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"Efficiency Way"


Taiichi Ohno started his Toyota Production System implementation by reading books in 1938-39.

What were those books?


Are there written things that contribute to the development of this system? In other words, when we see this as an information flow, are there processes we are unaware of?

From Taylor’s “Scientific Management” and Gilbreths’ “Motion Models,” how did it reach Ohno?

One of the first stops is “Efficiency Way” by Youichi Ueno.



When Taylor published “Scientific Management,” and the Gilbreths did “Motion Models,” these books were translated quickly into Japanese (within one to three years). Unfortunately, these books didn’t sell well. Sociologists translated those books, and they were too complicated to read.



Then in 1917, Ikeda published a “novel” called “Secret of eliminating unnecessary steps,” based on “Scientific Management.” It is a novel because the main character is called “Tarou,” and the story is about his professional development story by implementing changes. He starts his profession as an operator, then becomes a production engineer. He observes senior operators and starts to notice unnecessary steps. He starts by sorting materials. He defines work sequence. He posted “Standard work cards.” Many resistants happen (It’s a drama). The need for foremen to listen to the ideas each worker has. “Promise chart” by purchasing and suppliers to avoid delay🤣. Frequently, the word “Muda” is used.

Almost 70 years before the “Goal,” such a novel was published in Japan and became a huge hit. The author claims he sold 1,000,000 copies (Not sure how true it is). Some companies, like Kawasaki Heavy Industries, distributed free copies to all employees. [There is a portion in the beginning that explains "Scientific Management," not as a novel]


The success of the “Secret of eliminating unnecessary steps” triggered Japanese attention to “Scientific Management.” They started calling this an “Efficiency Study.” The pioneer of this movement was a phycologist named Youichi Ueno.


Ueno got interested in “Scientific Management” when he was researching the phycology of workers. Upon graduation from college, he traveled to the USA to learn directly from Gilbreth. One of his early successes in reducing the production lead time, he changed the batch size from 100 to 20. In 1919, he was head of the Industry Efficiency Research Center. The center started publishing magazines on this topic. The movement eventually reached the academic to form a discipline called “Management” in Japan. The organization still exists by changing forms and names; now, it is Sanno University. Later, he focused more on the creativity of employees.


Ueno published “Efficiency Way and Lessons” in 1936, two years before Ohno started his reading. Ueno intended to combine “Scientific Management” and Eastern philosophies. It consists of five ways and ten lessons, a bit long but underlined in Japanese thinking, so that I will translate.


Five Way

  1. Seiza; We promise to keep the correct postures. Correct contents require correct formats.

  2. Seishoku; We eat properly. Food is the raw material of body and soul.

  3. Seigaku; We study correctly. We should study both Eastern and Western and never become biased.

  4. Seisin; We live in correct faith. Correct faith comes from all of the above.

  5. Seigo; We use correct words. Correct way communicated by correct words.


Ten Lessons

  1. All work must have its objective and target. We must establish these first. No motivation will develop without those.

  2. Select and execute the best methods that match the objectives and targets.

  3. If the methods do not match the objectives and targets, those will generate Muda (Waste) and Muri.

  4. Utilize all human, materials, money, time, and space to accomplish the objectives. Improper utilization generates Muda and Muri.

  5. The characteristics of Muda and Muri conflict with each other and become the cause of Mura.

  6. Aggravating Mura becomes a disaster. Always improve Muda and eliminate Muri to reduce Mura. Neglection leads to an unstable society.

  7. Efficiency is about making the most out of all resources (Human, Material, Money) by reducing the Mura.

  8. Things that make the most out of all resources (Humans, Materials, Money, Time, Space) will survive. Those who kill those resources will die.

  9. All works must follow these principles of efficiency. Otherwise, society will be unstable, and we will not be happy.

  10. For that purpose, all (Individuals, Families, Corporations, and other entities) must operate with efficiency in mind.




There are many interesting points to this, but I am most interested in the relationships of Muri, Mura, and Muda. He says that to reduce Mura, we must challenge Muri and Muda, which is aligned with TPS. The typical approach to Mura was to use calculations (allowances and averages). But isn’t such a calculation “neglection” since the cause still exists? Focus on Muri and Muda to eliminate Mura is a powerful message.


Ueno was featured in some management books outside of Japan due to his work on trying to combine Scientific management and Eastern philosophies. It is important to note that in the early days of Scientific management in Japan, an employee phycologist who cared about the well-being of the people played a significant role. Forgetting this important process and focusing only on numbers and tools are dangerous.

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