Principle 14 of Toyota Way

Become a learning organization through relentless reflection and continuous improvement.

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Sadly, with this post we finish the exposition of all the Toyota’s Principles which take part on the daily culture applied within the organization.

Principle #14 from The Toyota Way states:

“Become a learning organization through relentless reflection and continuous improvement.”

The last Principle is responsible for organizing and maintaining the last thirteen.

It speaks about how the organization tackles with the mistakes and problems encountered. Assuming problems as opportunities to improve and learn without blaming anyone is the key to spread knowledge and eliminate a fear management culture and style, which is quite common nowadays. As an analogy, this is like a wheel which starts with a mentor behaving and transmitting the aforementioned culture which will be transmitted at the same time by the trainee to his/her future learner and so on and so forth.

The Principle also focuses on identifying the root causes of problems and developing corrective and preventive actions as a method. The well-known standard of asking why 5 times is always applied until the root cause is detected.

Find below the problem-solving method used by Toyota:

  1. Initial perception of the problem by the production or process operator and communicated to his/her hierarchic superior.
  2. Clarifying the problem and understanding the real issue of it.
  3. Locating the black dot or area in which the issue is causing problems.
  4. Asking why 5 times until the root cause is detected. You do not need to ask it 5 times but as many times needed until the cause is found.
  5. Think about the countermeasure and implement it in the workshop.
  6. Assessment of the implementation and the outcome of the solution proposed.
  7. If it works, standardize as a new procedure to assure the stability of the process and avoiding its occurrence.

The Principle also speaks about Hansei, which is the responsibility, self-reflection and organizational learning.

Hansei is an idea within the Japanese culture that is about acknowledging our mistakes and pledging improvement. Our self-awareness is the first step for improvement.

In the hansei process, the emphasis is on what went wrong and on creating and developing corrective and preventive actions to assure that it does happen once again and has to be done constantly and consistently. In the Toyota Corporation if you succeed in a project, there is a meeting called hansei-kai that consist on reflect about  what went wrong. If an involved employee claims that there were not problems with the project, they will be reminded that no problem is a problem. Thus, if you have not objectively  evaluated the project to find opportunities for improvement, you will not be adapted to the hansei culture.

In Japanese companies it is a very common practice for a manager to expect hansei from his team in case of mistakes. The manager will assume the responsibility for the mistake and, meanwhile, his team will work on solving the problem.

Hansei also adds the concept of greeting success with humility. Stopping hansei, means stopping to learn. With the hansei culture everyone feels the need that there is always more room for improvement.


Hope this post has been interesting for you and looking forward to your comments and recommendations!