Learning from Toyota (1) – The 4 Ps

Toyota is not only a factory. It is a school of thought. It is a way of respecting employees, grooming competent leaders, contributing to the art and science of management, and manufacturing high-quality cars.

The Toyota Way is not only practice or lecture orated in isolated ceremonies or gatherings. It is a written material the company's employees get trained on dynamically. You must have heard of "Lean Production" or "Six Sigma." These are all based on the Toyota Production System (TPS).

Before delving into the TPS, one should have an overview of the 4 Ps that govern Toyota.

1) Philosophy: this includes Toyota's vision, mission, objectives, values, the attitude of Toyota's management, and board. This P is one that cannot be compromised even if it leads to a reduction of profitability. An example of this philosophy's principles is that employees are never fired for the companies' financial difficulties.

2) Process: a process, any process in any flow of work, is dealt with delicately. The overarching objective and Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for every process owner is reducing waste (i.e., lean – reducing the "fat" in a process). Every process should continuously be subject to improvement to eliminate waste and non-value adding activities. Another KPI for each process owner is being careful with the technology adopted. Toyota does not take a hasty decision to acquire systems or software merely because it is the "hottest" thing in the market. Technology is only invested in after painstakingly due diligence has been carried out to examine if that technology was adequately tested. The third principle in process management at Toyota is that congestion of loads on any process is a sign of a problem. There should not be components of the process congested with load, while other nodes on the flow are relaxed or not as pressured.

3) People: The keyword under this P is respect for employees' differences, capabilities, energy, and dignity. Another principle is that employees are only groomed and promoted once they have been tested for living the firm's philosophy and way – carrying themselves out as the Toyota Way's role models. Toyota embraces and encourages contradiction – the contradiction of viewpoints among its employees. It enables and welcomes unorthodox approaches among people from the same or different organization levels., Toyota treats even the man on the shop floor as a knowledge worker.

4) Problem-solving. When they think of problem-solving, some companies think after the fact- after the occurrence of the incident. Toyota's problem-solving means how to prevent the problem before the event. Every process owner should continuously think about how risks to quality can be prevented. Every leader and process owner is expected to see it for him/herself rather than relying on reports and dashboards to arrive at their desk; they are expected to go to the shop-floor to observe and put together an action plan for risk reduction. Finally, the decision for solving a problem should be thoroughly taken by consensus among all relevant stakeholders. But once the decision is reached, the resolution should immediately be implemented.