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Toyota doesn’t complicate quality improvement. Start your journey doing this!

18 June 2015

If you're reading this and thinking "My organisation will never be as good as Toyota, my staff always resist change and our projects never get anywhere!' You're right, it won't be! In the words of the great Henry Ford 'whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right'. 

If you're reading this and thinking 'yes, my organisation is up for the challenge and we can do this', then please read on.

During Toyota's meteoric rise from humble beginnings to becoming the biggest motor manufacturer in the world, the organisation built a reputation for world-class quality excellence.

Toyota had a core belief that by focusing on quality, the needs of the customer and eliminating waste they could manufacture products efficiently, effectively and ultimately at lower cost; without sacrificing quality. So what can we learn from Toyota? Firstly, starting to improve quality doesn't have to be complicated. Over this three-part blog series, we'll look at: 

  1. Establishing an authentic quality mind-set
  2. Quality frameworks - there are so many, which one is right for me?
  3. Quality improvements - how do I begin to make improvements?

The aim of the series is to help you to reconnect to quality in a meaningful and tangible way; determine which framework to use and how to begin making improvements. All supported by simple steps that you can follow to make an immediate impact.

Establishing an authentic quality mind-set

Like most things in life overuse of a word or expression can lead to annoyance. 'Quality' can be one of those words, frequently misused as an ultimatum e.g. 'wemustimprove our quality performanceor else....' Your first step may be to reclaim 'quality' and to establish a fresh, authentic connection to it.

Here are some practical starting points.

1) Begin by asking yourself these questions:

  • Are you satisfied with your organisation's current levels of 'quality'?
  • Is your quality goal, 'to be as good as your peer organisations', good enough?

If you answered yes to the above, let me pose these scenarios. Imagine that:

  • you have a really important dinner date coming up, or
  • you're ready to move into your dream home, or
  • you're excitedly waiting to have your brand new 60 inch 4K TV delivered, complete with state of the art surround sound system

That's the expectation; this is what actually happens;

  • when you arrive for your dinner the restaurant wasn't expecting you so you have to wait and worse still when the meal eventually arrives it's stone cold;
  • When you move into your dream home the heating doesn't work and you discover damp across the back of the house;
  • when your TV arrives it's the wrong model and the screen is cracked


2) Let me ask, how do you feel? What happens when we replace the above scenarios with expectations at your place of work? What would be going through your mind? Should your patients have a different perspective? Note your answers.

3) In my experience of working with many organisations across different sectors, it's a cultural shift from a 'requirement' to a 'must-do' that engenders a quality improvement way of life. 'Quality' shouldn't be a buzz word or a fad. It's a mind-set and a belief system, something that world class organisations have at their core. We'll delve into this a little further in parts two and three of this series.

4) Start the cultural shift in your organisation by asking your staff the same questions above and carefully taking note of their responses.

Having completed the above tasks, you'll be armed with powerful insight into your attitudes to quality and expectations of it. You will have established an authentic connection to quality, it's more than a mere word. You will have planted a seed to want to improve your processes. So what next? In the following blog we'll look at quality frameworks and take steps to begin the improvement journey in a structured way.

Toyota dared to dream big about quality. How big do you dare to dream?

Download this blog as a pdf here.


Further help: if you need any further explanation of the above or guidance with a particular quality issue please do get in touch at

Further reading: if you found this useful, you may want to read our recent article '5 ways to supercharge your transformation projects.'

About the author: Abdul Ghani, principal consultant, Capita Health Advisory, is an innovative and inspirational leader with multi-sector Lean expertise. He has undertaken over 50 projects within 16 health and social care trusts across the country, facilitating workshops, mentoring and coaching staff and creating training programmes, as well as developing strategies and managing transformation programmes. Abdul understands that engaging people is the key to successful and sustainable change, and he achieves this through involving people in the change and visibly leading from the front.


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