Book Review: Liker's "The Toyota Way"



This book took me on a much longer journey than expected. I found it to be so packed with information that it took a while to wade through. Coming from a church leadership background instead of a manufacturing background meant that I did not have some of the prerequisites that the book's intended audience might have.
For me personally, Part 1 (The World-Class Power of the Toyota Way) was an interesting look into the changing world of manufacturing and lean production. It has helped me appreciate where some of my congregants are coming from in the workday lives, but it did not strike me as deeply as I had hoped from a leadership standpoint. That came in Part 2.

I'd recommend reading Part 2 in its entirety after skimming Part 1. Or you could just read the Wikipedia article! Part 2 (The Business Principles of The Toyota Way) offered immediately applicable leadership paradigms. Like many leadership guides, these paradigms are not necessarily new, but seeing them in action is important. These are what I found most helpful:
1. Develop leadership from the inside with people who know your organization.
2. Focus on long-term goals at the expense of short-term.
3. Respect and challenge your extended network to benefit them and your organization.
Heijunka- Level Out the Workload
Genchi Genbutsu- Go and See for Yourself
Hansei- Relentless Reflection
Kaizen- Continuous Improvement
So, why would a pastor read this? After all, the best leadership insights come directly from Scripture. But many-- all actually-- of Toyota's leadership principles put people first. In other words, they love their neighbors as themselves. I'm not suggesting that Toyota is a Christian (or even Biblical) company, but it is refreshing to me to see a Global Corporation that generally has not sacrificed the health of its workers or community for shareholders.

Toyota takes a long-term approach and values face-to-face relationships. Its managers do not follow a typical executive "top-down" approach. They have grease on their hands, acknowledge mistakes (asking 5-whys), and know their company inside and out. The story of one executive driving across North America to get ideas for the remodeled Toyota Sienna is particularly memorable.

Many pastors would do well to consider the long term goals of the Kingdom and the Church ahead of their own ambition. They would find insight by putting relationships ahead of tasks, and they would empower their congregations by willing to acknowledge mistakes while suggesting steps for correction.

Whether or not they would further their ministry by driving a Toyota is open for debate.

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