Tim Chaplin

09 March 2015


I have worked on learning about lean and how it relates to Agile processes. As lean came from Toyata I have had The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer on my list for some time now. I looked for it on my Safari membership, and I came across The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership: Achieving and Sustaining Excellence through Leadership Development by the same author; Jeffrey Liker.

Main Points

The book describes how Toyota cultivates leaders which directly work to meeting the goal of reaching True North. True North is a term internal to Toyota that means the ideal way or the way things would work if there was no waste in the production line.

The main points were:

  • Self Development - Approach to developing self
  • Shu Ha Ra - Approach to developing others
  • Importance of problem solving

Was it great?

Not really. It is definetly worth glancing through some of the main points of the book. Toyota is quite an exceptional company, and their commitment to their process and people is something to take note.


Self Development

  • A lifelong pursuit of self-development so that you can serve society
  • Striving for perfection, recognizing that humans are never perfect
  • Openness to self development and continuous learning
  • Practice rooted in a deep understanding of reality
  • A self-critical attitude with reflections every day on your weaknesses and what you can improve
  • A deep respect for more senior people who have invested in developing themselves and have something to teach
  • The concept of "responsiblity" for developing others as you develop yourself

Leadership Skills

  • Listening
    • Active and open-minded observing of the work of the organization
    • Active listening to hear what people are really saying
  • Systems thinking
    • Understanding the actual strengths and weaknesses of each person
    • Clearly defining problemens and identifying the root cause
  • Planning
    • Creatively identifying coutermeasures to the true root causes
    • Translating plans into action with clear accountability
    • Taking the time and energy for deep reflection to identify further opportunities for improvement
    • Motivating and influencing people across the organziation(with no direct authority) toward common objectives
    • Being able to teach others all of the above

Shu Ha Ri

Shu Ha ri - Is a learning approach. The translation essentially means:

  • Watch
  • Do (With observation)
  • Freedom

The idea is that you have a Sensei to guide you on your learning path. At first you Watch them, then you Do while they observe, and finally you perform the task on your own Freedom.

One of the main points from this section is that leaders mustobserve. One example the author gives is that an issue was discovered. The manager first thought was that it was impact wrenches causing the issue. When he propossed this to his upper management they told him to keep looking. After a couple more attempts the manager discovered it wasn't the impact wrenches that were the problem, but the employees training on how to use the impact wrenches

Five Aspects that deliver results

  1. Standarized work(the form)
  2. Deep observation by the Sensei to guide
  3. No answers to allow the student to learn by struggling
  4. On-the-job development to get practice and feedback
  5. Steadily increasing challenges to grow the student's capability

Plan Do Check Act(PDCA)

  • Plan - Hoshin Development
  • Do - Hoshin implementation
  • Check - Prepare for the next year
  • Act - Evaluation
  • Repeat - Standarize to daily management, reflect next Hoshin

PDCA directly relates to the Toyota Business Process(TBP):

  1. Define the problem relative to the ideal(plan)
  2. Break down the problem into manageable pieces (plan).
  3. Identify the root cause (plan)
  4. Set a target for improvement (plan).
  5. Select the appropriate solution among several alternatives (plan).
  6. Implement the solution (do)
  7. Check impact (check)
  8. Adjust, standardize, and spread (act).


Almost every other book I read begins chapters with a quote. Here are a couple I noted:


Vision without action is merely a dream. Action withou vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world. - Joel A. Barker, futurist


Rough waters are truer tests of leadership. In calm water, every ship has a good captain. - Swedish Proverb

I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers - Ralph Nader

Toyota Way

Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say "We have done this ourselves."

Funny Bits

If someone played a drinking game out of the number of times Toyota gets mentioned they would not make it past 10 pages.