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TBP: Toyota Business Practice

By Jon Miller Updated on September 3rd, 2020

Toyota Business Practice
Steve asked in a comment to last week’s article,

Can you shine any light on the TBP (Toyota Business Practice) method of problem solving, i am aware this is inline with the Toyota Way, but have not come across any web sites or books with this format ??

How are PDCA, A3 Thinking and Practical Problem Solving?

The Toyota Business Practice is old wine in new bottles. Granted it’s very old, very good wine, but is nothing new. Peeling off the label will reveal the last decade’s under-appreciated but full-bodied PDCA brand of problem solving. Perhaps we can say that TBP is far more detailed and slightly more prescriptive way of practicing improvement than the simple PDCA cycle

Lately many people have found the A3 label of problem solving to a refreshing take on PDCA. In essence, A3 thinking and the Toyota Business Practice are the same. Both are adaptable within guidelines. But it’s all the same old PDCA wine. From a branding point of view, “the Toyota Way of Working” or “Toyota WOW” would have been cooler, but it was probably too close to Toyota Way itself.

What are the 8 Steps of the Toyota Business Process

In any case, the 8 steps of the Toyota Business Process are:

  1. Clarify the problem
  2. Breakdown the problem
  3. Set a target
  4. Analyze the root cause
  5. Develop countermeasures
  6. See countermeasures through
  7. Evaluate both results and process
  8. Standardize successful processes

How Does Toyota Business Process Map to an A3 Format?

Here is how this process would map to an A3 document for the purpose of problem solving, business planning or making a proposal. This is in itself just a slight variant of the QC Storyline of TQC.
8 Step Practical Problem Solving
Follow this process and you inevitably have kaizen.

What is a Problem Solving Funnel?

Here is a close up of the classic problem solving funnel. You can see how the first 5 steps or the Plan phase of the Toyota Business Process map to this funnel, with steps 6 – 8 being the Do, Check, Act portion of the PDCA cycle of continuous improvement.
PPS Funnel

A Deeper Understanding of the 8 Steps of TBP

The 8 steps of TBP written in Japanese are below, with my translations. There are some slight but interesting differences in nuance, and these always make me wonder how much loss results from translation of Toyota principles, precepts and philosophies.

For example, step 1 “Set a target” seems a bit loose while Japanese contains the word “achieve” that plants the idea that targets are things that must be met. And step 4 is not “analyze” but “think through” or “think until you find” and step 8 in Japanese doesn’t talk about “standardize” (this being an implied part of the Toyota WOW) but instead stresses that the results must become “established” or “take hold”.

トヨタの仕事の仕方8ステップ (the 8 steps of the Toyota way of working)

  1. 問題を明確にする (clarify the problem)
  2. 問題をブレイクダウンする (breakdown the problem)
  3. 達成目標を決める (set the target to be achieved)
  4. 真因を考え抜く (think through to the true cause)
  5. 対策を立てる (develop countermeasures)
  6. 対策をやりぬく (follow through on the countermeasures)
  7. 結果とプロセスを評価する (evaluate the result and the process)
  8. 成果を定着させる (make sure the results take hold)

As a standard problem solving process, it is excellent and widely applicable.

How to Pair TBP with Toyota Kata?

The Socratic teaching method and talk of “it takes 40 years to learn” at Toyota has given way to a more deliberate method of teaching this thinking process at Toyota, based on what I have seen. We could say the TBP is the result of clarify, break down, and so forth, applied to the teaching of PDCA.

Sometimes I think the genius of the Toyota approach is that this process is so simple, obvious, and offensive to the intelligence and self-worth of most senior executives and go-getters out there that they close the book and say, “That can’t be right. There must be more to it.” Most people won’t understand TBP or try it. You can’t really understand it until you try it. So it comes back to a question of packaging and motivation.

When this is the case, the Toyota Kata approach can be a good stepping stone towards TBP. The improvement kata and coaching kata are “patterns” in the form of guiding questions. They are designed to clarify the problem, set a target, propose a cause, test countermeasures and evaluate results. When the structure and rigor of TBP is presenting and obstacle to action, Toyota Kata can be a good lighter-weight option for getting started.

Where Can I Learn More about Toyota Business Practice?

The book Extreme Toyota mentions TBP and has a few case studies and A3-type stories that follow this process, but not in great detail on the thinking and tools used. Managing to Learn by John Shook is also a good place to get a handle on the Toyota way of working. As of 2017, the best, most recent book delving into on the Toyota Business Practice is The Toyota Engagement Equation by Tracey & Ernie Richardson. The authors share their decades of experience at Toyota in Georgetown, Kentucky and explain TBP in a relatable way. I highly recommend picking up a copy.

  1. Lester

    February 23, 2009 - 4:06 pm

    I really enjoy your analysis of the Toyota System. The fact that you can translate the original ideas from the Japanese writing helps a lot. I would like to see your continuing ideas on the 8 steps, if you don’t mind developing a download.

  2. Andy Wagner

    February 23, 2009 - 5:56 pm

    I’d love to see the original TBP if it is available.
    Andy Wagner

  3. Jon Miller

    February 23, 2009 - 6:31 pm

    Hi Andy,
    The original TBP is PDCA. If you mean Toyota documentation, it doesn’t belong to us so I won’t distribute it. However, I will continue working on a user-friendly e-handbook of sorts for problem solving that is basically TBP.

  4. Jianfei

    February 23, 2009 - 7:22 pm

    Sir, I’m interested in your comments on TBP! Toyota set a good example for all successors! But CI is a forever topic, we all know every thinking need development! So if you can send me the contents of TBP, I will be very glad to learn and share it!

  5. Luli

    February 24, 2009 - 6:23 pm

    could you please send to me document contain more detail on 8 steps of TBP.

  6. Stephen Wong

    February 28, 2009 - 6:19 am

    thanks for sharing !and do we have any VSM real example from manufacturing ?

  7. Manoj

    March 12, 2009 - 10:09 am

    I was just browsing thru the google and came on your excellent piece of information..its just brilliant..
    Thanks a lot for such beautiful ideas..

  8. Simon Ellberger

    March 22, 2009 - 9:49 am

    Jon: I would greatly appreciate your putting together a PDF or something downloadable on the 8-step problem solving process. I think the first two steps in particular need to be made more specific and distinct. For instance: I’ve seen ambiguous references in other sources to both an “ultimate goal” and an “ideal situation” being identified in step 1 — how do they differ?; I am not clear at all as to why “breakdown the problem” would apply to generic problem solving (I can only see its need in dealing with complex problems) or even how it is an act distinct from clarifying a problem — I would normally think of breaking down a problem as part of clarifying it so as to better define what to tackle; it’s not clear in which of these two steps one does such things as flow charting (or value stream mapping) and taking baseline measurements; how does the information one looks at/gathers/analyzes in step 1 differ from that in step 2?; etc.

  9. Tracey Richardson

    March 28, 2009 - 10:50 am

    Hi Jon,
    How are you? I’m familiar with your book on TPS Workplace Mgmt w/Taichii Ohno… great stuff…some of my Japanese mentors call that TPS generation 3 which adds the human side of TPS… love it!!!:)
    I found your TBP perspective very interesting here thanks for sharing.. Im actually a certified instructor of TBP by the Toyota Institute in Japan. Im a trainer for Toyota cascading TBP throughout all levels and Ive been associated with Toyota (mostly TMMK) for the past 21 yrs. Ten of those years being an actual Group Leader in Production 1988-1998.
    I’ve was taught basic PDCA in the late 80’s as well as Practical Problem Solving (the funnel approach above) in the 90’s and now TBP in 2005 as it came out. I will have to say I’m impressed with TBP specifically step 2 allowing us to breakdown the problem in Step 2, which leads for a more efficient and effective Root cause analysis and countermeasure implementation in Step 4 and 5. It’s definitely a different way to think and a discipline to tackle a smaller problem than a larger more value added problem in our minds. I also like the ability to embed Genchi Genbutsu in finding a process and point of occurrence of the smaller broken down problem allowing us to set target contributing to the Ideal Situation. I feel this thinking process has the ability to make a difference in key performance indicators (Q,S,P,C) within company’s willing to embrace this “thinking” process.
    I especially love the drive and dedication elements added to give team members the ability to add “tangible actions” to their problem solving process in order to “live the Toyota Way”… I’m an advocate of TBP to say the least, and will continue to train in this methodology improving the way Toyota does business. Thanks again Jon for sharing. Tracey Richardson

  10. Jon Miller

    March 28, 2009 - 4:50 pm

    Hi Tracey,
    It’s great to hear from you! I enjoyed visiting your blog and reading your articles. Please keep up the good work.

  11. Ryke

    May 22, 2009 - 11:14 pm

    I have a completed book of TBP (in PDF format).Please email me for request to download. More details and Hope be helpfull for your opinion.
    Thank you,

  12. Erick

    June 22, 2009 - 6:49 pm

    Dear Ryke,
    I’m interested in implementing TBP,i hope you dont mind to share the book to me

  13. Sunil Pantoji

    July 14, 2009 - 1:03 am

    Dear Ryke,
    I’m interested in implementing TBP,i hope you dont mind to share the book to me
    Sunil Pantoji
    [email protected]

  14. Victor Martinez

    July 15, 2009 - 7:18 am

    I’m interested in implementing TBP, and I hope you could share the PDF book with me.

  15. Anonymous

    September 22, 2009 - 12:07 pm

    Hi John.
    TBP Step 7
    I like this approach to problem solving
    We are so often results focused, and the result is sometimes all we see, but how we got the result in many cases is not recorded or understood, so we can’t repeat them.
    I see this part a bit like a football game, win, lose or draw. The day after the game the manager sits down with the team to analyse what happened in the game. If the result was a win, what did we do well to get the win, if we understand how, then we can have a logical strategy to apply to the next game to get another win. If the game was a draw what went well and what didn’t go so well, what did we learn and what could we do differently in the next game to get the win. If we lost the game what did we do wrong, how we can learn from the mistakes, and what can we do differently next time to get a win. Keep checking the result and the process of how we got the results will in the end set you up for better success, and add the repeatability factor through a standard approach. Apply this logic to problem solving and get the repeated results that are sustainable.

  16. Jeremy Bradley

    September 23, 2009 - 9:30 am

    Thank you for the information Jon. Can you describe the points which distinguish step one from step two? I see step 1 (clarify) as taking the perceived problem and undertanding it and step 2 as identifying points in the process where the problem could originate.
    Thank you

  17. nergis

    December 7, 2009 - 4:56 am

    what is the difference between tbp and DMAIC approach?

  18. Gordy Anderson

    March 19, 2010 - 9:51 am

    John: Did you ever put together a pdf with more detail on the eight steps referred to in the last paragraph of the blog entry above. If so, could you point me in the right direction? Thanks for the excellent thoughts and information you provide to all of us.

  19. chris

    October 28, 2010 - 1:05 pm

    After all these steps, I managed to establish a lean production.
    How could accompany her to see if this good or not?
    With NOURITSU is possible

  20. dave

    January 2, 2011 - 9:46 pm

    This was the Shuehart cycle which Deming taught to the Japanese after WW-WW11 otherwise known as the Deming wheel, PLAN- DO Check Act
    Toyota has elaborated the 4 steps and made it 8. Plan is now 5 steps. Step 1 clarify the problem
    Step 2 break down the problem
    Step 3 set a target
    Step 4 analyze the root causes. Step 5 develop countermeasures. DO,step 6 deveolop countermeasures. Check, step 7 evaluate both results and processes. Act, standardize the process that is proven successful

  21. Karla

    March 4, 2011 - 5:21 am

    Dear Jon,
    I got to use this method when I worked for Toyota, from all the problem solving methodologies that I have been trained in other companies, I still use this one. It’s fixed in my heart.


    August 28, 2011 - 12:57 pm

    I WORK TOYOTA INDUS MOTOR COMPANY.before cupple of time i practice T.B.P and i solved meny problem by this way


    November 23, 2011 - 10:30 am

    I have recently got trained on TBP. I appreciate to solve any problem and fix it TBP is a wonderful tool there are many problem solving techniques but the simplest and easy to learn and practice is the TBP.
    A3 paper is also a well organised way to present the solution.
    all Toyota employees are trained to follow this practice.
    with TBP you enjoy to solve and present the solution in a systematic way.
    In Toyota we say problem is an opportunity to learn.
    I am happy to see good coment.

  24. Javier Artime

    June 21, 2020 - 2:59 pm

    Great post: TBP (like many others attempts at branding critical thinking) it’s old wine, but it is still years after you published this post, an underappreciated magnificent old wine.
    Another recent resource to learn about the way TBP is taught and practiced at Toyota is The Toyota Engagement Equation: How to Understand and Implement Continuous Improvement Thinking in Any Organization by Ernie and Tracey Richardson. I found it to be very effective in conveying the learning organization aspects of TBP.

    • Jon Miller

      June 21, 2020 - 4:06 pm

      Thanks Javier. Tracey and Ernie’s book is indeed a great resource.

  25. Isaias Rosales

    September 17, 2021 - 10:49 am

    Hi! I have a doubt!

    When can I use TBP & when use PDCA?


    • Jon Miller

      September 17, 2021 - 11:10 am

      The PDCA cycle is built into TBP. You cannot do TBP without PDCA. TBP is a more detailed and specific way of applying the Plan-Do-Check-Act process. Always use PDCA, sometimes use TBP.

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