Run your startup the Toyota way

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Toyota is known for its manufacturing efficiency. We’ve probably all heard that if a worker on the Camry line sees a problem, they have the authority to stop the line and address it. At the end of the day, teams meet to discuss what went wrong and what fixes actually fixed things. It’s called the , or TPS, and, like any tech cult, it’s got lots of lingo and acronyms. (Try throwing around “Let’s kaizen this” if you want to seem in the know.) But it also can work for a as easily as it can work for the massive automotive manufacturer.

Jamie Bonini, the vice president of the , preaches the TPS gospel to organizations in North America and, recently, Australia. He’s worked with small manufacturers, hospitals and government agencies to teach them how to use Toyota’s principles in their particular settings. “You start with the customer,” Bonini said during a panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival. “Are they getting what they want? Then you work back from there.”

The point of TPS is to create a culture where problems are not repeated in order to achieve the end goal of improving quality. That’s as applicable to apps as it is to automobiles. In an interview after the panel, Bonini outlined the basics of the system, which has three parts:

These pillars, Bonini said, are “timeless.” Advanced technology can make the TPS system work better, but the focus on people — both those in the organization and the customer at the end of the process — remains an important part of the triangle.

“All three pieces of TPS must work,” Bonini said. “A lot of business leaders have never heard of all three pieces; they put all their emphasis on the tech tools.” Whether you’re in a 10-person startup or a 1,000-employee hospital, these three principals should work together to create a culture of trust and innovation.

Oh, and , for the record, is the process of changing things for the better, or in business terms, continuously improving the system at every step and every level.

 

Featured Image: Toyota

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