Book Review: Workplace Management

Workplace ManagementWorkplace Management

By Taiichi Ohno

Amazon Summary

This unique volume delivers a clear, concise overview of the Toyota Production System and kaizen in the very words of the architect of both of these movements, Taiichi Ohno.  Filled with insightful new commentary from global quality visionaries, Taiichi Ohno’s Workplace Management is a classic that shows how Toyota managers were taught to think.

Reader Summary

The superior person knows how to adapt.  The superior man does not fear change.

– Confucius

Taiichi Ohno offers distinct and elegant advice on a number of questions and topics concerned with the Toyota Production System.  Ohno reflects on thirty-six topics that explain how best to manage a workplace.  I will pluck out my favorite concepts and discuss their merits here.  This is not a comprehensive book review, but only a summary of my takeaways from the book.

The three areas I chose to address are:

  • To get to the Lean we know today, it was necessary to look at the problem of work in a contrary way from the prevailing wisdom.  Ohno calls it “postconventional wisdom”.
  • Words have meaning. People use terms and concepts incorrectly, which cause waste and inefficiency in the workplace.
  • Kaizen, costs, and standards.  I summarize Ohno’s main points on these topics.

On the Contrary

Taiichi Ohno makes it clear in the Preface that the Toyota Production System can be summed up in a single phrase:

Make only what you need, in the quantities you need, when you need it.1

In this quote, Taiichi Ohno refers to the most basic tenet that turned traditional production processes on its head.  The typical way of doing things called for parts to be transported to later processes as soon as they were made.  This process caused a disconnect with customer demand.  Ohno observed how easy it was for departments to feel good about the multitude of parts they could produce in a month.  However, only Ohno seemed to notice that no cars were completed in that time period.  Why?  Mass production always rewarded those who produced the most.  There was no sense that each department’s output must form an integrated set that is consumed by the customer.  To correct this, each department must operate in unison with the set.  Atypically, some departments must become idle if their contribution to the set is not needed at the moment.  This became the crux of the post-conventional wisdom that Ohno required to change the system.  He even makes a comment about himself to explain why he was able to create this type of thinking:

Nevertheless, I insisted on talking about “postconventional wisom,” perhaps because I have a contrary streak in me and tend to look at things backwards.2

Looking at things backwards creates a historical moment.  Taiichi Ohno created just-in-time production by reversing the system from push to pull.

A process that needs a part goes to an earlier process to get it.  It’s that easy.  No trouble at all.3

My Own Experience

I see this example in the IT industry all the time.  The server department pats themselves on the back for creating X servers per month.  The web services department glows when they set up Y number of web environments.  However, when the customer receives their environment, they can’t log into it because nobody thought about giving them access.  There is a very large piece missing in both examples.  Nobody (or somebody) is not noticing the true goal of the production process, to hand the keys to someone so that they can consume their product.

Words Have Meaning

Ohno likes to point out the importance of correct terminology.  Through his experience, he has seen other organizations look at work the wrong way out of habit.  The corrections he makes are central to the Lean mentality, yet hamper organizations everywhere.

Motion vs. Work

Ohno makes several points that begin to explain the concept of value vs. waste.  He picks apart typical ways of referring to activities in the workplace.  Two quotes illustrate his point.  They are:

  • Don’t manage speed or motion, manage work.4
  • If people are sweeping while waiting for parts, that’s not working.  Everyone confuses motion with work.5

Ohno accuses the traditional manufacturing industry of looking at work the wrong way.  He insists that you must look one level deeper at work activities because only some of the time spent making a product is actually… making the product.  Just because people are moving all the time, racing to and fro, cleaning, sweeping, monitoring, attending meetings, or handing off work to the next step, it doesn’t mean that they must surrender to this fate.  These “extras” are not work.  If it isn’t work, then it is taking too long or costing too much to produce the output.  I’m not a historian of Lean, but since this book was written in 1982, this could easily be a precursor to the Lean concepts of value stream and the two types of muda:

  1. Type I – non-value added activity, necessary for end customer.
  2. Type II : non-value added activity, unnecessary for end customer. The aim is to eliminate this type of wastage.

As a result, Ohno illustrates that the only activity that matters is the value-added activity that creates the product.  That’s the real work.

Organization and Orderliness6

Ohno goes down to the basic structure of the Japanese language to define words in the right way.  He defines organization as anything that “involves disposing of things you don’t need.”  Orderliness means “always having access to things you need.”  Using these two words together create an optimized working environment.  Strip away the bad and keep only the good.  If you must move everything out of the way to get what you need, then you have neither organization or orderliness. That is why keeping a clean shop floor has been such an important principle for Lean.

Processing Time and Processing Worker Hours7

Here, Ohno wants to parse the total time it takes to create a part.  In his example, a part may take five minutes to complete.  However, only one minute of the effort requires a person to mount a part on a machine and remove the part when it is finished.  The remaining four minutes is watching the machine process the part.  Since this four minutes is waste, then the remedy is to assign the person to more than one machine.  This sounds simple, but processes and production efforts across the world still calculate their time and labor estimates on the full five minutes.  Likewise, specialists still cling to their “one machine” mindset and make it difficult to contribute more cross-functionally. Once again, Ohno tells us to look deeper.

If you take this example and bring it to my own work world, I have seen, time and time again, situations where something takes 5 days to deliver but requires only 20 minutes of actual work.  It is extremely important to make people aware of this.  Even when you do that, it still may fall on deaf ears.  In these situations, you need to push for a single-piece flow experiment.  Pick the items you want to produce in one day and align your resources so that every single step occurs in one day instead of being handed off to a queue where it may not be picked up for two days.  Processing time should never be held hostage to processing worker hours.

Rate of Operability vs. Rate of Operation8

Ohno indicates how many get the two terms above backwards.  Rate of operability is defined as how much a machine is able to do work.  Related, but not the same, is the rate of operation, which varies with the demand of work.  Ohno insists that the former must be maximized but the latter should not.  Oftentimes, production facilities do the opposite.  They will let a machine die or neglect maintenance so that it functions below par, yet push active machines to produce full time without regard to customer demand. Ohno prefers that you maximize the usability of whatever machines you have.  Make them ready at all times so that they are ready for a spike in demand.  Otherwise, leave them offline but fully maintained.  If there is no demand, then the machines should not operate.  He also warns against thinking that productivity increases the more a machine produces.  Overproduction, in Ohno’s mind, is one of the worst enemies of productivity. It is always best to keep machines ready to produce only the amount needed and no more.


Ohno explains the importance of improvement that makes the most of what you already have.  Specifically, he states that kaizen is an operational improvement that comes up with better methods of using existing equipment.  It is most important to think of new work methods before making new tools or buying equipment.  In fact, there is no point in buying new equipment if a team doesn’t know how to do general improvements first.

Ohno elaborates further by establishing an order to pursue improvement. First, you must improve your operations.  Again, make the current operation more productive and make sure that there is an improvement in quality. Do not bring in new machines yet. If you do, people become slaves to the machines.  People with no capacity for improving operations are a problem because they like to buy new machines all the time.9

Second, you must improve your equipment.  This is a close relative of the first step, operations. What Ohno clarifies here is that the people on the shop floor must possess the skills to tinker and improve the machines. If they only solve their problems by buying new machines and using them per vendor specification, they will never squeeze out the local and custom level of capability and creativity that enhances productivity.10

Third, and last, as emphasized by Ohno is process improvement. This effort creates the flow for how machines are used and how quality is produced.  Ohno reinforces his point that no improvement is worthwhile unless the people using the process understand it and can alter it based on their knowledge on the ground. People on the front lines own the process.  They cannot work in a daze because management, technicians, or “experts” decided on the procedures.  There also cannot be reliance upon one big change to fix all ills.  Ohno makes it clear that kaizen is an ongoing activity made up of many small improvements diagnosed and implemented by the people doing the process.  Having a culture where the front line people do this every day is the optimal method for increasing productivity and quality.11

Only the Workplace Can Cut Costs

As an extension of the ongoing kaizen, companies must embed cost reduction into all their activities.  The ultimate measure of success for a manager is to do the same work with fewer people than before.  That is one reason why Ohno holds so tightly to the principle of multi-machine supervision.  So too, costs will also come down to the extent that defects are reduced.12

Cost reduction must happen all the time.  You cannot wait until times get bad to start your cost reduction efforts. It takes a long time to get results, so you must remain vigilant even when it seems easy to coast.  To have this kind of discipline, a company needs people to nag13 in order to stay committed to reducing cost.14

Lastly, Ohno makes a special note that only the workplace can cut costs.  Accounting cannot.15 No matter what quota or targets are set by Accounting, the workplace must be willing to do the work.  The workplace therefore has an obligation to take ownership of that responsibility.  They must be fanatics about cost reduction as though cost-cutting were impossible outside the workplace. So much so, that tenacity becomes the differentiating factor for how successful cost reduction becomes.  This cannot be executed by Accounting; only the shop floor can achieve it.16


Creating success from Ohno’s advice is a constant balancing act, especially when it comes to standards.  Standards must always exist, but they always must change. In order to improve, you must be able to improve from the existing standard. As Ohno states, “Standards are a kind of baseline for improvement” because standards can never be perfect.<sup17<  This can be unsettling to some who want more certainty and consistency.  However, Ohno warns that, “trying to get the perfect method from the first will quash the desire to improve.”  Consequently, people in the workplace need to accept both standards and change as two sides of the same coin.  You can’t have one without the other.

Second, Ohno spends some time discussing “chosen procedures”.  There is a good side and a bad side to this term.  The bad side says that chosen procedures are chosen by management or outside the immediate workplace.  People can hold themselves hostage to the idea that they can’t change or improve the system.  This makes it look like coercion is involved to make workers follow procedures. (maybe it’s true!)  Ohno prefers the good side, which says the frontline works choose the procedures.  The worker himself has the authority to choose.  There is no question of anything like correction when an individual adheres to procedures chosen by him or herself.18

Lastly, Ohno tells us how to choose the right standard.  In his experience, most test a process multiple times and take the average duration as the standard. Ohno disagrees and says that you should adopt the shortest time.  Why?  Because the shortest time shows how everything went right.  It has the least amount of waste.  This should be emulated, not averaged away as a statistical outlier.  Once you choose the shortest standard, then you can focus on eliminating the waste that infected all the others in the sample.


This is the second book I’ve ready by Taiichi Ohno.  (See my review of The Toyota Production System here)  I love Ohno’s style.  He makes everything sound so simple and clear.  You get a sense, quickly, that he is an authority on the topics he discusses.  Ohno can write about a concept in a very short amount of words, yet they explain everything.  His writing style is as efficient as his improvement systems.

I chose to read Ohno’s books to ground myself in the origins of Lean.  I’m glad I did it since it gives me perspective on how the current processes formed.  It gives me the original “5 Whys” perhaps.  Since he is the standard, I can use it as a baseline for everything else.

I recommend Workplace Management highly.  It is a short read packed with a lot of great stuff.  If I had to choose, I suppose I think that The Toyota Production System was better.  However, I feel like I get a more comprehensive understanding of the man who did so much to shape the future of manufacturing and improvement.

1  Taiichi Ohno, Workplace Management, (Cambridge, MA.:  Productivity Press, 1988), p. ix.
2  Ibid., p. 78
3 Ibid., p. 78
4  Ibid., p. 107
5  Ibid., can’t find page
6  Ibid., p. 117
7 Ibid., p. 126
8 Ibid., p. 128
9 Ibid., p. 123
10  Ibid., p. 124
11  Ibid., p. 125
12 Ibid., p. 92
13 Ibid., p. 120
14 Ibid., p. 143
15 Ibid., p. 145
16 Ibid., p. 147
17 Ibid., p. 148
18 Ibid., p. 148

Book Review – Change the Culture, Change the Game

ChangeTheCultureChange the Culture, Change the Game

By Roger Connors and Tom Smith

Executive Book Summary at

In Change the Culture, Change the Game, Roger Connors and Tom Smith, the recognized experts on creating a culture of enterprise-wide accountability, apply their practical and powerful strategy to helping leaders accelerate culture change, energize their organizations and create greater accountability for results.

In this landmark guide to organizational culture change, the authors introduce the Results Pyramid model, a simple and memorable methodology for efficiently and effectively changing the way people think and act throughout an organization to ensure that they achieve their desired results.


In this review, I intend to summarize and explain the method of culture change recommended by Tom Smith and Roger Connors, authors of Change the Culture, Change the Game.  I support its thesis strongly and have composed a rather lengthy analysis of the book’s messages.  I apply my own experiences throughout in order to supplement the argument.  Beware but enjoy.

Lastly, I am a novice when it comes to citing from books.  As of this writing, I don’t have citations, but do intend to do that.  There is a heavy mix of direct quotes from the book and my own language.  I will be working gradually to sorting that out.

Reader Summary

A company must manage their culture or the culture will manage them.  That firm statement serves as the core message of this book.  It is culture that creates results.  Everything else is a product of that culture.  Culture changes the way people think which changes the way they act.  To help support this precept, there are four premises that build the case for the importance of corporate culture.  They are:

  1. Beliefs create Actions.
  2. Actions do not create Beliefs.
  3. Experience creates Beliefs.
  4. Culture produces Results.

The authors use a helpful formula to illustrate the before and after of a company’s change effort.  In its simplest form, it looks like this:


A1 + B1 + C1 = R1


A2 + B2 + C2 = R2

| A = Actions | B = Beliefs | C = Culture | R = Results |

These (non-mathematical) formulas tell us that a group’s actions, beliefs, and culture create the results they get.  In the first formula, whether good or bad, this is how the organization has been performing up to the time of assessment.  It could have been very good performance or completely poor performance.  It doesn’t matter.  That particular set of characteristics achieved those particular results.

The second formula tells us that in order to achieve new and improved results, R2, new and different actions, beliefs, and culture need to be created in order to make it happen. You cannot do “more of the same”.  You will only achieve R1 again, maybe R1.5, but never R2.  In other words, the results you want determine the kind of culture you need.  The culture creates results.

The book provides some other helpful premises to define how these forces work.  For lack of a better way to do it, I will list a few more of these premises:

  • Culture consists of both what people think and what they do.
  • Change the way people think, you will change the way they act.
  • Don’t create a culture of activity.  Changing the way people think is the fastest way to changing the way people act.
  • Too often, leaders attempt to change the way people act without changing the way they think, i.e., their beliefs.  As a result, they get compliance, but not commitment; involvement, but not investment; progress, but not lasting performance.

The last bullet above is a very important point.  Too often, companies create policies and procedures and enforce them to get results.   While they may operate with discipline and efficiency, they will expend too many resources on forcing compliance and creating a punitive environment.  Equally, it may even be the case that formal enforcement does not occur.  In this vacuum, customers or key stakeholders need to escalate issues in order to get action.  From both the book and my own experience, these approaches are tragically insufficient.

The Chicken or the Egg

I experience a debate frequently that asks the question:  “Which is better, create the culture first, and the culture will drive your results; or, build effective policies and procedures first and a good culture will emerge from following good habits?”  This debate rages in the same way in the psychotherapy community between cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy.  I prefer building the culture first, as it is more proactive and purposeful.

Change the Culture, Change the Game answers the question in its title.  Changing the culture is essential to driving better results.  In psychological terms, it is best to know who you are and how you achieve meaning in life in order to live a full life.  In the same way, a company needs to know what beliefs, vision, and mission it has in order to deliver the right results.

The book uses a model to explain the difference between the two competing methods.  They identify the culture’s state of accountability in two different ways; Above the Line, and Below the Line.

Below the line, people behave in unconstructive ways because they have no direction, see no reward for proactive measures, or even know how to behave at all.  This environment frustrates inspiration and action.  As examples, these behaviors inevitably emerge:

  • Cover your tail (CYA)
  • Wait and see
  • Confusion
  • Tell me what to do
  • Finger pointing
  • Ignore or deny problems
  • Say, “It’s not my job.”

I don’t see how instituting new policies and procedures will inspire people in this state of mind to perform better.  The work to create the habit will usually need to be firm and punitive in order to enforce compliance.  This is a drain on the organization.

In the figure below, the authors illustrate the natural depth for how results are achieved.  At the most superficial level, results are achieved through actions.  If executed in isolation, the only way for actions to produce desired results is to enforce those actions.  There is no other motivation available to make it happen except individual altruism.  Altruism cannot serve as a permanent motivator.  Consequently, desired actions can only be policed and enforced.  As the figure shows, you can only gain compliance in such an environment.  Nobody knows why something needs to be done, they are just required to do it.  You cannot sustain morale or buy-in at this shallow level of motivation.

The book provides a valuable statement on the damage this type of environment engenders:

When individuals, teams, or entire organizations remain Below The Line, unaware or unconscious of reality, things get worse, not better, without anyone knowing why. Rather than face reality, sufferers of this malady oftentimes begin ignoring or pretending not to know about their accountability, denying their responsibility, blaming others for their predicament, citing confusion as a reason for inaction, asking others to tell them what to do, claiming that they can’t do it, or just waiting to see if the situation will miraculously resolve itself.

In order to gain longer-term results, you need to speak to people on a deeper level.  As the figure shows, if the employees believe in what they are doing, they will be willing to do the work necessary without supervision.  If they see that others are acting this way, that the message from the top is consistent and genuine, i.e., their experiences in the company uphold their beliefs, then they will commit to the cause, invest themselves in it, and dedicate their actions long-term.  When this depth is robust, then there is a real culture to participate in.  People are willing to expend their energy in such a place.  They are willing to say, “What else can I do?”

Change the Culture Pyramid3

The book then explains what it means to be “above the line” due to a positive, constructive culture.  They are a bit platitudinous, but still useful.  They are:

  • See It
  • Own It
  • Solve It
  • Do It

As this is an unabridged book review, I’d like to include the descriptions of each of these from the book.  They capture the spirit and intent required to motivate an organization, so here goes:

See It

Acknowledging reality and seeing things as they really are allows you to escape the feelings of powerlessness that accompany Below The Line behavior and rise above those circumstances by addressing what you can do to overcome challenges and obstacles. That usually requires getting feedback from others. You can gain great insight from frequent, regular and ongoing feedback from other people.

Accountable people constantly seek feedback from a wide range of associates, whether it is team members, cross-functional partners or even outside vendors or suppliers. Remember, other people’s perceptions of reality, whether you agree with them or not, always add important nuances to your own perception. The more perspectives you obtain, the more easily you can recognize when you’re stuck Below The Line, move Above The Line and then encourage others to do likewise.

Own It

Owning your circumstances depends on seeing where you may be languishing Below The Line. When we Own It, we make the tie between where we are at in terms of results, what we have done and where we want to be with what we are going to do. It is often said, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” However, when it comes to owning it, we say: “If you are not part of the problem, then you are not part of the solution.” Taking personal accountability for your problems empowers you to take that same level of accountability for solving those problems.

People who own their circumstances never allow the actions of someone or something else to keep them stuck Below The Line. Instead, accountable people accept whatever ways in which their own behavior contributed to the situation and set about overcoming those circumstances, no matter how difficult. The benefits of owning your circumstances more than compensate for the sometimes heart-wrenching effort involved. When you find the heart to own your circumstances, you automatically gain the commitment to overcome and change those circumstances for the better.

Solve It

Simply acknowledging reality and accepting your role in creating your circumstances will achieve little if you fail to tackle real problems and remove true obstacles on your road to results. To do so, you must exercise wisdom. Getting to the Solve It step quickly can often make all the difference in the world. Solving It can begin even before you fully take the step. The wisdom to Solve It includes anticipating what could occur and preparing for the worst. When it does come, moving quickly to the Solve It step can make a huge difference.

The Solve It attitude and behavior stem from continually asking the question, “What else can I do?” By constantly and rigorously asking this question, you avoid slipping back into the victim cycle whenever certain events occur that would otherwise seem to block the road to results. Since solutions to thorny problems often do not readily reveal themselves, you must diligently search for them, but beware of wasting time Below The Line because that will only dull your senses and discourage your imagination from discovering solutions.

Do It

Ultimately, personal accountability means accepting full responsibility to achieve results and Do It. If you don’t Do It, you’ll never reap the most valuable benefit of full accountability: Overcoming the obstacles and achieving the results you want. Despite the many benefits that accrue from applying the other three steps, results only come when you put all four steps together and passionately, proactively and persistently Do It!

The Do It step bestows the full power of accountability that will help you get the individual and organizational results you need. This form of accountability comes after you have progressed through all four steps Above The Line. When you Do It, you stay Above The Line and prevent further ineffective sojourns Below The Line. Do It means that you will follow-through with the plan, implement the strategies and execute the ideas. By stopping at any step short of Do It, you will never fully achieve a permanent position Above The Line. Any effort that falls short of making it happen and getting it done simply indicates a lack of full acceptance of accountability.


The book focuses more deeply on beliefs and actions to show how they need to shift to meet new results.  These target how individuals think and act, so it is a very people-oriented approach to change.  Many other methods focus on the organization as a whole which overlooks the need to build motivation and commitment at the individual level.

With that, the book gives managers a way to assess the state of their peoples’ beliefs.  The authors teach us that using beliefs is a far more efficient effort.  One belief creates multiple actions.  Clearing up one bad belief can change many actions.  Based on this, managers can ask these questions to help them:

  • Are the B1 beliefs that people share the ones you want them to hold?
  • Do these beliefs inspire movement toward C2 or do they cause people to retrench into C1?
  • B2 accelerates change. What is the call to action? What results do you need?
  • What beliefs will prevent us and what will propel us forward?
  • Deconstruct C1 to know what you need to shift.

The authors put a clear stake in the ground when they say:  “People in organizations hold two kinds of beliefs, those that will help them achieve R2 and those that won’t.”  Beliefs have negative or positive consequences and leaders need to harness the most constructive and fruitful of those to achieve deeper, longer lasting behaviors.


As noted in the formula at the beginning of the review, to reach new results, the organization needs to change its actions.  A1 depicts the current actions, procedures, processes, and activities that the organization performs to get R1.  A2 depicts the new actions it should start or the old actions it can continue that are necessary to get the new results, R2.

Many organizations don’t stop and think about what their obstacles are and simply commit to work harder or faster.  They may create the right strategic objectives, but don’t tend to the details that enable them to be accomplished.  To achieve A2, difficult decisions need to be made to change the way people work.  Some of these may be sacred cows, some may require a reallocation of people that can cause great discomfort, and some may require acquiring new people and new skills in order to perform the actions necessary.  Even worse to some, detailed processes need to be analyzed, improved, and documented.

It seems obvious, though, doesn’t it?  Management teams do strategic planning every year and commit to a new strategy, possibly reorganize, and choose new strategic objectives.  However, they still have the same procedure that requires five signatures or a culture that doesn’t follow through on action items or come late to meetings.  They may still avoid changing the negative behavior of a critical person to the strategy.  They may also still retain the fire-fighting culture that plagues so many work environments.

The authors prescribe one very interesting mechanism to scrutinize current actions and determine how to change.  They should perform an “Actions Exercise”.  Here, the organization identifies R2, and asks three questions.  They are:

  1. Which actions already present in our organization must stop?
  2. Which new actions should we start?
  3. Which existing actions should we continue?

This exercise forces people to identify tangible examples of what to do.  They create a clear link to the results they want to achieve.  This gives employees a clear blueprint on what they need to do to contribute to R2.  It is common for companies to send out the strategic objectives and expect that people will instinctively move in that direction.  This method, however, is too optimistic.  Giving people concrete examples of how to achieve the objectives is crucial to being able to do it.

How to Make it Happen

The best part of the book is the depth the authors go to in order to explain how to change the culture.  Many books spend the bulk of the time diagnosing the problems, but don’t describe in explicit detail the actions that need to be taken to deliver their proposition.  Change the Culture, Change the Game succeeds in telling us how to achieve the results they promise.  Accordingly, the authors lay down some important principles.  Here is a summary:

To achieve R2 results, you must create the new C2 culture that will produce the new results. You do this by defining the needed shifts in the way people think (the new B2 beliefs) and act (the new A2 actions) which will then provide the new experiences (E2) that will help them adopt those desired beliefs and actions.

They then offer some useful conditions and action steps to go with it:

In order to get new results, you need a new culture.  C1 is not necessarily a bad culture, it just cannot achieve R2.  It must be clear to everyone what the three top key results are for the organization they work for.  Additionally, management must make a convincing case for change in order to paint a clear picture of what the new world will look like so that a critical mass of people, energy, and enthusiasm can be created to move the organization toward the goal.

  • Step 1:    Deconstruct C1 – the old behaviors and beliefs won’t get us new results
  • Step 2:    Reconstruct C2 – the new culture opens us to new ways to perform
  • Step 3:    Sustain C2 – keep the energy and commitment alive

And most importantly, they offer a detailed list of the steps to take to deliver the change needed for the organization.

  1. Identify R1
    • Identify results that are typical, not good enough, , current state, or problematic.
  2. Develop R2 and the Case for Change
    • Pick the top three R2 results you need to achieve, matching them against the R1 equivalents.
    • Make a compelling Case for Change, why we need to do it and why we need to do it now.
    • Paint a clear picture of R2 and what achieving that will do for all involved.
  3. Identify A1
    • Identify actions that lead or cause you to reach R1. Name typical, problematic, or currently acceptable behavior that will prevent you from reaching new results. These are actions people should stop doing.
    • List the A1 actions that get in the way of achieving R2. What do you need to start doing in order to achieve the R2 you listed?
    • Determine what key A1 actions you want people to continue doing. These are the strengths of C1 that will continue to help you achieve R2. They provide the foundation upon which you will build C2.
  4. Develop A2
    • Identify actions that you think you need to reach the new results. Name actions that you don’t have that you need to get.
    • Think of the A2 actions people don’t take but should.
  5. Identify B1
    • What beliefs help us achieve R1?
    • Answer the question, “How do things really work around here?”
    • Answer the question, “Will these beliefs enable you to deliver R2?”
  6. Conduct Belief Exercise
    • List the needed result à List the current belief à List the desired belief
    • Do individual and collective soul-searching to do the belief exercise
    • Are the B1 beliefs that people are sharing the ones you want them to hold?
  7. Conduct C1 Analysis
    • List the current beliefs à Identify current actions that result from it
  8. Conduct C2 Analysis
    • List the desired belief à Identify desired actions that result from it
  9. Identify Your Beliefs Shift
    • List the current beliefs you need to discard to achieve R2
    • List the desired beliefs you need to create to achieve R2
  10. Create the cultural beliefs statement
    • List the fundamental beliefs you want the group to hold to achieve R2
    • Declare a call to action with the new beliefs in order to accelerate change
  11. Develop Experiences that reinforce new beliefs
    • Plan It
      • What B2 belief do I need to reinforce?
      • Who is my intended audience for the experience? Whom will they talk to about it?
      • What specific experience will I provide?
      • How will I provide the experience so that it reinforces the B2 belief?
      • When is the best time to do this?
      • Who can give me input on my plan?
    • Provide It
      • Provide the experience sincerely
    • Ask about It
      • See if it impacted B1 beliefs
      • Get honest, straightforward feedback
    • Interpret It
      • Tell them the B2 belief you want them to have
      • Explain how the experience was intended to foster that belief
      • Clarify any confusion or answer questions people may raise.
      • Tell; explain; clarify


The last piece of the puzzle is the use of experiences to reinforce the beliefs and actions needed to achieve the new results.  This concept is complicated but can be extremely useful if done effectively.  In short, leaders must create a working environment where the beliefs and actions required to reach the results are obvious, consistent, and practiced by the leaders themselves.  Each interaction people have with others in the organization creates an experience that either fosters or undermines desired beliefs.  Leaders must become highly proficient at creating the right experiences in order to create the needed beliefs.  Experiences create beliefs that drive actions that, in turn, produce results.

For example, if an organization needs to improve discipline and accountability, employees need to see that new rules are applied and followed.  If managers fail to show up at meetings or fail to follow through on commitments, their people will lose heart and realize that the new culture is not changing.  By default, they will go back to their previous beliefs and actions.  However, if managers improve their reliability, make constructive decisions, and expect people to finish things, then employees will begin to see the fruits of the new culture emerging.  They will follow it if there is enough credibility and payoff to change.

With positive experiences, people can now commit to the new direction and change their behaviors.  People will do what you ask them to do.  Right or wrong.  All behavior is rewarded.  If managers take accountability for the culture, then better results will follow. This is the tipping point that gives an exciting momentum and energy needed to improve results.


In order to achieve new and better results, leaders must create alignment between the people and the desired beliefs, actions, and culture.  Alignment, in the book’s context, means to create common beliefs and concerted action in collective pursuit of a clear result.  The speed of the culture change will correspond directly to the level of alignment you create and maintain around R2 and the Cultural Beliefs.

Of course, the book identifies several steps for how to achieve alignment.  I’ll try to summarize it as succinctly as I can, but the steps are very thorough.  Here are the steps:

  1. Participation
  2. Accountability
  3. Discussion
  4. Ownership
  5. Communication
  6. Follow-up


To get alignment, you need to have the right people directly involved to assess the current state of the culture (C1) and to then define the new results (R2).  There are a number of other steps that need to be defined that I have not covered for lack of time and space.  Here they are in list form:

  • Who should help create the Case for Change?
  • Who should help write the Cultural Beliefs Statement?
  • Who should design the way we will implement the Cultural Transition Process?
  • Who should communicate about the culture change with the entire organization and how should they do it?
  • Who should receive additional coaching as a leader of the change process?


As accountability is crucial to the success of cementing a new culture, the person who makes the decisions must be identified.  Though intense team participation is still needed, the authors recommend that the system works best with leader-led decision making and communication.  The leader has the final word for the number of Cultural Beliefs and the final wording rests with the organizational leader.

In a very large change at one of my organizations, we made sure that our Director acted as the primary mouthpiece of the program.  Every week, she sent out an e-mail to the organization that stated clearly what the important beliefs and actions that were necessary to make the changes succeed.  To too my own horn, I wrote those words and they were sent out by the Director nearly verbatim.  Very subtly, these beliefs and actions started to take root.  It still took much effort on my part to reinforce this to managers who resisted the changes.  I attended management staff meetings and held 1:1’s with some in order to make a personal impression on them.  Some of these managers carried a lot of baggage for the old ways and made excuses.  However, as people began to see the merit of the changes, the culture took over and assimilated the managers.


The foundation of this principle is to enable people to speak their minds without risk of backlash.  Employees need to be heard and to feel that they are making a contribution.  They are closest to the work and know how improvements can be made.  Leaders need to make sure this information, feedback, and opinions are debated.  It is still too frequent that organizations become locked down and people get punished for telling the truth or giving bad news.   Leaders need to acknowledge that they don’t know everything, don’t know everything that is actually going on, and don’t know better ways to handle work at the transactional level.  Employees need to feel comfortable raising issues and teaching leaders what needs to be done.


Once decisions are made on beliefs and actions, each leader needs to take ownership of the direction as their own.  Leaders and teams must promote the decision because it is the correct course of action for the organization at this time.  Don’t look back, don’t regret, don’t say, “well, the boss said we had to do it,” don’t sabotage if you don’t agree.  This is a team effort and the team needs to act towards the chosen direction.


Once decisions are made, consistent, persistent communication must promote the message.  People will respond constructively to leaders who mean it.  Leaders must continually reinforce the right beliefs, actions, and results.  Managers need to speak to these in the same way.  People, by nature, are experts at noticing loopholes or weaknesses.  If one or more managers are straying from the message, credibility is lost.  Leaders need to work together to align how they should communicate and when they should do it in order to rally the troops and build momentum.

If there already is cynicism within the organization, change killing attitudes may quickly emerge.  There usually is a long and checkered history that led to the need for change in the first place.  It is up to leaders to communicate what is different this time.


Once a culture change begins to build, leaders need to put mechanisms in place to check in and test for alignment.  The authors encourage management teams to schedule regular checkpoints on the calendar and conduct the research to learn how people are doing in the new world.  Alignment is a process, not an event.

The management team need to choose a way to assess the level of alignment.  It could be a survey, it could be a monitoring of key performance indicators, or it could be a review of carefully derived, qualitative questions.




During a cultural transition, nothing more powerfully affects a successful outcome than a management team fully aligned around R2, the case for change, the Cultural Beliefs, and the C2 culture, and the methodology for changing culture. That alignment alone is one of the most important accelerators of the change process.  p. 132

Book Review – Toyota Production System

The Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production

By Taiichi Ohno

Amazon Summary:

Taiichi-Ohno-Toyota-Production-SystemIn this classic text, Taiichi Ohno–inventor of the Toyota Production System and Lean manufacturing–shares the genius that sets him apart as one of the most disciplined and creative thinkers of our time. Combining his candid insights with a rigorous analysis of Toyota’s attempts at Lean production, Ohno’s book explains how Lean principles can improve any production endeavor. A historical and philosophical description of just-in-time and Lean manufacturing, this work is a must read for all students of human progress. On a more practical level, it continues to provide inspiration and instruction for those seeking to improve efficiency through the elimination of waste.

Reader Summary:

The Toyota Production System, by Taiichi Ohno, describes the background and evolution of the development of the fundamental building blocks that make up Lean Manufacturing that we know of today.  As these concepts are mostly common parlance, I will focus my review primarily on points made that I found unique or personally relevant.

It is very interesting to understand how Toyota developed the Lean Manufacturing process compared to the Mass Production system developed in the U.S. One may look at the negatives of mass production and decry how U.S. manufacturers made a long-term mistake and that the Japanese were uniquely prescient.  However, history, culture, and political realities explain the reasons much better.

In simple terms, the U.S. enjoyed a long and stable age of prosperity that enabled manufacturers to build products in large quantities… and sell everything they could possibly make. A combination of growing incomes, revolutionary automobile technology, a large population, and a huge land mass allowed factories to open the floodgates in a rush to meet the demand. It was acceptable to make a large number of Model T’s.  People didn’t require unique makes and models yet.  The mass production process was the only way to meet the demand.  As a result, a tight discipline on quality, inventory control, and labor efficiency were not required.  Room for error and waste was possible in this model.

In contrast, Japan started out smaller, less stable, less wealthy… and was completely destroyed in World War II. From the ashes, demand was low and anyone who wanted to manufacture had to build infrastructure from scratch.  The market needed automobiles and trucks, but mostly of different shapes, sizes, and purposes in order to meet the diverse demand to rebuild the Japanese economy.  Out of desperation, manufacturers squeezed everything they could out of their assets and manpower.  From this perspective, it became imperative to manufacture automobiles with these principles in mind:

  1. Build many types of models in small quantities
  2. Eliminate every bit of waste in the process. Stop the line if you find a problem.
  3. Make what’s needed at the time of the customer order
  4. Build labor processes and machinery that can switch from one model to another easily
  5. Establish continuous flow as the basic condition
  6. Base all decisions on whether cost reduction can be achieved
  7. Have the earlier process produce only the amount withdrawn from the later process
  8. Fix the process before relying on technology
  9. Turn movement into working
  10. Saving worker expense

My Analysis:

The book packed a large number of concepts that changed the shape of manufacturing worldwide in a very small space. It is extraordinary that so much was gained from such a simple source.  One could use this book as a useful pocket guide.  Of course, a newer book like The Toyota Way by Jeffrey Liker probably handles the topic more thoroughly, but it is nice to read a book from one of the inventors so that you can see the thinking and perspective from the ground up.

With that, I intend to analyze three major points made in the book that resonated with me. They are:

  1. Use inverse, flexible thinking for better problem solving
  2. Build many types of models in small quantities
  3. Workers should operate more than one machine type

Inverse Thinking

Ohno instructs us to use inverse, flexible thinking to guide our way to better problem solving. For every problem Toyota faced, there was already a mass production method to handle it.  Ohno studied Henry Ford’s production techniques at great length. Yet, Toyota did not do that.  They challenged the status quo and mustered the courage to re-shape an entire line of thinking.

Inverse thinking can help solve day-to-day problems at work. We are all familiar with processes that work reasonably well.  Whole departments, performance reviews, management strategy, etc. are built entirely around these conventional processes.  We all know how it feels when you look at one of these processes and feel in your gut that they just aren’t as good as they can be.

Once you try to fix these processes, the organization inevitably pushes you into a traditional direction to improve the process.  They may want to add more people, create audit reports, integrate a new technology, or increase enforcement to improve the process.  Yet, that is not what it needs.  It needs to be questioned root-and-branch.  Inverse thinking enables you to ask questions like:

  • Does this process really need to exist?
  • Do these people need to perform the process or can someone else?
  • Why is it so complicated? Why does it take so long? Is it measured? How much does this process cost the company? Why does the process stop in the middle?
  • What does the customer think of the process?
  • Does it produce products or services that the company makes money from?
  • How many people or departments are involved to produce the final output?
  • Does management even know how this process works?

Only inverse thinking can break a company out of the status quo of a mundane, expensive, and unexamined process. The culture must accept regular reviews of the status quo that could make them uncomfortable.  They may need to make sure that the output actually serves the customers’ needs.  They may need to change departmental lines so that the process has more accountability in one group or under one manager.  Somebody who is happy producing their part of the project may lose that responsibility.  Yet, it must be done to improve delivery to the customer.

Recommendation:  Look to see if your process improvement is ready to move to a new level of maturity.  Use CMMI Capability Maturity Models as a guide.

Image result for lean process Maturity Model

Build Many Types of Models in Small Quantities

After World War II, the Japanese economy was in a desperate state where they simply needed to “build many types of models in small quantities”. This seems more relevant than ever today.  Customers are demanding more and more customization in their products; sometimes even made-to-order.  Companies must make something unique, yet still make the products cheaply and efficiently a la mass production.  Production processes must be fit to handle different product characteristics on the same line or in the same office procedure.  There should be very few instances where you are producing the same thing over and over unless you plan to be a low-cost leader for a commodity product.

In IT, Ohno’s philosophy pertains to building infrastructure. You should not have people building the same products over and over.  Anything routine should be automated.  Departments need to embrace automation of commodities and smooth out the process for handling exceptions.  Outside of IT, departments need to learn how to automate themselves. They can either partner with IT or develop skillsets within their group who can create ways to eliminate waste.

Recommendation:  Any department needs to know how to do Business Process Mapping to optimize their processes.  Managers should know intimately how their department contributes to the production system as a whole.  I’ve seen many managers who have no idea what their people or doing or what their product is.  I’ve seen many more who may know the former, but certainly don’t know if they are executing well.

Workers Should Operate More Than One Machine Type

The last cherished point that Ohno makes is his insistence that workers be able to operate different types of machines instead of specializing in one. Inevitably, a worker running one machine will stand there watching it. Ohno designed an L-shaped layout of three different machines that worked in the process order.  He felt strongly that people were perfectly capable of running these three machines. He still got pushback but felt that the concept was far more accepted in Japan than in the U.S.

This brings me to a personal sore point. I agree that specialists are needed for many subject matters. However, this inevitably creates silos in every organization. Specialists lose touch on how to interact with other specialists. Since passing a complex product from one specialty to another is “not their specialty”, huge handoff gaps occur throughout the process.  In many cases, companies need to place expeditors, liaisons, or other operational roles in between these specialty areas just to keep the process moving.  This is a huge waste, yet it is rarely acknowledged as such.  As hiring people becomes more and more difficult, when a hiring does become possible, organizations inevitably seek the specialist since they are rare.  Managers feel more comfortable when they have their own expert that can save them from potential disaster. Yet, they make no consideration for how a process needs to move through the system. Boundaries need to be broken and only a generalist or a multi-skilled operator can do that.  In Ohno’s words, “In the Japanese system, operators acquire a broad spectrum of production skills that I call manufacturing skills and participate in building up a total system in the production plant.  In this way, the individual can find value in working.”¹  In this way, Ohno demonstrates how each worker is part of a whole process and not just one step in the process.  You can still have experts in house, but departments need to sprinkle generalists in the mix, people who have interest in multiple topics, who are willing to cross boundaries and learn new things.

Recommendation:  Eliminate expeditors and middlemen, even abruptly, if possible.  Though not covered in this book, Lean uses a metaphor called lowering the water level to see the rocks.  By eliminating the middlemen, you see very quickly all the obstacles interfering with the process.  It can be quite alarming.  Many cultures are not prepared to do the work necessary to remove those rocks.  However, it is critical to do so.  You must design processes so that no management intervention is required to keep them moving forward.  Identify inputs and outputs between every process step.  Remove the rocks.  Make it flow.  Don’t let it stop!


This is the type of book that I will read over and over. I enjoyed reading the straightforward style and could see how and why Taiichi Ohno created the Lean system.  It enables you to get grounded in the grass roots of the Lean Manufacturing movement.  It gives you an important perspective and enables you to understand its original intent. You will then create the skills to assess the different evolutionary steps of the process and know more pointedly what each step was created for.  It’s always good to go “old school”.

¹ Taiichi Ohno, The Toyota Production System:  Beyond Large-Scale Production (Boca Raton, FL:  CRC Press, 1988), p. 14.