The Grey Chronicles


Toyota’s 4Ps

The Toyota Way Fieldbook: A Practical Guide for Implementing Toyota’s 4PsLiker and Meier’s The Toyota Way Fieldbook (2006) explains that the “paradox of the Toyota Way is that though it is continually improving and changing, the core concepts remain consistent. . . Toyota’s success as a company has been well documented.”

Liker and Meier write:

“The whole premise of The Toyota Way was that Toyota’s system was much more than tools and techniques. . . [it] is about tacit knowledge, not explicit procedural knowledge.”

The book identified the four Ps of the Toyota Way: Philosophy, Process, People/Partners, and Problem Solving.

Philosophy. Toyota’s leaders see the company as a vehicle for adding value to customers, society, the community, and its associates.

“Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.”

Annotation: What kind of company would rather base its decisions on short-term financial goals while sacrificing its long-term philosophy? A corporate philosophy should answer the question: Why the company exist? Toyota’s commitment is clear: it will not lay off employees who are doing good work for the company except as a last resort to save the company.

Process. Toyota leaders have learned through mentorship and experience that when they follow the right process, they get the right results.

“Create a continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface. . . Use “pull” systems to avoid overproduction. . . Level out the workload (heijunka). . . Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time. . . Standardized tasks and processes are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment. . . Use visual control so no problems are hidden. . . Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and process.”

Annotation: Lean means eliminating waste, non-value-adding activities in business or manufacturing processes. These are overproduction, waiting, transportation, overprocessing, excess inventory, unnecessary movement, defects and unused employee creativity. Some managers just plan and do, but they forget to check and act.

People and Partners. Add value to your organization by challenging your people and partners to grow.

“Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others. . . Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy. . . Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve.”

Annotation: Leaders must possess six characteristics: willingness and desire to lead; job knowledge; job responsibilities—safety, quality, productivity, and cost; continuous improvement ability; leadership; and mentoring. Leadership is not simply delegation of activities but also owning up to one’s mistakes. Remember that some are born leaders, while others can learn the skills. Moreover, a relatively flat organizational structure without many layers of management is much more a way to go! A flatter one is the bedrock of mentoring. In terms of supplier partnering, it follows seven rules: mutual understanding, interlocking structures, control systems, compatible capabilities, information sharing, improvement learning, and kaizen & learning.

Problem Solving. Continuously solve root problems drives organizational learning.

“Go and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation. . . Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly. . . Become a learning organization through relentless reflection and continuous improvement.”

Annotation: The Toyota Way seeks to identify and remove obstacles on the path to perfection. It employs the Plan-Do-Check-Act [PDCA] concept to achieve its goal.

Toyota is among the most sophisticated users of advanced technology in the world. It has a well-earned reputation for excellence in quality, cost reduction, and hitting the market with vehicles that sell.

Toyota studied American management systems and adapted it to conform with its Japanese culture. In so doing, it found that change is truly impossible without effective leaders. In time, Toyota became one whereby all other lean companies are measured. Are we ready to change?


Liker, Jeffrey K. & David Meier (2006). The Toyota Way Fieldbook: A Practical Guide for Implementing Toyota’s 4Ps. New York: MacGraw-Hill, 2006. xx, 475pp. back to text

Disclaimer: The posts on this site does not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions; and unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Philippines License.


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