house picThe Toyota Production System (TPS) “house” is the model home within the lean business system neighborhood. Its roof of highest quality, lowest cost and shortest lead time is supported by the two pillars of JIT and jidoka. These pillars rest upon a solid foundation of heijunka, standard work and kaizen, which itself rests upon a foundation of stability. Of course, there’s a bit more to the house, not the least of which is the profound simplicity and synergy among these elements. It’s core principles of humility and respect for the individual make it a beautiful house.

But despite its functionality and beauty, don’t blindly copy the TPS house. It would be like trying to replicate the Mona Lisa with a paint-by-number set. How can you internalize something with such a sterile and mechanistic approach. Fujio Cho and others within Toyota have referred to TPS as the “Thinking Person’s System.”  Copying isn’t thinking.

So, study TPS, learn by doing and then tailor it to your culture and to your vernacular…without gutting it. In other words, keep the pillars and foundations, but make it your house. By undertaking this activity, lean leaders have to think deeply and critically about the principles, systems and  tools. It will force  engagement in and around transformation at a cultural and technical level. It will compel a meaningful dialogue about horizontal and vertical alignment within the organization (think strategy deployment) and it will ultimately require the lean leaders to articulate the company’s business system such that it can be understood by everyone within the organization. From this endeavor, the kaizen promotion office can develop the lean training curriculum and deliver it within perhaps a more relevant context.

Here’s a few examples of some “custom houses.” Of course, don’t expect too much detail due to their proprietary nature:

Building your house should only be done after you’ve rented the TPS house first. Consider enlisting the help of your sensei. Know that it will take time before you have enough (very) basic understanding and organizational lean commitment to even think about building, but don’t wait forever.

So, what’s been your lean home building experience?

Related post: Everyone Is Special, But Lean Principles Are Universal!