Case Study Business Performance & The 16 Habits of Lean Leaders

Part 2 

Habit 10: The Habit of Building and Leading your Team & Why Toyota treats its members as family?

Here is a quick reminder of the case study highlights:

Client & Industry:

European supplier of manufactured parts to the automotive industry, global reach.

Size of Plant in case study:

The plant successfully produced and delivered injection and blow moulded components as well as assembly of sub-engine parts to the key automotive industry giants.

Project Challenge:

The request from local management was how to increase the motivation and engagement of employees in the plant according to the Toyota methodology.

Size of Problem:

Management and production team meetings efficiently run but not effectively run. In other words, motivation and engagement at the shift and production meetings was very low.

Consequences of Problem:

Pressure on plant director to show performance improvement and be well prepared for expansion of the factory.

Key take-Aways:

Habit 10, which is a team building Habit, The Habit of building and leading your team, has several key components (tools, competences, value statements) which address the issues of leadership understanding of their role as a team builder.

One such understanding and competency is to understand the concept, tools and principles why Toyota leaders are taught the importance of treating its members as family, and the consequences this has on the individual, the team, the leader and the performance of the business. Clearly, I would need to go into a lengthy article exactly what I mean by family in this business context. A workshop or consulting session would allow me to invest in the time for this explanation. The purpose of this article is to make us aware that such an approach exists and is treated seriously as a leadership virtue. If practiced regularly, well, becomes part of habit nr 10.

The company values are demonstrated and lived by the leaders of the organisation towards their employees each and every day. 

These same values have a relationship to the values employees share and practice in their private lives. It therefore is logical to assume that these same values flow (or are demonstrated to) customers and society in a larger context.

The fundamental values are respect for people and mutual trust.

Both these values need to be well understand and above all, practiced every day…….., all day at work.

„When you are building the car, take care of the quality for the customer. When you are no longer building the car, take care of the people who are” Toyota Japanese Sensei.

Team members (this includes the CEO above all other members) need to understand and practice the following:

  • Respect for people. This is very much understood as a deep understanding of respect to the other person in everyday situations. Hence the term “Situational Leadership” or going deeper “Situational Servant based Lean Leadership”. Shock horror, you will find that TPS and Toyota Way has a lot to do with being a servant leader, in a given situation, all day, so as to engage people and improve business performance.

 Many people will be shocked to learn TPS was developed to ease the work for others. You see the connection with serving and respect!. Quite possibly your leadership style is you have become a slave to figures and numbers and process, adding “lean’ into the business just to make things easier. The inadequacy in thinking this way is just overwhelming for me, even as I write this article!

To become a victim of your own greed, pride and malevolence just for some temporary materialistic reward is so short sighted, so short lived. Its tragically immoral and a terrible set of vices. What employees really crave for (not to mention society) is true servant leadership. And don’t worry we will still make plenty of money for us all!.

 Furthermore, practiced towards the person ‘in the moment’ the person who you are with at the given moment in time, is where you need to be focused. You give them your undivided attention as if they were the most important person in the room. Where you are watching, understanding and listening to this person with all your being.

  • Respect for themselves and strive to become better people. This means use every opportunity to coach, develop and support given to you. Especially look to each problem or challenge as a gift to develop, challenge and make progress for others.
  • Work cooperatively with others to continuously improve products and processes. Exactly, but you see, its about developing people through problem solving. Not solve the problem and then we will see about some training for you. I hope you understand the order of thinking and action here!.
  • Do this through genchi genbutsu; through actual time spent on the floor (production/work environment) and Direct interaction with others. Ok this genchi genbutsu concept is not really understood even by experts in the lean field, so how can a simple CEO understand this!. Well, in my next post I will give you the key take-aways for this brilliant and amazing competency development tool. Get your HR Business Partner to read this one.
  • Always think about how to serve the end customer., Yes, but. This is an area where so many business schools (MBA) and alike just got it wrong. The idea here is to understand and provide a service or product not only and exclusively to the end buyer, customer.

Start with the person next to you first. He or she is your customer. If you have a demotivated and dis-engaged employee, how possibly can you achieve a sustainable approach to your customer. “Here you are dear customer”, big smiles, but you know how many employees I killed on the way to bring you this!. Sounds familiar (as a Country Manager I had just such Boss) not to mention the overtime we had to incur in the factory for this!!!.

  • Treat all team members and suppliers as partners in the business. This is so badly understood and manipulated by purchasing departments. You know, perhaps I should give you an example of how at Toyota we worked so hard with suppliers on “open book costing lean leadership” that they (suppliers) always end up making more profit after our discussions. You don’t believe me, I’ve done it, been there.
  • Work to make others on the team better. This is an extension of the above themes put another way.
  • Work to positively impact society and the environment. Yes, Yes, Yes. Its so incredibly sad we have to wait for people like Sir Richard Attenborough, COVID-19 and Pope Francis Fratelli Tutti and a few others to start to think seriously how to change our personal way of living so we can all share in the gifts of our home planet.

I was so touched when I saw one of my clients supporting two children in a poor war stricken country with education, financial assistance, books and so on. Whilst another was donating money to a project in Sudan so that a village could have its own water supply. This would mean the young girls from the village would not have to spend all day every day walking many kilometre in fetching water from a lake which was drying up, and be able to attend school.

Habit 10 is looking to your role as a leader of a team and as a member of the team. It also opens the hearts and minds of leaders  to the wider issue that we are all one village, with many tribes, who should working together for a common purpose and meaning.


In PART 3 of this case study, I will go continue with Habits  10 focusing on:

  • How leaders are taught to build their authority at Genchi Genbutsu (publicly unavailable information) and in part 4,
  • How Genchi Genbutsu, problems solving, building ones authority and engagement of employees work in described above.

Build you organisation by allowing your people to focus on structured problem solving.

What Toyota focuses on is “Developing People through Problem Solving”, with a great deal of support mechanisms around the word “support”.

In the case of this business, the support came from the 16 Habits.

I hope this case study has shown how this system works and why it works.

If you would like to know more, please contact me, Mark Forkun on: