Respect for Humanity (An early theme in Toyota Production System):


This post is mainly about Respect for People in Toyota Production System, to show that this idea has been an integral part of Toyota Production System from the early days on.

“Toyota Production System – The foundation is respect for human rights”.

This is a quotation from a Toyota Production System book. Respect for people got famous with the famous Toyota Way document in 2001. This principle has been included within Toyota Production System for a long a time. In fact, the quotation I have cited is from “Toyota Production System First Textbook”. This is one of the early documents created within Toyota in the early 1970’s. An interesting trivia is that some of the text was written by Fujio Cho, the very person behind the Toyota Way 2001 document.

Section 5 of this document is titled “Man-Hour Reduction and Human Relations”. This section calls out TWI (Training Within Industry) Job Relations manual and cites “People must be treated as individuals” phrase from the Job Relations manual.


I have written about TWI previously here. TWI was an emergency service by US to help nation’s war contractors and essential production. There was a need to produce a lot in a short amount of time, and this required training operators to be better within a short amount of time. C R Dooley, the Director of TWI, stated the following; “TWI’s objectives were to help contractors to get out better war production faster, so that the war might be shortened, and to help industry to lower the cost of war materials.” Job Relations is one of the manuals of the TWI program. In the foreword of this manual, C R Dooley stated that “Giving workers technical skill alone is not enough. Supervisors must give every man and woman at work the leadership that enlists cooperation and teamwork.” Toyota added Job Relations to its internal training curriculum in 1951.

The “Toyota Way 2001” document made “Respect for People” the new thing in lean. This theme was not at all present in any of the western books on Lean or Toyota Production System. Naturally, this theme got a lot of attention fast.

Yasuhiro Monden’s Write-up on Respect for Humanity:

Respect for people also goes by Respect for Humanity. In my opinion, this was best described by Prof. Yasuhiro Monden in his 1983 book “Toyota Production System”. He wrote;

“At Toyota, respect for humanity is a matter of allying human energy with meaningful, effective operations by abolishing wasteful operations. If a worker feels that his job is important and his work significant, his morale will be high; if he sees that his time is wasted on insignificant jobs, his morale will suffer as well as his work.”

Prof. Monden also links to the ability of the worker to stop the line in case of a problem with Respect for Humanity. He states “Since quality control based on autonomation (Jidoka) calls immediate attention to defects or problems in the production process, it stimulates improvement activities and thus increases respect for humanity.”

Prof. Monden also gives two rules to follow when making job improvements;

  • Give the worker valuable jobs – the job performed by the worker (operator) should not be riddled with non-value added activities.
  • Keep the lines of communication within the organization open – A relationship of trust and credibility needed for improvement activities need open lines of communication.

One of the mantras at Toyota is “Monozukuri wa hitozukuri” or “Developing products is about developing people”. This idea is underlined by Prof Monden. He has identified three sub-goals for Toyota Production System. They are:

  • Quantity Control – The ability of the system to adapt to daily and monthly fluctuations in demand in terms of quantity and variety.
  • Quality Assurance – Assurance that each process will supply only good units to subsequent processes.
  • Respect for Humanity – Cultivating Respect for Humanity while the system utilizes the human resources to attain its cost objectives.

Final Thoughts:

I will finish with an amusing article on Walmart. In this year’s shareholder meeting, Wal-Mart announced that they will stop playing Celine Dion and Justin Beiber in an effort to boost employee morale. Apparently, the stores were playing a CD with Celine Dion and Justin Beiber non-stop driving the employees crazy. This notorious playlist has been replaced with Wal-Mart Radio. This announcement received the most cheers from the crowd! This was based on multiple feedback from the employees.

Always keep on learning…

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