Change Your Thinking And Change Your Life: What I Took Away From TPS Principles #mealsperhour

For the last few weeks. I’ve been working with Toyota and Food Bank For New York City as they took a deeper look at how food is distributed by Metro World Child. The main goal was to provide more food to New York families in need – something I could absolutely get behind.  Even though the TPS (Toyota Production System) team was honing in on a very specific problem, I couldn’t help but take away lessons that were applicable to many areas of my own life.


Here is a perfect example of TPS in action. 

A Toyota employee visits the same restaurant every Friday with his daughter. He typically orders the same meal – one that is a variation from the menu. Grilled Chicken Salad with Russian dressing. According to the menu, the meal SHOULD come with Italian dressing. 9 times out of 10, this employee receives Italian dressing instead of what he asked for and preferred.

So, what now? He has to tell the waitress to swap out the dressing for the one he originally ordered. Over…. and over… and over… again.

Now… most would say to not return to that restaurant. But the Toyota employee LOVES that restaurant. Instead, of moving onto greener pastures, he decides to use TPS and correct the root cause.

Why does he keep getting the wrong dressing?


One Friday after receiving Italian dressing YET AGAIN , he asks to speak to the manager of the restaurant. He tells the manager his position with Toyota and asks if he could go behind the house to figure out exactly where the problem exists.

The manager agrees and off they go. The Toyota employee watches the entire process – the waitress inputting the order (with the adjustment), the cooks receiving the order via a computer screen, and finally the group assembling the plates at the end of the line.

Where is the issue? Where does this process fail?

Turns out in this restaurant’s instance – it was the screen that displayed the order. After interviewing the employees, the Toyota patron figured out that the screen needed to change. One small tweak would make a world of a difference to this restaurant. They decided to have any meal adjustments / tweaks blink on screen. This way, the workers behind the house would be able to quickly register that something is different with that order. Otherwise, people work on autopilot and just serve up the dressing that is supposed to come with the meal as opposed to what was ACTUALLY ordered.

5 minutes – life changing. The restaurant has significantly decreased mistakes coming out of the kitchen and everyone is much happier – including that Toyota employee who now can eat his salad the way he likes.



I came home and made a similar (small) change to my family’s routine and have seen a world of a difference. I know I mentioned this before, but I changed the way my children get ready for school in the morning. Instead of everyone eating breakfast and then getting washed up, I decided to reverse the order. We tend to lose time at the breakfast table. We laugh. We talk about our dreams. We even sing songs. And then someone notices the time and in an instant, it just becomes chaos. I was sick of watching my kids get ready for the bus in under 3 minutes. There was just too much STRESS involved every morning.

So, I flipped it. I told the kids to not come into the kitchen for breakfast until they were washed up and dressed for school. This leaves us with plenty of time to relax and be a family. For the last few weeks, we haven’t scrambled for the bus ONCE. Our days are much calmer!!

Small changes make a big difference.

Even with raising my children – I found the TPS system to be most helpful. The process asks for you to STOP and dissect an issue as it happens. If we were in the car plant and something went wrong on the line, the team member would pull what they call the “andon cord”, then a manager would go over to that area immediately and figure out how to correct the issue – not bandage it up for a later date.

I took this principle and applied it to my two oldest children and their involvement with one another. If they start acting up and fighting with one another, I don’t sweep it under the carpet or “wait until we get home” to address the root cause of the problem. I get down to their eye level and I figure it out on the spot.

What happened?

How can we change that?

Next time we are going to do X,Y and Z instead.

And it’s been great!

Want to learn more about TPS? Click here for more information.  Looking to learn more about the Meals Per Hour program – click here instead.

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