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It's the story of Toyota's genius: an insatiable competitiveness that would seem un-American were it not for all the Americans making it happen. Toyota's competitiveness is quiet, internal, self-critical. It is rooted in an institutional obsession with improvement that Toyota manages to instill in each one of its workers, a pervasive lack of complacency with whatever was accomplished yesterday.
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What is so striking about Toyota's Georgetown factory is, in fact, that it only looks like a car factory. It's really a big brain--a kind of laboratory focused on a single mission: not how to make cars, but how to make cars better. The cars it does make--one every 27 seconds--are in a sense just a by-product of the larger mission. Better cars, sure; but really, better ways to make cars. It's not just the product, it's the process.
The process is, in fact, paramount--so important that "Toyota also has a process for teaching you how to improve the process," says Steven J. Spear, a senior lecturer at MIT who has studied Toyota for more than a decade. The work is really threefold: making cars, making cars better, and teaching everyone how to make cars better. At its Olympian best, Toyota adds one more level: It is always looking to improve the process by which it improves all the other processes.
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This is a remarkable story and one of the reasons I enjoy visiting the Georgetown factory.
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Last edited by bwilson4web; 12-26-2008 at 12:49 AM.