Creating Social Value Blog / Corporate Social Relevance

Lean for Social Innovation: Driving a Culture of Improvement through People Development

By Jamie Bonini, Vice President at Toyota Motor North America. This post is the last in our Spring 2016 series that explores how the Toyota Production System (TPS) philosophy “people are our most valuable resource” is applied in real time at The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) by students in MIS 3535 Lean for Social Innovation. Posts include the opinions of thought leaders and Babson student perspectives.

I get asked a lot of questions about the Toyota Production System (TPS).  Some of my favorites include what’s TPS? and what’s the secret to successful TPS implementation? – great questions!

Putting it simply, TPS is an organizational culture that engages people to become the problem solvers of their organization.  Who better than those connected to the work or the process to drive change? As this series has been exploring, one of Toyota’s philosophies – people are the most valuable resource – is the secret for successful TPS implementation.

It’s interesting because TPS is something that seems easy but is actually very difficult.  It takes drive and commitment from every member in the organization –from top management to the employee closely connected to the work or the process. But this tremendous challenge, especially when there’s an existing operational culture already in place, enables organizations to try something different. Why not?

As an advisor it’s my job to make sure that we focus on incremental small improvements that will lead to big results; and in turn for management to provide the necessary environment to foster a culture of improvement – a place where employees can contribute to their job every day. This is the first step, a hard step.  I’ve seen manufacturers, hospitals, food banks and in this case Babson students succeed from this unique learn by doing approach.

Focusing on the strengths of the people, their ideas and exploring this new way of thinking through trial and error is what TPS is about and a time tested journey to success.  Much like this TPS course MIS 3535 Lean for Social Innovation. The class was designed in such a way to promote this type of thinking and to unleash students’ potential – a powerful way to learn TPS!

This is my 15th year at Toyota.  I can genuinely say my current role as a Toyota Advisor is the highlight of my career.  This work allows Toyota to help strengthen manufacturing in the United States and for nonprofit organizations it represents doing more with less to better serve people. At the end of the day, if we’re not thinking about people or putting our customers first frequently we’re not headed in the right direction.