Toyota Way Principle #10 and the Importance of People

Posted on July 23, 2012 | in Baseball, Sports, Toyota Way | by

Philadelphia Phillies Celebrate

(This is a continuation of the examination of the 14 principles of The Toyota Way.)

It’s one thing to have a company philosophy and mission statement, as well as a management team that truly lives that philosophy and can teach it.

But it is quite another to have a team of front-line operators to put that philosophy into action and productivity. If your teams haven’t bought into your philosophy, they are very unlikely to follow it.

After all, a team without leadership can still produce (albeit somewhat inefficiently and maybe not long-term). Management without a team produces nothing.

But if management has successfully cultivated and developed a team of front-line operators that has the capability to learn, grow, and function as a cohesive unit, significant momentum will follow behind that philosophy.

Although briefly examined using the New York Knicks as an example of how NOT to apply it, Toyota Way Principle #10 states:

Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy.

It is important for management to put its people in the proper situation in which to succeed. Establishing and achieving the “proper situation” could come in a number of different forms – compilation of the skills of all team members and distribution of those skills that properly complement one another within a process, expanded training, acquiring missing skill sets from outside the team, a defined process that is frequently observed and audited, and other things.

The company/team philosophy will dictate what skills are needed and what skills are not. However, once the requisite skills are implemented (and those that are detrimental are removed) it’s up to the management to continue driving the philosophy into day-to-day operations and processes.


Let’s look at the Oakland Athletics from the Moneyball era (2001-2002) from a philosophy and team standpoint.

– The team philosophy was more than on-base percentage for hitters. The roots of the philosophy were based on acquiring undervalued production. During this era, getting on base was valued less by the market than hitting home runs and stealing bases. The philosophy didn’t just start with general manager Billy Beane. It was actually initiated by owner Steve Schott, by virtue of providing Beane with a very limited team salary budget. It was Billy’s responsibility to maximize the number of wins within the resource constraints.

– Beane was essentially the top level of management at this point. Alongside establishing the philosophy he also developed the plan for implementing this philosophy. It was his responsibility to put the proper front-line operators (players) and the mid-level managers (field manager Art Howe and the scouts, including Grady Fuson) in place. He partnered with an assistant general manager (Paul DePodesta in real life, Peter Brand in the movie) who wholeheartedly agreed with the philosophy and was in full support.

As it turned out, he not only had to add the proper skill sets that were lacking on his staff but he also had to remove individuals who were not aligned to the team philosophy (Grady Fuson).

– The team on the field is where the rubber meets the road. Victories happen on the field. Management merely tries to put the team in the best position to succeed. Beane and DePodesta identified players whose skill sets fall in line with the philosophy of minimizing creation of outs (aka maximizing on-base percentage) at reduced prices. Players on the team that did not fall within this framework were dispatched.

– With a $41 million payroll, the 2002 Oakland Athletics won 103 games – the same amount of games as the New York Yankees (who spent in excess of $125 million on their payroll). While a unique philosophy, Beane had put a team on the field that worked as a cohesive unit in following his philosophy and Beane put them in the best position to succeed.

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