Spring is a good time to reflect on fundamental questions.
What's so special about TPS?
Okay, it has a very good track record in manufacturing and has spread into health care, construction, finance and other sectors.
But over the centuries, have there been other successful management innovations?
What's the big deal?
I believe TPS is unique because it represents a magnificent blending of cultures.
The American occupation of Japan after WWII brought the best of East and West together.
American muscle, optimism and engineering prowess met Japan's (and hence, China's) social, psychological and spiritual inventiveness.
The result -- TPS -- represents an entirely new way of managing.
When ideas "mate" interesting things happen.
Scientific Management, as espoused by Taylor, Ford, Deming and others, enriched -- and was enriched -- by Eastern systems of thinking and feeling.
What other management system combines the rationality of time and motion studies, with the humanity and humor of continuous incremental improvement?
Every day a little up...
What other system is as comfortable with Zen-like paradox?
Lead as if you have no power?
Stop production so it never has to stop...
And what other system embraces the impossibility of perfection, while insisting we must work toward it every day?
TPS is a splendid marriage of East and West, of rationality and intuition, of Left & Right brain.
We're lucky to have it.
So here's an overdue tip of the hat to all those half-forgotten dreamers, engineers and managers who first intuited TPS in the 1940's and 50's.