Posted on April 15, 2016 · Posted in Lean Thoughts, Toyota Principles, Toyota Way

iu-14Toyota Principle #9 – Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy and teach it to others.


With Principle #9, we start to see how important culture is to the Toyota Way.

To begin, note the verb used in this principle: “grow.” Toyota might have used words like “promote,” or “advance,” or “hire,” words that convey selecting already special employees … but they didn’t. The implication is to remind leaders that there are qualified candidates within their own organization, if they will just nurture them.

The verb “grow” isn’t passive either, as in watching growth take place. Rather, it is active, implying nourishing, cultivating and, yes, pruning, subordinates so as to draw the best out of them.

Further, because “grow” implies that one advances internal candidates (rather than hiring from the outside) it has a huge impact on employee morale. That is no accident. Creating an environment of high morale is critical to establishing a culture in which continuous improvement and continuous learning can flourish.

Imagine working in an organization where you feel your leaders aren’t just providing direction, but actively looking to strengthen and improve you. Picture an organization where leaders see it as their job to guide you in becoming your best self.

When you know leaders desire to help you optimize your knowledge and talent, you relax. You stop worrying about job security and take a different mindset toward your work. As you relax, your mind switches its frequency of operation from Beta wave thinking to Alpha wave thinking. It’s like a car shifting to a higher gear.

When a person’s brain switches from Beta to Alpha wave thinking, it becomes more creative and more open to seeing new possibilities, more aware of what’s really going on around it, and more open to suggesting improvements.

So, “growing” your employees not only benefits the employee, but the whole company.

Let’s look at the 2nd clause of the philosophy: “understand the work, live the philosophy and teach it to others.” This is some powerful stuff.

In my post on Hansei (, I stated that, in his testimony before the US House of Representatives, the President of Toyota attributed the Sudden Unintended Acceleration problem associated with their vehicles not to poor design, nor to poor craftsmanship, nor to poor maintenance, not even to operator error.  Instead, they said: “Toyota has, for the past few years, been expanding its business rapidly. Quite frankly, I fear the pace at which we have grown may have been too quick.”

In short, Toyota President, Mr. Akio Toyoda, was saying that Toyota had temporarily lost sight of principle #9 and grown faster than its leaders could understand the work, live the philosophy and teach it to others.

Studies have concluded that it takes no less than three years in the same position for a leader to fully learn their position and begin to mold potential successors. I personally think five years is a better standard. The point? It takes time to allow humans to mature in any position.

During that time, leaders not only learn the work involved, but also learn how the Principles affect that work. As they perform their job within those principles leaders are simultaneously teaching them to others, both through word and deed.

Recapping: Good leaders GROW their subordinates. They deepen and strengthen the bench of people who report to them, while creating a pool of promotable candidates for their own or other jobs.