The Roots of Lean: Training Within Industry and the Origin of Japanese Management and Kaizen
LEI CEO John Shook, the first American employee to work at Toyota’s headquarters in Japan, tells a story about struggling to adapt Toyota training materials for use by Americans who would soon be working at the start-up New United Motors Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) joint venture with GM. A Japanese colleague, seeing him wrestling with some of the concepts, disappeared into a file room at Toyota’s corporate library. He returned with a dog-eared, coffee-stained copy of the English-language manual for Training Within Industry (TWI), a program developed by U.S. industrial leaders to support the World War II production effort. After the war, these proven tools were brought to Japan to support the rebuilding of industry. As Jim Huntzinger notes in this story, while TWI concepts were forgotten in the U.S. amidst post-war prosperity, struggling Japanese companies adopted them. Thus, the tools developed by U.S. industry became the foundation for elements of kaizen and -- at Toyota -- a revolutionary business system.