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What is “True North” anyway?

Sep 13, 2013 | Posted by Matt Elson

OK, so we’ve posted a few interesting articles on various aspects of the Toyota Production System (TPS): what it is, where is comes from (not as obvious as you might think…check out our earlier post: What is TPS?), why is it used, etc.

One of the most important aspects of TPS is the concept of the true north condition, or target condition. This is the goal of any TPS organization…to get to the point of complete perfection. Now I hear your comments already…”How can you reach perfection if the whole purpose of TPS is to continuously improve (i.e. never stop improving)?” Well, you’re right….true north is actually a paradox! We strive to reach this condition by applying the principles of TPS, but it is a VERY long term vision (decades and decades at least, forever at the most!).

However, just because it will take a long time to get there, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to reach the condition, by making small, incremental improvements (kaizen) everyday. As you will see below, a common saying is “Everyday, a little up.”

In other words, as long as you are trying your best and making improvements everyday (even small ones) you are on the path to true north.

Check out below and ask yourself: “What does True North mean to my organization? What am I doing as a leader everyday to help us get there?” On that journey, make sure that you develop others, share your knowledge systematically and recognize achievements. However, as a very wise coach and mentor once said: “Don’t dwell on how much better we are, but how much further we have to go.”




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