Stories from My Sensei : Two Decades of Lessons Learned Implementing Toyota-Style Systems book cover
1st Edition

Stories from My Sensei
Two Decades of Lessons Learned Implementing Toyota-Style Systems

ISBN 9781439816547
Published September 30, 2009 by Productivity Press
180 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations


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Book Description

In the tradition of Taoist philosophers and Zen masters, Steve Hoeft tells the stories he learned from his Toyota Production System (TPS) master teachers. Sometimes enigmatic, sometimes funny, but always powerful and enlightening, these stories of continuous improvement and Lean implementation are organized around the Toyota House framework. After covering historical and foundational aspects of TPS, the stories go on to illustrate a wealth of essential topics encompassing the timeless, unchanging principles of Just-In-Time, Built in Quality, and Respect for People, and delves into specifics on many tools like kanban, Quick Changeover, and A3 Problem Solving.

Winner of a 2011 Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award

More than entertainment, the telling of stories is a way that human wisdom is handed from one generation to the next. It is a gentle but memorable way to learn the lessons of failure without suffering the personal pain of misdirected efforts; a way to find the best path without having to personally experience hundreds of dead-end journeys. It is a way to gain understanding that goes deeper than definitions.

When Steve writes about the TPS house, it is not just an abstraction. It is something he lives. He can vividly picture it in every operation…. Steve’s stories…bring the house to life.
-Jeffrey K. Liker, Shingo Prize-winning author of The Toyota Way

TPS is more than just a manufacturing blueprint and a set of business rules. It is a tradition, a learned and shared cultural legacy that imbues each ensuing generation with ethics and a sense of purpose that goes far beyond the punching of a clock and the filling of a ledger. It is far better taught by stories than by rulebooks. Ideal for individual learning and reflection as well as for use with groups, Stories From My Sensei provides key insights into how and how-not-to implement TPS principles. Reflection questions accompany each story to help readers apply the lessons to their own situations—situations that will ultimately become the basis of stories handed down to the next generation.

Table of Contents




Chapter 1 Summary of the Toyota House Model for Implementation

The Toyoda Family

Growth—The Growing Need for a Documented System or Model

Not Tools

Principles versus Tools

Lean, TPS and Coming to America

First View of the House

Hey, My Favorite Tool Is Not in This House


What Is a Sensei?

Goals of TPS

Changing Culture

Chapter 2 Foundation or Base Principles and Stories

Standardized Work

Preventive Maintenance


Robust Products and Processes

Early Supplier Involvement

My Most Interesting "Foundation" Stories

Chapter 3 Just-in-Time Pillar Principles and Stories

JIT or the "Rights"

Continuous Flow


Takt Time



Quick Changeover or SMED

My Most Interesting JIT Stories

Chapter 4 People Pillar Principles and Stories

The Power of Ideas

A3 Problem Solving

Employee Involvement and Empowerment

My Most Interesting People Pillar Stories

Chapter 5 Built-in-Quality Pillar Principles and Stories

Head Jidoka

Never Pass Defects

Stop the Line Authority


Problem Solving

Error Proofing (Poka Yoke)

My Most Interesting BIQ Stories

Chapter 6 Wrapping It All Up (The "Roof" or Results)

What Is Success?

Sweat and Blood

My Most Interesting Roof Stories

Chapter 7 Closing Words

Acronyms and Some Terms

Recommended for Further Reading


About the Author

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Steve Hoeft, a Toyota-trained Toyota Production System Coach at Altarum Institute, has helped organizations win over a dozen Shingo prizes. He is a practitioner, teacher, change agent and thought leader in applying lean principles widely and deeply to unique, knowledge-worker processes for hundreds of clients in multiple industries and application areas, including healthcare, new product development, supply chains, defense, government, and manufacturing.

While at a Big 3 automotive firm, Mr. Hoeft was trained by Eli Goldratt in the theory of constraints-based scheduling package OPT. His deep Lean experience began at Delta (Kogyo) USA under a true sensei. Mr. Hoeft then continued to learn about lean systems when he moved to Johnson Controls, Inc., and studied directly with Toyota in Georgetown, KY. At JCI, Steve coauthored the JCI Manufacturing System (an ASTD Training Package of the Year award winner) and was responsible for starting the implementation process across all JCI plants. He was also a Lean coach and consultant with Optiprise, Inc. Mr. Hoeft holds a dual bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering and operations research from Wayne State University and an MBA from the University of Toledo. He is a Certified Project Manager Professional (PMP) through the Project Management Institute and a key instructor for the University of Michigan College of Engineering’s Lean Healthcare, Lean Manufacturing, and Lean Product Design Certificate programs.


Steve is a real sensei. His presentations captivate students.  His enthusiasm is contagious. When Steve writes about the TPS house it is not just an abstraction. It is something he lives. He can vividly picture it in every operation he says.  He can guide the organization through the journey to build a real system. You will enjoy Steve’s stories that will bring the house to life.
-Jeffrey K. Liker, professor and author of The Toyota Way

Steve Hoeft has written an insightful and highly entertaining memoir describing his lean journey. He recounts powerful stories drawn from his work career to illustrate how an experienced Toyota sensei mentored his development. Hoeft uses the framework of the Toyota Production System house to integrate the narrative, with examples that make Toyota philosophy, methods, and tools spring to life.
-John “Jack” Billi, M.D., Professor-Internal Medicine and Medical Education, Assoc. Dean-Clinical Affairs, Medical School, Assoc. VP-Medical Affairs, University of Michigan Health System

... you will not only learn the principles that underscore TPS, but will learn them through hands-on stories that anyone involved in operations and lean implementation can directly relate.  In short, it will make you laugh and cry; knowing that true learning is accomplished through the joy of suffering!
-Jim Huntzinger, President and Founder of the Lean Accounting Summit and TWI Summit and author of Lean Cost Management: Accounting for Lean by Establishing Flow

Steve is one of the few leaders in the US that is truly a TPS expert.  He has not only written the way to be successful but he also demonstrated it successfully within various companies while keeping TPS pure and simple.
-Phil Lardiere, President Pendleton Group Inc., and author of X

Powerful and entertaining examples that bring key Lean concepts to life.  You will see Steve’s lively and inspired style coming through the pages---just as one would expect from a very knowledgeable and masterful Lean practitioner, story-teller, and instructor.  His participation in the University of Michigan Lean program as an instructor has set the bar high for all of us and generated high praise from many past Lean program participants as evidenced by some of the actual quotes below.
-Yavuz A. Bozer, Professor-Industrial & Operations Engineering, Co-Director, Tauber Institute for Global Operations, Co-Founder & Co-Director, Lean Manufacturing Certificate Program, University of Michigan

Program participants:                                                                                                         
-Outstanding! Steve is an outstanding instructor/facilitator, the animation and real-life stories make the course fun.  Very excited and passionate. Great stories: please write your book Steve!
-- Great job Steve!! The concepts will help tremendously.
-- I can take this information to use in my Kaizen events.
-- Steve is awesome!
-- Excellent use of stories.
-- Very entertaining and great examples.  Topic s very useful! Very good knowledge. Thank you!
-- Steve is excellent. Best instructor/teacher I have seen in years.