Toyota Flow System (TFS)

The Toyota Flow System (TFS) is a new framework that I have been working on with industry partners (Nigel Thurlow, Chief of Agile at Toyota Connected, and Brian ‘Ponch’ Rivera, U.S. Navy) to create value to the customer in complex environments. The Toyota Flow system builds upon the foundations provided by the Toyota Production System and the culture that is The Toyota Way. To achieve flow in complexity, providing value to the customer in a disruptive economy, organizations need to practice/master three fundamental constructs; complexity thinking, distributed leadership, and team science.

In many cases organizations focus their attention on one or two of these practices, assuming that everything else will fall into place. For example, many team-based structures and Agile initiatives (e.g., scrum) often fail because the leadership structure is not changed to factor in the new team-based structure. Leadership operates under their existing, often command-and-control, model expecting it to work just as effectively with teams as it does with leading individuals. Unfortunately, this is not the case, leading to many failed attempts at implementing team-based and Agile systems.

What must be realized is that the three components presented in the Toyota Flow System must work hand-in-hand, they must be interconnected, in order to provide flow. We call this interconnectivity among the three components the triple helix, as each component of complexity thinking, distributed leadership, and team science is required to achieve flow. We call this triple helix the DNA of organizations for operating in complexity.


The Toyota Flow System concept is provided at It is licensed under creative commons, (c) 2019 Nigel Thurlow, Professor John Turner, Brian Rivera. Offered for license under the Attribution license of Creative Commons, accessible at and also described in summary form at By utilizing this site and any information presented you acknowledge and agree that you have read and agree to be bound by the terms of the Attribution license of Creative Commons.

A recent feature article summarizing the Toyota Flow System can be found at Planet Lean: The Lean Global Network Journal at the following link:

Introducing the Toyota Flow System

This conceptual model is a work in progress that combines academia with practice, crossing the theory-to-practice divide. There is much more to come in the development and testing of the Toyota Flow System. This page will keep you updated on the progress of the Toyota Flow System.


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