Bicking, Cortes J. (2015). Toyota Production System (TPS) theories-in-action and lean implementation theories-in-action: A contrast in maximization of human potential. Doctoral dissertation, Human and Organization Development, Fielding Graduate University.

Abstract: Thousands of companies have tried to emulate the Toyota Production System (TPS), through the concept of Lean manufacturing, resulting in disappointment or failure. Case studies have identified broad causal factors such as leadership actions, lack of overall skills, and “cherry-picking” TPS techniques, instead of embracing them in the spirit and mindset intended. This research sought to identify the collective mindset, which enables Toyota to effectively apply TPS, when others cannot. The findings provide insight into prerequisites of Lean implementation. Such knowledge benefits companies desiring to embrace continuous improvement thinking into the fabric of their culture and consultants concerned with “how”. The research began by exploring the similarities and differences between Lean implementation theories-in-action and TPS theories-in-action. A triangulated approach using case studies, q-sort methodology, and survey was employed. Participants in the q-sort and survey came from 2 sources. The first, a company that has attempted to implement Lean practice more than once with disappointing results. The second source, a team of Toyota employees from their Erlanger, KY plant. Comparisons yielded 3 important findings. First, Toyota responses indicate a willingness and commitment to challenge the status quo, at every level, not evident in the other company. Second, a definite lack of understanding the underlying purpose of Lean and the tools was apparent in the non-Toyota organization. Third, the method of organizational learning employed by Toyota has a different focus than the non-Toyota organization. The findings indicate prerequisite organizational characteristics, necessary for successful implementation of Lean, exist. A CAS perspective, openness to collaborative, non-defensive, reflection within Toyota far exceeds the non-Toyota company. Further investigation on how to foster collaborative reflection among teams, organizations, and society is warranted and could enable positive social change.

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