So it’s been a long time since I’ve been on here. I took an unannounced leave of absence for no particular great reason, but for those of you who are still reading this blog, I am back and hope to be producing more regular content. To that end, it’s that time of year again, for my top ten books of the year. Last year was a weak reading year for me. I didn’t read much at all. In fact, I would say 75% of the books I ‘read’ were audiobooks. Some normal authors that show up on this countdown every year, Mr. Chesterton and Ms. Christie, will be absent in the list this year. I didn’t even have time or take time to read my favorite authors. Hopefully, this year will hold a better time for reading. It is one of my ‘resolutions’ for this year.
I was planning on publishing this series earlier, but I hesitated because I came into reading some great books during the last few days of 2014 (I had time.), which change the shape of the list I had originally devised. So without further ado …
#10 isn’t the genre of book you’d normally find in my top ten, but it was so insightful and thought provoking, I couldn’t leave it out. I picked up The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership: Achieving and Sustaining Excellence through Leadership by Jeffery Likes and Gary Convis because for a little over two years I was in a leadership program for priests, and it seemed like good supplemental reading. I was glad I did pick it up because it provided a good supplement and also gave some good philosophical and theological background towards the importance of leadership with any organization.
Neither Convis or Likes are theologians, and honestly, I don’t even know their religious affiliation. However, as they began to outline the leadership practices and structure of Toyota, theological lightbulbs started flashing in my head. Toyota is an interesting case study because in their entire history as a company they have run in the red only twice in something like 60 years. Most other years they have turned a substantial profit. Businesses tried to imitate their practice so as to stabilize their own companies and increase their profits. The key to Toyota’s success, though, isn’t in its processes, although they are very good. It isn’t in the hiring, although, that too, is good. It isn’t in how they budget and plan, although, that too is good. It’s success comes from its formation of its employees into leaders. It is, first and foremost, a person-centric company. Yes, many of the processes are automated to construct the cars they make, but Toyota realizes that is is only as strong as its people who design, maintain, and operate that equipment. Toyota takes great pains and many, many years forming its leaders. It sees the importance in forming good individuals who can think critically, think reflexively, and think creatively about problems.
Furthermore, problems also are attribute to Toyota’s success. They look for problems and address them with the best solutions they can devise. Then, they address the next problem and so forth. They recognize that no process, nor person, and no car is perfect. It can always be made better. It is seeking through its leaders to better reform itself to produce what is best. I have no doubt that is why the Camry is such a fantastic seller.
Finally, it follows the principle of subsidiarity. It puts its trust in its leaders. If a lower leader, closer to the source of the problem can address it, then he should address it. Only when a problem gets beyond him does it go above him to the next level, and even then, the next level guides him, but still allows him to come up with the solution. This allows for more knowledgeable problem solving and less micro-management. That kind of philosophy builds up the human resources even more.
Whether you’re a in business or not, whether you are in a leadership position or not, I would suggest this book as a theological reflection on the practical application of the dignity of the human person and the principle of subsidiarity.