When first learning about TPS and lean, most become focused on the tools. They tend to be flashy and lend to endless discussion about technique and application. But as you gain experience and understanding of lean and TPS, an epiphany occurs. The true essence and spirit of the applications are about continuous improvement and respect for people. The are truly the two pillars of lean and TPS. Waste reduction and management tools are not pillars of the methodology.
“The essence of methodology is that each individual employee is given the opportunity to find problems in his own way of working, to solve them and to make improvements.”
Wakamatsu and Kondo, Toyota experts
The essence of lean thinking and TPS is simply put. Keep the focus on building people, then building products, which includes creating an environment of challenging the status quo. The true brilliance and strength of the TPS and lean thinking is the ability to harness the intellectual power of the average employee. This concept is lost on many organizations who get themselves lost in the tools and miss the obvious simplicity of the concepts.
The concept of respect for people not just about the customer or end user. It refers to everyone inside and outside of the organization who has contact with the process. This means line workers, support personnel, vendors and supply personnel. If you follow through with this principle, you will continually analyze the process and seek perfection with involving the customer. This will nurture the ability of the organization to self-identify problems and lead to continuous improvement, or Kaizen. Ultimately, the organization will start to challenge everything and embrace change with ease. More important than the actual improvements, the true value of continuous improvement is in creating an atmosphere of continuous learning and an environment that not only accepts, but actually embraces change.