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Problem solving for managers: a mathematical investigation of Toyota's 8‐step process

Phillip Marksberry (College of Engineering, Center for Manufacturing, Institute for Research for Technology Development, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA)
Joshua Bustle (Tokico USA Inc., Berea, Kentucky, USA)
Jeff Clevinger (College of Mechanical Engineering, Cynthiana, Kentucky, USA)

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

ISSN: 1741-038X

Article publication date: 11 September 2011




Toyota's success in the automotive industry has been attributed to many factors, one of which is their systematic company‐wide problem‐solving approach. While Toyota's structured framework for thinking through problems may offer some interesting insight, it is speculated that how they develop and train their managers to share this thinking with their employees is the key to implementation. The purpose of this paper is to share these issues.


This work utilizes a new and novel technique to examine how Toyota trains and develops their managers to support problem solving. A form of data mining will be used in this research combined with Singular Value Decomposition to mathematically analyze organizational documents from Toyota.


The findings of this research show that the role of management is essential to the successful application of problem solving at Toyota. Results indicate that managers are trained to provide more intense coaching early on the front end of problem solving, specifically in step 2 problem breakdown, so that decision making and involvement of employees can occur more naturally in developing countermeasures.

Practical implications

This research method is solely based on mathematical and statistically analysis of organizational documents to reveal important and latent criteria critical for effectiveness.


This paper provides new insights and understanding of Toyota's 8‐step problem‐solving process. The role of management has been identified as an essential element in coaching and developing employees in the implementation of a company‐wide, systematic problem‐solving methodology.



Marksberry, P., Bustle, J. and Clevinger, J. (2011), "Problem solving for managers: a mathematical investigation of Toyota's 8‐step process", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 22 No. 7, pp. 837-852.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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