The Toyota Production System and Scrum (1)

In 2006 I wrote a short article “Scrum Delivers” [1] in which I showed that the principles of the Toyota Production System as described by Jeffrey K. Liker [2] can be mapped to Scrum. In the following weeks I will show how Scrum maps these principles. The idea is to understand Scrum as a mindset not as a methodology.

Principle 1: Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy even at the expense of short-term financial goals.

In a Scrum project, the vision is defined by a key representative of the organization: the product owner. He translates the company’s long-term philosophy (road maps or financial goals) into specific, tactical decisions within the project. These decisions are communicated to the project through the product backlog.

Today we understand this even better. The ScrumMaster helps not only the Product Owner to articulate the Vision but he will help in an organizational Scrum approach management to understand the key values of their own enterprise.

A lot of Enterprises have huge problems with their project portfolio management. Far too many projects are ongoing and far too many demands are made on the teams. Most organizations try to help themselves by hiring more people knowing that  this will make their problems worse. Training and educating people takes time, customer demands increase because of false deliveries and so we need not only to work on the new stuff but also constantly on old projects.

So far I have seen no enterprise solving this issue very well. The first principle of the Toyota Way can be seen as a first step in the right direction. Two observations prove that this way of thinking works: (1) The Toyota Prius and (2) the rise and strenghts of the German power saving technology. Germany belongs after 20 years now to the world leaders in power saving technology.

When I explain to people that the Product Owner is only responsible for the Return on Investment of his project I always immediately get the counter argument that we cannot focus on the Return on Investment of the project only.  We have to consider long term aspects. Especially in Europe you will be confronted with this kind of thinking. I agree — what is the reality? I do not see the long term aspects in the day-to-day life of companies. What I see is that projects are not staffed based on long term strategies and that new processes are not used based on long term ideas – the people in the projects do not even know the long term strategy.

Scrum helps to see this and it helps to find ways to solve this by making the necessity for strategic thinking more clear.


[1] Scrum Delivers, Boris Gloger, Scrum Alliance Website

[2] The Toyota Way, Jeffrey K. Liker

One response to “The Toyota Production System and Scrum (1)

  1. Pingback: The Toyota Production System and Scrum (2) « Scrum 4 You

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