The Birth of Lean: Conversations with the Founders of TPS


Fascinating interviews with the founders of lean. Learn about the origins of the Toyota Production System from the people responsible for its creation. As its pioneers explain in The Birth of Lean, there was no master plan to create a company-wide improvement system. TPS came about through experimentation, trial and error, and an evolution of ideas that shaped Toyota’s structure and management system.


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Topics: Executive Leadership

This is a fascinating look at the origins of lean, written in the words of the people who created the Toyota Production System (TPS), including Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda. Through personal interviews and annotated talks, you will hear first-person accounts of what these innovators and problem-solvers did and why they did it. You’ll read rare commentaries that explain the interplay of (sometimes opposing) ideas that created a revolution in thinking.

Many books that describe TPS imply there was a master plan to create a company-wide improvement system. But as the lean pioneers in The Birth of Lean explain, there was no master plan—TPS came about through experimentation, trial and error, and an evolution of ideas that shaped Toyota’s structure and management system.

The Birth of Lean gives you a glimpse inside the thinking of the TPS creators and innovators:

  • Taiichi Ohno—the man who envisioned a way of working that would evolve into the Toyota Production System
  • Eiji Toyoda—the former Toyota President and Chairman who oversaw the development of TPS and the inclusion of TQC at Toyota
  • Kikuo Suzumura—the Toyota manager recognized as the most influential in translating Ohno’s ideas into actionable items
  • Michikazu Tanaka—the manager and executive at Toyota affiliate Daihatsu who adapted TPS to his organization
  • Kaneyoshi Kusunoki—the former head of Toyota’s production engineering organization who refined the buffering system in use in Toyota’s operations
  • Masao Nemoto—the Toyota executive central to the deployment of TQC at Toyota

In this English translation of the Japanese book, you’ll hear the words of the people who created the countermeasures that Toyota devised to address issues and problems as they arose—countermeasures that they continue to use and adapt today. By understanding that the people who developed such a powerful system started with simple experiments, you’ll be encouraged to begin your own experiments to transform your organization.

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Publisher:Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc.
Publication Date:February 29, 2012
Number of Pages:300
Weight:1.31 lbs
Dimensions:9.000 × 6.000 × 0.750 in
Takahiro Fujimoto|Koichi Shimokawa

About Koichi Shimokawa and Takahiro Fujimoto

Koichi Shimokawa is a leading authority on the automobile industry. He is a professor in the Faculty of Business Administration at Tokai Gakuen University and a professor emeritus at Hosei University. Shimokawa was a member of Hosei University’s Faculty of Business Administration from 1969 to 1999, and he previously taught at the University of Toyama. He holds a doctorate in economics from Kyushu University and studied at the Harvard Business School for two years in the late 1970s. Shimokawa’s research on the automobile industry centers on supply-chain management in a global context, on e-business models, on cross-border alliances and mergers, and on issues and opportunities in emerging markets. Shimokawa has authored and coauthored numerous books, including Ushinawareta Junen [Japan’s Lost Decade] (Tokyo: Chuko Shinsho, 2006); Joho Kakumei to Jidosha Ryutu Inobeshon [The Information Revolution and Innovation in Automobile Distribution] (Tokyo: Bunshindo, 2000), with Takao Iwasawa; The Japanese Automobile Industry: A Business History (London: Athlone Press, 1994); and Transforming Automobile Assembly (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1997), with Takahiro Fujimoto and Ulrich Juergens.

Takahiro Fujimoto has been a professor in the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Economics since 1998 and has headed the university’s Manufacturing Management Research Center since 2003. A 1979 graduate of the University of Tokyo, Fujimoto earned a doctorate in economics from the Harvard Business School in 1989 and subsequently worked at Harvard as a researcher, as a visiting professor (1996–97), and as a senior research associate (1997). He has served as a visiting professor at the University of Lyon and as a visiting researcher at INSEAD. Fujimoto’s research centers on technology and operations management and on business administration. Among the books by Fujimoto are Product Development Performance: Strategy, Organization, and Management in the World Auto Industry (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1991), with Kim Clark; The Evolution of a Manufacturing System at Toyota (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); and Competing to Be Really, Really Good (Tokyo: I-House Press, 2007).


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