WIHI: Success at the Right Speed: Learning from Toyota

Date: May 6, 2010


  • Steven J. Spear, Senior Lecturer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Senior Fellow, IHI
  • John Toussaint, Founder and President, ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value; Author, On the Mend
  • Gary Kaplan, MD, Chairman and CEO, Virginia Mason Health System
When Toyota began to stumble in the late summer and fall of 2009 because of serious safety problems, the world gasped. And understandably so. Faulty gas pedals and brake systems were the last things anyone expected from the world’s number one car maker. Indeed, the high standards for quality and safety that revolutionized auto manufacturing and that inspired many other industries, health care included, to learn from Toyota, were viewed as indelible. Not any more. That’s probably a good thing in the long run, say those who’ve followed the company over the years; it’s an unfortunate turn of events, but an important wake-up call that anyone committed to sustaining gains over the long run can and must learn from. 

John Toussaint, Gary Kaplan, and Steven Spear are some of this country’s top students, teachers, and implementers of Toyota methods as they apply to health care. They join WIHI host Madge Kaplan to share their analysis and wisdom about why it’s critical to “keep your eyes on the road” of improvement and not succumb to a lot of distractions and the latest shiny idea or ambition. The trio is confident that Toyota will work its way out of the current situation and restore its trust with consumers. But where in your own health care organization are there early warning signs of arrogance and loss of respect and humility towards patients and staff in hopes of workarounds and easy gains?


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