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Which lean book is better? Toyota Way or Toyota Kata

I saw a recent interview with author Jeffrey Liker about both of these books, and I think he does a great job summarizing what each book can be used for.

He explains that “The Toyota Way” provides companies with the “ideal state” vision. It explains how they should operate (similar to Toyota), and how to think differently about what is possible for their business. It is a powerful book about how Toyota operates.

The Toyota Way is the first book for a general audience that explains the management principles
and business philosophy behind Toyota’s worldwide reputation for quality and reliability.

However, for most companies, that is quite a stretch from where they are today. Many companies end up rejecting the entire idea based on many factors (not our industry, different business model, different constraints, “we’re different,” etc). The ideal state seems so far off, that it seems impossible for them, so they shut down and ignore the concepts completely.

In order to close the gap from current state to ideal state, Mike Rother wrote “Toyota Kata“. Consider it to be “future state” for companies.

Drawing on six years of research into Toyota’s employee-management routines, Toyota Kata examines and elucidates,
for the first time, the company’s organizational routines–called kata–that power its success with continuous improvement and adaptation.

With an emphasis on problem solving at the employee level, any company can implement these practices, and not feel overwhelmed.

So which book should you start with? Similar to many lean events we run, we need to understand where we are headed and why. I would recommend starting with “The Toyota Way” so companies can see the ideal state. Then, introduce “Toyota Kata,” so they can see how to move from current to future state, while still keeping an eye on ideal state.

Watch the full Jeffrey Liker interview below:

What other lean books have you found useful to your company?


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