Taiichi Ohno’s Ten Precepts, Broken Down

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Taiichi Ohno, the Toyota Engineer and father of Toyota Production Systems penned “10 precepts to Think, Act and Win.” During Ohno’s tenure at Toyota, he built the foundation that propelled them to dominance. Toyota went from a small and obscure vehicle manufacturing company in the 1940’s to the number one producer of vehicles in the world by the early 2000’s. A huge piece of that growth and transformation was due to Ohno and the Toyota Production System (TPS) he created. That system started with his personal philosophy. 

The “10 Precepts to Think, Act and Win” are; 

  1. You are a cost. First reduce waste.
  2. First say, “I can do it.” And try before everything.
  3. The workplace is a teacher. You can find answers only in the workplace.
  4. Do anything immediately. Starting something right now is the only way to win.
  5. Once you start something, persevere with it. Do not give up until you finish it.
  6. Explain difficult things in an easy-to-understand manner. Repeat things that are easy to understand.
  7. Waste is hidden. Do not hide it. Make problems visible.
  8. Valueless motions are equal to shortening one’s life.
  9. Re-improve what was improved for further improvement.
  10. Wisdom is given equally to everybody. The point is whether one can exercise it.

These ten precepts are a testament to Ohno’s belief system and priorities. Many people want to improve their life or business by changing other people, which is not possible. The order of Ohno’s precepts shows his deep understanding that change starts internally. Once internal changes have been made, influence over the organizational processes becomes possible. Finally, the last precept is accepting that no matter how badly one may wish to change someone else, it is their responsibility to change themselves. Providing the tools and encouragement are the best one can do to change others. 

Breaking that all down even further, though-

  1. Being a cost means you need to spend your time in a valuable way. Reduce waste by doing the things that are worth the most value and avoiding tasks that have no value. Respect yourself and take ownership over your own life.

2. Starting with saying “I can do it” is to get your mindset right prior to starting a new project. Henry Ford wrote, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t- you’re right.” By thinking you can do it, you become able to do it. (disregarding the physically impossible. One cannot think themselves into growing wings. Buy one can think themselves into doing good work)

3. The source of the work is the only source of truth. When a machine breaks and news travels from the machine operator to floor manager to district manager to VP of Operations, the decision made will be much worse than one made near the machine. Go to the source of a problem to understand the cause. Then make a decision.

4. Stagnancy doesn’t teach. Taking steps in the wrong direction will yield more information than no steps at all. It’s important that any time you wish to make any kind of improvement, you need to start by changing behaviors and actions. Thinking about it will not be good enough.

5. Starting something and quitting half way through will prevent the real lessons from being learned. Pointing at a potential poor outcome and deciding not to pursue the work anymore does not alleviate the fact that the work was wrong. Do what you said you were going to. Your word is the only real credit you have, and quitting destroys that credit.

6. Being able to describe complex things in an easy-to-understand manner is proof of understanding. If you cannot explain it simply, you likely do not understand it fully. Things that are easy to understand make for good sayings, which are good for repeatability, which is good for remembering complex information.

7. Clutter, disorganization, and excess make it hard to see what is necessary to see. In any endeavor to get better, removing the source of a problem requires seeing what that problem is. By making problems, whether in life or in business, easy to see, they can be easily analyzed and resolved.

8. Spending your time doing things you dislike, things you don’t want to do, or doing tasks that are ultimately fruitless is to waste time. To waste time is to forfeit opportunities for valuable work or play. Note, it will be impossible to truly eliminate non valuable work, but minimizing it as far as possible is the goal.

9. Getting better is not a one time project. It’s not a quick re-organization and moving on to other work. It’s a continuous cycle. Information changes, environments change, you change. Greatness requires continuous improvement.

10. One cannot force someone else to change their ways by sharing information alone. We all gave access to the same information, now more than ever via the internet. Choosing to do something with that information is not something everyone does. One can only share the information and encourage another to use it.

Taiichi Ohno.jpeg
Via Wikipedia

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