Episode#12 – The Machine that Changed the World

The Machine That Changed The World

by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones and Daniel Roos


The book in one sentence

How Toyota’s idea of lean outperformed the productivity of its American and European competitors.


My personal opinion

The book by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones and Daniel Roos is a real classic. Explaining the basic idea of lean and how it was applied by Toyota in the manufacturing world was an inspiration for many industries. Today, it seems that everything is lean. And this is for a good reason!

I enjoyed reading about the idea of lean, maximizing productivity, avoiding waste right in the beginning of a process from real world examples, how the workers of Toyota tried to identify and understand every error at the assembly line, how the management pushed responsibility to every worker, encouraging team work at the company. It is impressive to see how long Eiji Toyoda and Ohno worked on their ideas and – at the end with tremendous success – how they were changing a whole industry.

The book shows that lean is much more than a manufacturing principle. “The Machine That Changed The World” helps to understand what lean means, yes, from an operational, production process point of view but as well from an organizational, people point of view.

Especially, I like how Toyota works together with its suppliers (at least how it is described in this book): the transparency they establish between each other, a shared goal, jointly calculating prices and costs, sharing best practices and the long-term commitment to work together.

Interesting was as well to see how Toyota transferred the idea of lean towards other business departments like sales.

In summary, I take with me that lean is all about the people: a successful lean system needs “dedicated generalists willing to learn many skills and apply them in team work.” Only then your organisation will become lean.


To whom I would recommend this book

As I mentioned above, “The Machine That Changed The World” is a classic. So, I can recommend as a general good-read. It is entertaining but as well full of valuable ideas. If you are interested in continuous improvement, read this book!


What I learned from this book

  • Teamwork is key.
  • Working in small badges can help to identify problems earlier.
  • Establish quality circles for continuous, incremental improvement: set time aside periodically for you or your team to think about how to improve your way of working.
  • Analyze a problem by asking the “Five Why’s”. Trace every problem to its ultimate cause.
  • Involve your customers and partners to improve your products and processes. Value their feedback and treat them well.
  • Pay relentless attention to prevent defects.
  • Give everyone in your team the power to “stop the line”.
  • Make sure that a problem never occurs twice.
  • Invest your time in making a nearly perfect product the first time rather than fixing defects afterwards.
  • Give everybody the possibility to understand the overall situation at the “plant”. Do not guard information to feel superior.
  • Encourage to think proactively.
  • Let employees rotate along your production process to broad their knowledge.
  • Respect the need that everybody needs to make a reasonable profit.
  • Begin and end your day with a team meeting. Once a month schedule a meeting to solve systematically any problems using the Five Why’s.
  • Aim to maximize the stream of income from a customer over the long term.
  • After a sale, keep in touch with the customer, meaning frequent touch points, becoming the customers personal sales agent. Establish a relationship.


Want to read this book?

Check it out on Amazon.com – The Machine That Changed The World by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones and Daniel Roos



Thanks to the publisher for printing such a great book!

Free Press – Simon and Schuster