice is not new; Demming gave it to the world years ago. But just as the concert pianist and brand new piano student can both play a C-Scale, the master has done it longer, better, with more nuance and breadth. So Toyota has more deeply understood the learning from PDCA than any of the rest of us. 

Most useful, to me, were sections such as chapter 5; "Lean Out Processes or Build Lean Systems?" In these more philosophical chapters, Liker and Franz both force and lead the leader into deeper understanding of WHY; why does Lean work for Toyota when it seems to underperform for others? Is it a kanban card which sparkles more brightly? Is it better charts on the wall? Or is it the investment in people made in the context of process excellence? And, if so, just why is this the case? 

It's a long book. You won't read it in one setting. Similar to Liker's other books, there is just a lot to work through. There are more case studies here which will add for some readers and clutter for others. But, face it, it is tough to make a process-oriented business work so don't be surprised you'll have to work to understand this at a depth to be sufficiently useful. 

This book reaches the level of Womack and Jones' "Lean Thinking" and Spears' "Chasing the Rabbit" as necessary books for Lean leaders to read and know.

Keep learning.  This book will help.


1 comment:

Lean said...

Lean Manufacturing or often simply “Lean” is a production practice, operational strategy, and management philosophy initially developed by Toyota, which is widely credited with fuelling their growth from a small manufacturer to the world’s largest automaker. Lean strategies have since grown into a full-fledged, independent and
comprehensive business philosophy applied by many successful companies around the globe.