Jason Yip’s Japan Trip


I'd love to go on one of these Japan lean study missions at some point. Blogger Jason Yip, who writes about Lean software development and comments here sometimes, wrote about the trip he took with Enna.

Japan Lean Study Mission Day 1: Aichi Sangyo and Toto Bath Create

Japan Lean Study Mission Day 2: Sango

Jason found, at the Sango company, a phrase often attributed to Toyota:

“No problem is a big problem”. It indicates a lack of capability of finding problems.

He also found this model:

3 stages of human development:

  1. The ability to make things.
  2. The ability to make a system, structure, and device. Finding and solving problems.
  3. The ability to develop people.

One could generalize #1 to be “The ability to do things.” You could argue that most hospitals are stuck at Level #1 — everyone is running around busy all day and there are very few people designing systems and structure or solving root causes of problems. That might be a bit harsh, but I think we still have a long way to go.

Japan Lean Study Mission Day 3: Toyota Motors

Check out these numbers:

740 000 improvement ideas by team members last year. 99.8% of improvement ideas are implemented. 500 – 200 000 yen rewards given depending on the significance of the idea.

How is your organization doing on either measure — # suggested or % implemented?

Japan Lean Study Mission Day 4: Toyota Home, Norman Bodek, and Takeshi Kawabe

A story from our friend Norman Bodek:

Norm told a story about the president of a company who would week after week visit a new area to listen to their kaizen ideas and results. He did this because it forced him to see the workers as not just a pair of hands but as creative individuals who obviously deserve respect.

Key point: Share the improvement ideas with managers so that they develop respect for the people doing the work.

A great story from Ohno:

When Showa was first looking into TPS, they had an idea that they should hire several ex-Toyota managers and get them to show them what to do. So they asked Taiichi Ohno what he thought of the idea. Ohno scolded them yet again. Stop trying to borrow wisdom and think for yourself. Face your difficulties and think and think and think and solve your problems yourself. Suffering and difficulties provide opportunities to become better. Success is never giving up.

Thanks for sharing your experience, Jason!

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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. Mike, some of these lessons predate modern Japan.
    If you want one year of prosperity grow grain.
    If you want ten years of prosperity grow trees.
    If you want one hundred years of prosperity, grow your people.
    Confucius. 500 BC.


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