The 20 Things a Supervisor Should Not Say


Thanks to Charlie P. for sharing this gem from the now out of print book:

40 Years, 20 Million Ideas: The Toyota Suggestion System by Yuzo Yasuda.

This book was originally published by Productivity Press when Norman Bodek was still running the place. Used copies of the book bring quite a premium (starting at about $200 on Amazon).

On page 42, “Twenty expressions to avoid”:

  1. Everyone understands that!
  2. We've never done that before, there's no point in trying.
  3. I tried to do that before, and I know it won't work.
  4. This isn't up-to-date enough.
  5. Is this within the budget?
  6. There are just too many plans being made — I'll take a look at your opinion when I have time.
  7. Let's talk about this some other time.
  8. Let's wait a while and see how things turn out.
  9. Why do you want to change? Aren't things going okay now?
  10. There is a rule on this, so it's no good doing it that way.
  11. I don't think that's technically feasible
  12. This idea is really off the wall, the manager will never agree to it.
  13. That's just not done at this company!
  14. That might work somewhere else, but not here!
  15. The real world is more complicated than that.
  16. You don't really understand the situation, do you?
  17. Your suggestion is good, but the company can't afford it.
  18. This will create problems later on.
  19. Even if I give you advice, there's still no way.
  20. What is this suggestion? Can't you make it a little better?

Have you ever caught yourself using one of those? Are there any of those phrases that you think might be OK? Do you agree with the list? What else would you add to the list??


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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. I don’t have a real problem with #16, other than replace the word “You” with “We”. And then add a follow-on statement: “Let’s take a look at it together.” After all, it’s all about understanding the situation, isn’t it?

  2. Mark,

    Thanks for that info, especially on the book.

    Each statement is holding something back from the sender’s mind that would make a difference!

    Take No. 3: I tried to do that before, and back then the reasons had been ….. What do you think, any ideas?

    No. 17: Your suggestion is good, but as I see it the company can’t afford it. Or is there another no-invest way?

    Isn’t it possible to republish it, as there seems to be demand (see the price)?

    What do you and the others think?



  3. Ralf – I will check with Norman and the people at Productivity Press (which Norman no longer owns/runs) to see who owns the rights.


  4. This is a great book, which I negotiated with a used book store for about $100 after nearly two years of searching. Yes, years. I know, crazy and the online pricing model is infuriating, but well worth it as evidenced by the excerpt in this post. If you can’t wait for a 2nd edition, negotiate if you can find it.

    An alternative: you can get a similar read and the nitty gritty implementation details through the other unknown Productivity Press Series, Kaizen Teian I, Kaizen Teian II and The Improvment Engine.

    These are what I would call a formal suggestion system, not necessarily the same thing as Norm’s “Quick and Easy Kaizen”.

    These programs detailed in this three volume series are the same as those described in 40 Years, 20 Million Ideas.

    Highly recommended and hope Enna can republish. I think this will be a problem though, but one that can be overcome. For example, I would be curious to see how the author and/or Toyota would add/revise/update this book, nearly 20 years after it’s 1st edition. Will the second edition be renamed 60 Years, 40 Million Ideas?


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