Posted on March 28, 2016 · Posted in Jidoka, Leadership, Lean, Lean Thoughts, Toyota Principles



Toyota Principle #8 – Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes.

NOTE: This principle doesn’t eschew the use of technology. It simply states that, when you use it, have it thoroughly tested so that it does what you want it to do the moment you turn it on.

And what is it you want it to do? You want it to SERVE PEOPLE and PROCESSES. In short, technology isn’t an end; it’s a means.

  1. SERVING THE PROCESS: Most would agree that we want technology to serve processes. We frequently purchase technology to perform repetitious and monotonous tasks; e.g. a barcode scanner attached to a cash register replaces the monotonous and defect-prone task of entering data into the register.

Sometimes we purchase technology (machines) to perform tasks beyond the physical strength of a human or animal; e.g. a tractor or crane or molding press.

  1. SERVING THE PEOPLE: Under principle #8, technology doesn’t just extend the capability of people, it serves them. To serve people, technology must work in harmony with its users. Here we need to stop and consider the implications of Jidoka: “automation with a human touch.”
Figure 2 - Toyoda Automatic Loom, type G, circa 1926 (

Figure 2 – Toyoda Automatic Loom, type G, circa 1926 (

The Toyoda Automatic loom was built in this fashion. It not only performed the monotonous function of weaving cloth, but also detected when a thread broke and stopped the loom.

Heretofore, stopping a machine had been the human side of the machine-human relationship. Now, a machine had been built to perform its job incorporating this human touch: Jidoka.

This automated feature served the operator in that it relieved them of task of checking to see if a thread had broken. That, in turn, freed the operator to be more productive somewhere else.

  1. THOROUGHLY TESTED: In his bestselling book, “Good To Great,” Jim Collins examined the role of technology in the determination of great companies. Collins and his team came to the conclusion that great companies were not technology adverse, but they also didn’t adapt technological following a fad.

Instead, great companies took their time and perfected the new technology, employing it only when it performed near flawlessly. Further, they used new technology to accelerate existing processes.


While I am aware of numerous large-scale technological violations of principle #8, sometimes the more commonplace is easier to see.

Most of us can identify with the firm that purchases the latest upgrade to office software application only to discover that the upgrade works radically different from its predecessor.

Such companies are assured that the new software is “intuitive” and that users can quickly find their way using the Help function. As a result, employees receive no training and are left to figure things out for themselves.

Although workers may ultimately find the new technology faster and easier, initially it slows them down and frequently leads to errors, some serious.

Let’s go back and ask:

  1. Did the new software serve the process? In the example given, the process was already working and the users had not requested the upgrade. Hence, it was purchased with some other end in mind. NO.
  2. Did the process serve the people? We can definitely say it did not, since it created problems for the users (people). NO.
  3. Was it thoroughly tested? In most cases, off-the-shelf software is rigorously tested before putting it on the market, yet may still contain bugs. However, what we are really asking is, “Was it tested on this group of people?” Again, the answer is NO.

Sadly, such behavior has become so commonplace that leaders see no fault with it.

NOTE: At no time have we discussed using technology to replace workers. People are truly a company’s most valuable assets. They adapt. They learn. They can easily shift from doing one thing to doing another. With training, they can alter their skills and take on new roles. Machines can’t do that.

Smart companies employ technology to solve a process problem, but also insist that it must be easier for the people who use than the current method. They involve those affected by the current method to design the new method. If buying off-the-shelf solutions, they train the users before installing the new technology.

Smart companies then wait until the technology has been fully Beta tested before employing it, and train users before going live. This is the spirit of Principle #8.