When I teach lean tools, I naturally reference the Toyota Production System and talk about their journey (which they don’t call lean!) as an introduction to the topic. Naturally, in the healthcare setting, I don’t dwell on the assembly-line function too much, but I have always felt that it’s helpful to put the approach in a historical context.

Now that Toyota has been in the news for its recalls, halt of production, and other moves, I’ve received some suggestions to remove any references to Toyota, because obviously, they’re not following their own system, or they wouldn’t be in such trouble, would they!!! So if Toyota is faltering, then we don’t want to connect our lean teaching with them in any obvious way.

And if you take this one step further, then I guess we should give up on lean itself, since obviously it didn’t work for Toyota so it won’t work for us.

Now before you start bombarding me with emails, let me explain that I haven’t stopped discussing the history of the Toyota Production System in my classes, and I haven’t given up on lean as a worthwhile approach (among other process improvement methodologies). I do talk briefly about Toyota’s current condition, in respect to their need to “get back to basics,” and then proceed from there.

My question to you is, have you had this question come up in your own work, and how have you responded? I’m interested to see whether this is a wide-spread concern, or just an issue in my own little corner of the world!

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