Far before I became an accomplished author, entrepreneur, and public speaker, the Lean Management philosophy was attractive. It spoke to me because it’s a systematic long-term management practice that thrives on support and continuous growth. Borrowed from the Toyota Production System (TPS), Lean Management enables incremental achievement through quality and efficiency.

Looking at the man I am today, you wouldn’t know that I come from humble beginnings. You wouldn’t know that I was raised amid the roughness of Richmond, California. However, I was guided by godparents who encouraged me to reach high and far. After earning my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Operations and Procurement from California State University, Hayward, I began my career as a Materials Management Specialist with New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI). NUMMI was a collaborative effort launched by General Motors and Toyota, and it’s responsible for introducing the basis of lean management, the “Toyota Production System,” to the U.S.

When presented to me, I wholly embraced this philosophy because it mirrored many of my own views regarding supported success. My tenacity and belief in these principles placed me on the fast track at Toyota. I was handpicked by  Toyota Motor Corporation’s now president and CEO Akio Toyoda, grandson of the founder, to journey to Japan so that I could receive comprehensive training in Lean Management. While there, I learned fundamental skills, making it possible for me to be a point person for plants and suppliers based in North America. Until 2001, I stayed on at Toyota, acting as a Senior Project Manager. However, I had an untamable desired to develop my own business.

Opting to become an entrepreneur required courage, but I’d never cowered at the sight of a challenge. Also, I was equipped with everything I’d learned from Toyota, including my “Lean” way of thinking, which could be applied to any industry. I cultivated “Lean” ideas and set my sights on numerous industries, including technology, service and manufacturing. I found my place within all of these sectors because of my dedication to a unified vision and my will to prosper.

Michael E. Parker Enterprises benefited from the principles of Lean Management. The ideologies guided me toward excellence within my own life and enabled me to empower others to reach the ladder of success. I’m proud to say I employed over 200 individuals across four states. However, flourishing the businesses met an unstable climate. Economic downturn tested these businesses and a fraction of the workforce was lost.

Nevertheless, I continued to create opportunities. I continued to reinvent. The Lean Management style was instrumental when restructuring my companies. I reflected on all I’d learned. I wrote down ways the principles helped me succeed and ways it could be reworked. “Value-Centered Management” came from that effort. It is the translatable philosophy that’s become the foundation for my business, Value-Centered Solutions, Inc. It’s also the primary motivation behind the book, “Who Said So? The Questions Revolutionary Businesses Ask that Make Them Successful.”

Lean Management will always be important to me. It speaks to personal doctrines, and it’s the precursor to my own philosophies.