The Toyota Production System (TPS) has continually inspired scholars of production management to a search for its essence. Two new interpretations have recently been advanced. Firstly, Johnston has argued that conventional production management is based on an approach to management called management-as-planning. The central assumption is that intentional activity is based on a representation of the world. Thus, management is essentially about planning, i.e. manipulation of that representation. Instead, the TPS is essentially based on an approach called management-as-organizing. Here it is assumed that human activity is inherently situated, i.e. a response to the situation in question. Secondly, Spear and Bowen have claimed that the key to understand the TPS is the idea of the scientific method. When a production standard is defined, it also establishes a hypothesis that can be tested. Thus, they seem to emphasize the approach of managementas- learning as the foundational idea behind the TPS. It is shown that while providing fresh and deeper understanding to management in the TPS, these interpretations are partial and can be positioned inside the view on production management presented by Shingo. In fact, based on Shingo and other extant analysis, it can be argued that there are four approaches to management that are applied in tight coupling and synergistically in the TPS: management-as-organizing, management-as-planning, management-as-adhering and management-as-learning. It is concluded that the superiority of the TPS in comparison to its rivals is founded not only on a better theory of production, but also on a better theory of management.
Toyota production system, management, organizing, planning, adhering, learning.