The Toyota Way To Lean Leadership – Book Review

Lean Leadership is considered the crucial ingredient that is often missed when companies attempt to implement lean.  This book defines Lean Leadership and gives guidance to those who are looking to implement Lean in a sustainable way.  The book is written by Jeffrey K. Liker who wrote the classic Lean book “The Toyota Way” and Gary L. Convis who was the first GM of NUMMI and has transformed organisations with Lean.

The book starts by giving a picture of the challenges that Toyota has faced from 2008.  First the global recession and high oil prices, then the car recall crisis and finally the massive Japanese earthquake and tsunami.  It shows how Toyota reacted to these challenges and came out stronger than ever.  It shows the process of reflection and adjustment.

Most Lean implementations are analogues to a diet where one focuses on losing weightLean initiatives
for a defined period, only to put it all back on when the initiative has been completed.  These time-bounded exercises to implement Lean are not sustainable.  This book presents a clear picture on the sustainable approach to Lean.  To stay healthy a person cannot just diet for a short time, but must adjust their lifestyle forever.  In the same way, companies have short term initiatives and these provide benefits for a time but then they tend to revert back.  To have long term success companies must live Lean.  These changes start with the people and the leaders.

Lean leadership states that “if there is a recipe for Toyota’s success, it is a deep, time-consuming and expensive investment in developing everyone in the organisation, and truly believing that their employees are their most precious resource.  The role of the leader in this context is to be open to the kind of self-development needed to cultivate their own leadership skills, develop subordinates so that they grow and improve, and remove obstacles and set challenges and goals, so that teams at all levels of the organisation can contribute to Toyota’s continuous improvement and attainment of its long term goals.”

The book tells stories of what is required to develop Lean leaders.

Chapter 1 shows the values that Toyota follows and the leadership development model that evolved from these values.

Chapter 2 paints a picture of how Toyota transformed a poorly-performing, existing American auto plant in 1984 to the best plant in North America.  In parallel it covers how Gary was hired and how his leadership was developed over this period.

Chapter 3 goes on to cover the Toyota Manufacturing Kentucky and its transformation under Gary’s leadership.

Chapter 4 explains how self-development and the development of others led to continuous improvement in North America.

Chapter 5 outlines Hoshin Kanri as the process Toyota uses to manage the direction of the company, align goals and control deviation from these goals.

Chapter 6 is an inspirational story of how Gary brought Dana company back from bankruptcy, showing how the lessons in the previous chapters can be applied to companies outside Toyota.

Chapter 7 provides advice to companies wanting to learn from the Toyota way of Lean Leadership.

If you would like to order this book you can do so through book depository or Amazon.

If you are interested in developing Lean Leadership do contact us at LeanIT.