For people unfamiliar or vaguely family with the term “lean,” the word is used to express a dynamic approach to work that seeks to continuously create more value with less effort. If you have not explored how this approach can radically improve your work you owe it to yourself and your organization to start that discovery process. If you have only explored lean superficially you have even more reason to take it seriously.

As you learn about lean it is easy to fall into a trap of believing it is all about using logic and reason in the workplace. The Toyota Production System (TPS), which has informed much of the lean thought process, was according to Toyota founded upon a scientific mindset. This mindset has clearly served Toyota well over the past eighty plus years.

What is often missed, and is a likely source of breakdown for organizations that fail with their attempts to adopt a lean mindset, is that powering the TPS scientific mindset is a great deal of emotional energy. This energy is most concisely captured by the Five Precepts, a summary of the teachings of Sakichi Toyoda as documented by his son Kiichiro and son-in-law Risaburo. They arise from the integration of life experiences with spiritual teachings.1

A treasured wall hanging in the Toyoda family reads, “Heaven, Earth, and Man. Knowledge, Benevolence, and Courage.2” The precepts are not a one-time, committee-driven values statement to be hung on corporate walls and forgotten. Kiichiro was drawing upon authentic beliefs to communicate an understanding of the inner strength people in the company would need to fulfill their outer purpose. They are powerful ideas, without which TPS would not have been possible.

As we approach the U.S. Thanksgiving Day holiday it’s appropriate to reflect on Sakichi’s fifth precept.

  • Be reverent, and show gratitude for things great and small in thought and deed.

With thanks and gratitude to the many people that have helped me on my lean journey.



  1. Satoshi Hino, Inside the Mind of Toyota (New York, Productivity Press, 2006) 2.
  2. Satoshi Hino, Inside the Mind of Toyota (New York, Productivity Press, 2006) 26.