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18 January 2013

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Hi Bill

You are right we are not all Toyota, but we all need to know why we should do things take VSMs.

Let's remember though Toyota has done a great job, they themselves admit they are far from perfect yet. In fact there are a lot of companies a lot farther along the Lean journey than Toyota is, size also creates some disadvantages in getting Lean.

A VSM is information in an easy to use format to help identify improvements, Toyota's engineers and line management know all of that in greater detail, they just never bother with drawing a map. But like you said they have a more focussed single process line to deal with, something few other organizations have.

Toyota pushes its supplier to use VSMs in order to help them improve their process, so in all likelihood it could just be that for Toyota they have found a way to achieve what a VSM does without actually creating it. If you have enough experience and track the right data about your process, you can actually know your current state without ever drawing the map. And with their experience and understanding of their process they can easily draw from that data what areas they need to focus on to gain the improvements they are looking for. If we are honest with ourselves how many organizations can honestly say they have that ability?

VSM is a tool that can help an organization that is having a hard time finding improvements to work on, if you could find improvements without first drawing one that would show me that the organization is in fact very poorly run to begin with. If improvement opportunities are that obvious why haven't you already fixed the issues?

You draw a VSM to help you see opportunities and problems, if you had a system that could supply all that info without the map and had the ability and experience to interpret that data without the map you really do not need it, but that is a rare case.

The failure to think systemically makes many attempt to learn from others into failures. People often try to copy practices and pieces of a process without understanding the critical elements that make the practice successful is how it fits within the system.

There are great things to learn from Toyota. Attempting to copy what they are doing, or not doing, is a fast path down the tubes. You need to learn what others do (Toyota and others) and then determine how those ideas might be useful in your organization.

Would not the key be an understanding and relationship to a given challenge and how one might adopt and adapt a given method and practice?

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