Manufacturing Success: A Book Review of “How Toyota Became #1”

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How Toyota Became 1
Why You Should Read This Book Now

The car sector is getting a lot of press these days – particularly about how “the big three” North American brands are seeking public funds to help sustain a sector whose contraction has dramatic and worldwide implications. One of the more common reasons given for the current state of the industry is the inability of large and complex companies to adapt quickly enough to their customers’ changing tastes and needs.

It is with this state of the industry in mind that one can learn valuable lessons from David Magee’s How Toyota Became #1, because Toyota continues its 30-plus year industry reign of profitability, innovation and growth. And it has done so by ensuring that it truly stays connected with its customers as well as all other relevant stakeholders.

Who Should Read This Book

While some may think that How Toyota Became #1 is only worthwhile for those in the car and/or manufacturing sectors, the truth is that the power of its stories and practical lessons can be applied to all industries as well as to any company regardless of their size, age, geographic region or stage of growth. Furthermore, its insights are relevant for all C-level executives. For example, company leaders in charge of marketing, finance, operations and human resources can all learn about the importance of, and methods for:

  • Leading by articulating a well-defined series of operating values
  • Exciting and inspiring people
  • Managing people so that innovation is adopted when/where it is needed the most
  • Encouraging, and taking advantage of, customer-centric innovation
  • Sustaining a culture that encourages individual and company-wide responsibility
  • Collaborating with competitors to bring customers real value and realize on-going cost-savings

Magee has not covered new ground here. In fact, if you are familiar with the Kaizen method, the Plan-Do-Check-Act approach developed by business pioneer William Demming or any of the business writings that have popularized “Continuous Improvement”, “Total Quality Management” (TQM) and/or “Process Re-engineering” you won’t discover any new ideas. However, you will find compelling stories that are well-written, easy-to-read and can serve as a source of inspiration for you and your senior management team.

Bottom Line

What makes How Toyota Became #1 such a practical book is that it focuses on managing people and on managing processes – two areas that are all too often separated in the business literature. For example, Magee suggests a five-question process that helps get to the root of challenges without attributing dysfunctional and counterproductive blame. But, that doesn’t mean he abdicates personal responsibility. Rather, he outlines a managerial mindset and corresponding approaches that encourage everyone to embrace responsibility.

How Toyota Became #1 is timely, practical and well-written. It provides an effective balance between strategic insights as well as actionable items. While most of us will be bystanders, waiting to see just how the car sector evolves over the next 12 to 18 months, it is more important than ever to learn how a company like Toyota has been able to create a firm foundation based on customer-focus and world-leading innovation.


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