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5 Levels of Mastery


Art Smalley, author of Creating Level Pull, recalls asking his mentor at Toyota in Japan how long it would take to complete his basic education of TPS on the machining lines at the Kamigo plant. His mentor estimated about seven years. "I asked him how long it took him to really understand TPS and he replied about seven years," Smalley recalled. "I asked how long it took to get really good at it and he thought that he was proficient at all the tasks required of him as an engineer and a manager in about 20 years. To explain his sensei's answer, Smalley outlines the "five levels of mastery" framework that was frequently touted inside Toyota. The levels are:  (1) To know of or to have heard the concepts; (2) To know and really understand the concepts; (3) To be able to do them on your own very well; (4) To do them continuously very well over time and show improvement; (5) To be able to do and to teach it well to others.

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