NUMMI – an innovation killed by its host's immune system?

This American Life had a great show on the NUMMI car plant, a remarkable joint venture between Toyota and GM. It sheds light on many of the reasons for the decline of GM and the American labor movement. More generally, it’s a story of a successful innovation that failed to spread, due to policy resistance, inability to confront worse-before-better behavior and other dynamics.

I noticed elements of a lot of system dynamics work in manufacturing. Here’s a brief reading list:

1 thought on “NUMMI – an innovation killed by its host's immune system?”

  1. Tom, Thanks a lot for this article. This has been my special field of interest for the last five years. Since my work with BMW in the production line and being the “lean guy” at the plant it needed only the spark of the ISDC 2006 in Nijmegen to get interested in the field.

    Lean thinking has been my passion already for the last three decades, and understanding the behavior of social systems (always being an active member within it).

    There are truly some really striking findings, not just on the NUMMI case. Actually this can be transferred in more general terms to any company and its management working on improving it.

    Worse before better is the normal course in life – only that shareholders, banks and C-level folks see it a bit different.

    Back in 2007 I started to work on a paper and model on overcoming this seen behavior in organizations. Unfortunately or should I say luckily, nobody in the world to my knowledge has yet worked on the combination of lean thinking and system dynamics, in order to improve the system (which would be a very good thing in days like we encounter since the late 2008).

    I’d like to continue with the action research work. Perhaps you have interest in it or know of some sponsors with whom to make it happen. Please get in touch with me.

    Happy Easter and looking forward to hearing from you

    PS.: Despite the date of your post the topic is more relevant even today!

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