If Toyota Ever Did a Church…

The latest Fast Company edition features this article on the culture of perpetual, continuous improvement that pervades the workforce at Toyota, and why The Big Three in Detroit will never catch up.  It’s well worth an hour of your time. 

Here are the money quotes:

It’s another cliché that is powerful if you take it seriously:  You can’t solve problems unless you admit them.  At Toyota, there is a presumption of imperfection.  Perfection is a fine goal, but improvement is much more realistic, much more human.

Typically, though, the Big Three take an all-too-American approach to the idea of improvement.  It’s episodic, it’s goal-oriented, it’s something special.

What is so striking about Toyota’s Georgetown factory is, in fact, that it only looks like a car factory.  It’s really a big brain–a kind of laboratory focused on a single mission:  not how to make cars, but how to make cars better.  The cars it does make–one every 27 seconds–are in a sense just a by-product of the larger mission.  Better cars, sure; but really, better ways to make cars.  It’s not just the product, it’s the process.

Boy, if Toyota ever did a church….

I’ve been asking myself what it would take for a church to come up with this change-embracing attitude and culture, and I keep coming back to missional clarity.  It’s when people get confused about the mission of the church that the preservation of the status quo (or worse, the return to the status quo ante) becomes the mission itself

Churches that are on mission don’t have time to tinker with and bicker over policy manuals and lines of authority.  They don’t settle for running the same program year in and year out.  They’re not afraid to embrace the concept of less if that’s what it takes to do things better.

You can do the Toyota thing only when everyone at the table is unified behind the goal of making cars well.  You can do the Kingdom thing only when everyone at the table is unified behind the goal of making disciples well.  One preservationist in the room mucks the whole thing up. 

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