Key to talent management
D. S. Cheema

Toyota Talent
by Jeffrey K. Liker and David P. Meier. Tata McGraw-Hill.
Pages 326. Rs 350.

It has been recognised by organisations the world over, that, all winning strategies stem from talent management systems, which are mastered by the unique winners. The only sustainable competitive advantage an organisation can have over the others is to be able to spot, develop, use and create the human resources in such a manner that it can change faster than its competitors. It’s only the talent which can make and break the rules of the game; how to get ahead in an extremely competitive and fast-changing business world of today.

It baffles many minds that though information and knowledge of Toyota Production System is available for the past thirty years, no other company has been able to completely duplicate the Toyota results An organlsatlon’s ability to attract the best and the brightest brains around the world in disciplines of science, technology, academia and the arts, integrated with the ability to develop this talent, is so fundamental a need that one wonders why so many top class organisations don’t pay serious attention to it. It is only the people who can create the right focus, generate the required amount of agility and provide the right discipline in an organisation, provided they are able to realise their full potential.

This book is a sequel to the authors’ The Toyota Way Fieldbook, which explained the principles and the practices of Toyota. The need of the present book was felt by one of the authors, David P. Meier who has had the unique experience of 10 years to understand the methodologies of the Toyota Production System (TPS). The other author, Jeffrey Liker, wrote the best-selling book The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer in 2003. The book provides a rare insight into the complexities of Toyota culture and their Training Within Industry (TWI) programme.

The secret of Toyota’s success lies in its approach of ‘mono zukuri wa hito zukuri,’ which means ‘making things is about making people.’ The philosophy of developing people is extremely critical to Toyota culture. Toyota adopted the TWI programme developed by the US in the 1940s, with slight modifications. This programme follows a typical sequence. Step one is, of course, to prepare the student to receive what he should. It is basically to get the student interested in the job that he is going to be trained for. The second step is to "present the operation," as the authors call it. This is a step-by-step ‘tell-show-demonstrate" operation, only that much which the learner can absorb at one time. The third step involves asking the student to do what he has learnt while the trainer keeps correcting. The fourth step is follow-up, letting the student do the task himself, slowly reducing the coaching follow- up.

TWI along with job instruction is the foundation of the entire training and hence the heart and soul of the development of talent at Toyota. They follow a 10-hour classroom session consisting of two-hour classes with 10 trainees in each session. The course content for the five-day programme is carefully designed, so that the first day learning perfectly fits into the next day instructions, and so on.

The book is divided into four parts. The part one, with four chapters, deals with how to prepare an organisation to develop people capable of delivering what an organisation wants. One chapter is exclusively devoted to TWI. The second part is about identifying the critical knowledge, the knowledge which must be integrated with the skill requirements of the job to be performed by a worker. Six different chapters explain the fundamentals of standardising the work, job instruction method and breaking job down into pieces for teaching. The third part sequentially leads the reader to perhaps the most critical part of the whole process—transferring knowledge to others. The fourth part is devoted to how to verify what has been learnt by the trainee. Follow-up is the backbone of the entire system and the authors have given it due importance.

Such a book cannot become an immensely readable material because of the obvious reasons. However, the lessons for training and development can become immensely useful, as these are universally applicable. Any discerning reader can pick up what suits his organisation.