Highlights From My First Lean Study Trip to Japan, Day 1


I know many of you aren't into the whole Twitter thing, but I'm using my account (@MarkGraban) to share some photos and small batches of ideas that I come across during my trip to Japan. I'll also share them here (but keep in mind you can read Twitter without having an account there, even). That's a Toyota “partner robot” pictured above.

2023 Update – I'm going to convert these Tweets into native photos and text.

Lean thinkers will appreciate one of the wi-fi networks visible to me here in Japan — Named “Muda”


A video at the Toyota Museum gives credit to Womack, et al and their “Machine” book for spreading the word about TPS.


John Shook's book “Kaizen Express” (in Japanese & English both) was on sale in the Toyota Museum shop.


Other Thoughts I Tweeted

When a Japanese company hits hard times, the first action is the big boss taking a 40% pay cut. Then Directors, etc. do the same. The LAST step is to cut the pay of workers.

When recovery comes, front-line workers get their pay restored first, then the big boss is restored last. That's the polar opposite of US companies (lay off workers 1st).

From the Toyota visitor center: An animatronic Andon Cord Pull. It demonstrates flagging problems so help can arrive

I'm very surprised that Japan doesn't have the “Look Right” or “Look Left” curb markings like London does. I need to be careful!

It's still true that Japanese public company CEOs can only earn 20x a frontline worker (this is an unwritten rule). Small companies 10x ratio.

Me at the Toyota City visitor center. They really emphasize TPS in their exhibits, with detailed explanations. Click to zoom in and read.


Mark Graban Toyota Production System 2012 Toyota Museum Japan

Even in Toyota City, displays (and the faces you see) emphasize that this is a very global company.


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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. Mark, the reason there are no look left / right, is that as you’ll see if you get up to Shibumi (sp?) in Tokyo, people do not ever step out in to the road on red………….the road can be clear for 3 miles and they wait for the signal…………that was our experience. I particularly like the lines for getting on / off the train though.

    How was France



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