If You Think Lean Is Inherently Japanese, Think Again | Planet Lean | Katie Anderson


“Nearly two years ago my family and I moved to Tokyo. As a lean coach and enthusiast, you can imagine my excitement. I set out with the intention to deeply learn about Japanese business culture, leadership, and application of kaizen (Japanese for “continuous improvement”). I saw my time in Japan as a unique opportunity to immerse myself in the environment where the principles we call “lean” were born.

Now, after 18 months spent in Japan (we have just moved back to California), I find myself reflecting on what I learned and how the experience living there has shaped my own thinking about and understanding of lean. I want to share some of these thoughts with you.

The main theme that has emerged from my reflection is that Japanese culture does not equal Toyota culture. What we call “lean” is not inherently easy for the Japanese and there are cultural traits that both enable and inhibit the adoption of principles of the Toyota Production System (TPS)…”

Sourced through Planet Lean

Michel Baudin‘s comments: Katie Anderson is back from Japan, after 18 months, where she realized that the Toyota Production System (TPS) is the brainchild of smart people who happened to be Japanese and not the product of Japanese culture. Based on my own immersion in Japanese culture, and years of work with Japanese mentors and partners, I concur.

3 comments on “If You Think Lean Is Inherently Japanese, Think Again | Planet Lean | Katie Anderson

  1. Thanks for sharing my post, Michel. Now that I’m back in the Bay Area, let’s reconnect. I was unpacking my office books that were in storage while we were in Japan and I just put the book you gave me about 8 years ago back on my shelf.

    • We’ll never know. All the work of Sakichi Toyoda and much of the work of Kiichiro Toyoda predate World War II. As for Deming, while he clearly was influential in post-war Japan as a whole, his footprints aren’t obvious in TPS. When you read his most influential book, Out Of The Crisis, you get the feeling that, by the 1980s, he was more influenced by developments in Japan than the other way around.

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