Interview with Norman Bodek, on ‘The Harada Method: The Spirit of Self-Reliance’


Today, we discuss his latest book, The Harada Method: The Spirit of Self-Reliance.

Joining me once again for episode #176 is my mentor good friend Norman Bodek, who has been a guest many times here.

You can also learn more about the book and Norman's workshops at his website, As always, it's great to hear Norman talk about his interests and what he has learned in his trips to Japan, including Takashi Harada's work.

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Announcer (42s):
Welcome to the Lean Blog podcast. Visit our Now, here's your host, Mark Graban,

Mark Graban (52s):
Hi, this is Mark Graban. Welcome to episode 176 of the podcast for May 30th, 2013. Joining me today is my good friend, Norman Bodek, who's been a guest many times here on the podcast. And today we're gonna be talking about his latest book called The Harada Method, the Spirit of Self-Reliance. You can learn more about the book in Norman's, various workshops on Kaizen and the Harada method at his website, As always, it's, it's great to hear Norman talk about his interests and what he's learned on his many trips to Japan, more than 70, including Mr. Harrass work. So I hope you enjoy the podcast.

Mark Graban (1m 32s):
You can go to 176 for links and more Information. Well, it's been a little while, but I'm really happy to have a frequent guest of the podcast back with us. In fact, he was guested in episode number one and the whole podcast series was originally his idea. Our guest today is Norman Bodek. Thanks for being back on the show.

Norman Bodek (1m 56s):
Mark. Thank you very much for having me, and it's always a pleasure.

Mark Graban (2m 0s):
It sure is. Did you know that your idea would turn into, not, not to talk about my podcast too much, but you know, your, your idea saying we should do a radio interview that that's turned into almost 200 podcasts, Norman.

Norman Bodek (2m 12s):
Wow. That's just wonderful.

Mark Graban (2m 14s):
So it just goes to show what happens when someone's kind enough to share an idea with you. And I appreciate that and

Norman Bodek (2m 21s):
Thank you. Well, that's my job. You know, my job is to discover really the best tools and techniques in the world and spread it. And that's what I've done for over 30 years.

Mark Graban (2m 32s):
Well, and, and you've, I think, done a, a great service, all of people, for spreading the ideas of Kaizen and how to make that happen and different types of improvement. Your most recent book is a, a, a discovery that you made, and we'll, we'll hear the story. Your new book called The Harada Method, the Spirit of Self-Reliance. So can you tell us the story of how you met Mr. Harada, how the book came to be?

Norman Bodek (2m 57s):
Yeah, I'll tell you that in a second. But first, first of all, I gotta congratulate you on your new book because you are one of my best students. Well, thank you. You did, you came here, took the course, and you went out and you put it into your practice. And then you wrote that marvelous book with Joe Schwartz. Yeah, I'm very blessed in my life. You know, that I've never been that bright. I was never a good student, even though I teach college. This is funny. I teach college, I teach Portland State University, but I never considered myself very bright, never a very good student. Didn't get very good grades, but yet I've been so lucky in life to continue to discover the real jewels of management.

Norman Bodek (3m 38s):
I mean, I met Shingo, I met, Ohno, I met you. Any tool that you can think about, I met the originator and persuaded them to let me publish their work in English. That's my claim to fame. Yeah, I, I published all the things on the Lean Tools, but there was something missing. Now, I was very happy to meet Bungee Tazawa because he taught me the suggestion system and the Japanese suggestion system, as you know, is totally different from the American suggestion system. Right. But I, and I love the suggestion system. I wish every company would do it. It's so powerful. I agree. Yeah. It's the substance of lean and they, we don't do it.

Norman Bodek (4m 20s):
The average manager says, well, if I get a lot of ideas from people, how do I manage it? And they don't understand, they don't manage it. They let the, they let the person manage it with their supervisor and it works. Yeah. Well, in looking for the best things in the human side of Lean. Toyota calls this respect for people. They have two pillars, one's just in time, and the others called respect for people. Well, what do we mean by respect for people? What gives people respect? You know, listening to them, trusting them, believing in them, letting them solve problems is the way to give people respect. But another very important element that's been missing, and this is where the Harrada method comes in, is to give people the opportunity to pick a goal, pick a goal, let them pick something that they wanna be the best in the world at.

Norman Bodek (5m 8s):
And you see how that works within your company. Instead of people coming every day and doing the same job over and over again and being so bored with their work and so happy when it comes to Friday or Saturday, how do we get them thrilled Monday morning, get up Monday morning and say, thank God it's Monday, because I'm going to go to work and do something that I'm excited about doing. That happens when you pick a goal and you are growing towards that goal. Harada was a, a track and field coach at a junior high school in Osaka, Japan. He was a there maybe 20, 20 years at various schools.

Norman Bodek (5m 48s):
And now all of a sudden he's stuck at the worst school in the city out of 380 schools. His school was the lowest rated athletically cause he was a track and field coach. And academically they were down at the bottom because they resided in the slums in Osaka. But he wouldn't accept it. And he studied the best methods in the and, and you and I, of course, you know, we met Stephen Covey. In fact, we were there together a couple of years ago. Sorry that Covey passed away. Yeah. But Aran studied Covey and he studied all of these great masters and he put together a methodology that completely transformed this school.

Norman Bodek (6m 30s):
And it went from the worst. Within three years, it became the best. How did he do it? How did he take a school that was rated the worst in track and field and make 'em the best? And his students won 13 gold medals. That means a student was the number one athlete, not just in Osaka, but in all of Japan. The number one athlete in all of Japan. How did he get these students to discipline themselves? Because you can't do it. You know what I mean? You can just be a good leader, you can be a good coach, but your role is to really inspire somehow. How do you inspire people to really want to be great?

Norman Bodek (7m 14s):
And that's what I want from this audience. I want you to really say to yourself, you really wanna be great and it doesn't matter what you pick, you be great at something and you'll be successful the rest of your life. Absolutely. It'll come to you. And that's why I'm excited. I found this Hirata method. It came from a map. I'm very happy to send everybody a map. This map is to teach a company how to develop a strategy to become world class. It's an incredible instrument and all they have to do is send me an email at bodek B od E K PCs press.

Norman Bodek (7m 55s):
That's Peter Charles sam And I'll send you this wonderful map to study. It is beautiful. Well, this map looks at all the world's best techniques and about 38 disciplines like quality, like supply chain, like automation, like people development. And the seventh item listed says, standard work. Now what does that mean? Standard work? That's, well, that's the best way you can, you can do something. We develop a standard and we want people to follow the standard. The next column is what's the best technique in the world? And it said, day-to-day management. Then the third column said, well, who, who does it the best?

Norman Bodek (8m 35s):
And it said to Kashi, Harada. And I got all excited when I started to learn this. And my, my wife was Japanese. She found on Amazon Japan that Herrada wrote seven books. We ordered all the books. She read 'em for me. I became so excited, mark, that I picked up the phone and called Herrada, said, I wanna bring your work to America. I've done this with Shingle and oh no, and a cow and Naji and Namo and et cetera. I wanna bring you to America. And he said, okay. And Mark, I got on an airplane with NCO and we flew to Japan to meet him. And I was willing to take one of his existing books and have, have it translated cause that's what I've done in the past.

Norman Bodek (9m 19s):
And he said, no, he wants to write a new book. And then I said, well, I'd love to co-author that book with you, mark. I should have said that to Shingu. And, oh no, yeah, 30 years ago, just to co-author a book with them. And that's what I've done for the last two years. I have studied and taken his material and rewrote it, practiced it, taught it. I now run a certification course where I certify instructors on the Harada method. And I'm very excited about it. I've been to Harada five times to take his workshops in Japan so that I know what I'm talking about.

Norman Bodek (10m 0s):
And then of course, he sent me tons of material. A lot of the material he sent me was in English. I was very lucky assistant Kaco Moto. She was an English teacher. So she sends me a lot of things in English. And then we've translated a lot of material from Japanese. I'm very excited about it. I feel like I'm the Johnny Appleseed of this new idea. I wanna spread it to everybody in America. I want everybody, I'll give you an example. I have it in my book, which is, I have a client, the C I B C bank in Canada. Carmen and Carmen's son was 11 years old last year.

Norman Bodek (10m 44s):
And Carmen spoke to his son about the Harada method. And he wanted to speak to me. So I spoke to his son Jonathan, and I said, Jonathan, what do you want be when you grow up? And Jonathan said, I want be a bone doctor. Well, that's wonderful, Mark. I mean, can you imagine 11 years old? You know exactly what you want to be. That's wonderful. I did not know what I wanted to be till I was 37.

Stiles (11m 11s):
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Norman Bodek (11m 50s):
Incredible. Well,

Mark Graban (11m 53s):
I think, you know, earlier you used the word inspire, and I think that's a great way to look at it. So you have to inspire people, whether that means becoming a great factory, a great hospital becoming great at one thing. I mean, you can't force people to change. I, I think inspiring them, making them want to change is, is really an important thing. And, and the the rodda method, you think gives, gives a good method to, to make that happen then, not just to set that goal, but to make it reality. Right?

Norman Bodek (12m 26s):
Yeah. I mean, I feel, from what I've learned in Japan, that this method is the world's best method in day-to-day management to motivate people to really change their behavior, to be successful in life. It's well thought out and it works. It works, absolutely. And some of the missing elements do you know, in America that we have to change. Tiger Woods has a coach here is the world's best golfer, probably the world's best, the most successful athlete in any discipline. And he always has a coach to look at him to try to help him discover what is a little better way for him to do.

Norman Bodek (13m 9s):
And he's always, you watch, I like to watch in television, especially when Titan is playing, playing, and to watch the game and see has he, has he, as he constantly talks about his coaches and how they, how they've helped him. Well this is the essence of the Harada method, that here's a method where you pick a goal, you analyze yourself, you establish 64 specific tasks of what you're gonna do to attain your goal. Then you select 10 of those that you're gonna do this month, and then maybe you select one or two that what you're gonna do today, you schedule today that I'm gonna do all the things that I have to do at work, but I'm also gonna do at least one new thing that's gonna bring me towards my goal.

Norman Bodek (13m 53s):
Then at the end of the day, you analyze yourself. Did I do what I wanted to do? Cause we are very good at saying we wanna do things and then we don't do it. We need that discipline. But what makes this work is every day you sit with a coach maybe for five minutes. Maybe for 10 minutes. And if you have a coach that you respect, then you'll do what you wanna do. It's as simple as that. Yeah. You'll do what you want to do. And that's what makes this process really work, is you do it, you pick your goal, now you go to work and, and the boss tells you your goal. The boss tells you what to do. You gotta make some money, you gotta make profit for somebody else. To me, that's nuts.

Norman Bodek (14m 33s):
Yeah. Yes, A company needs a profit to be sustained, but what kind of a goal is that for people? You know what I mean? To work on people should work on their own growth. You know, people should work on finding better ways that they could grow. Because if they grow, then the company grows, and if the company grows correctly, then they make money.

Mark Graban (14m 53s):
Right? So it all goes hand in hand, right?

Norman Bodek (14m 55s):
Yeah. I mean, it's all twisted around what we do. There's so much short term thinking in America, which is unfortunate. Yeah. A leader should lead a leader, should a set of vision. What kind of company do we wanna be the best in the world at? You know, how are we gonna serve society in the best possible way? And then we want people to slot in. We want people to find roles that's gonna make this corporation successful. But at the same time, it's making them individually successful. You know, we go to school for maybe 13 years, 17 years. If you went through college and then you join a corporation and you stop learning, it's crazy.

Norman Bodek (15m 36s):
Mark, the system has to change. If we're gonna be competitive with the rest of the world, how are we gonna compete with China? We can't compete on, on cheap labor rate. No, we can't. But we can compete with high skilled Americans passionate about pursuing something that they really love and they really want to do. Now, it's not easy for people to pick that goal because when you go to school, they never ask you to pick a goal. No. Yeah. You take accounting, you'll graduate an accountant, and maybe if you're lucky, you'll get a job in accounting firm and then you'll be happy on the weekends. It's not the way it should be. You should pick, you should go through a school.

Norman Bodek (16m 17s):
I demand when my students take my course that they pick a goal. It's the first thing we do in the class. It's not easy for them, but they all do it. They pick a goal and then, then they start to become passionate about the goal. And people say, what if I pick the wrong goal? It's better to pick a wrong goal than to have no goal, because you can always change your goal later, but at least you're learning the mechanism of how to attain your goal.

Mark Graban (16m 45s):
Now is, is that goal in, in the Hirata method, is that goal always expressed in terms of, I want to be the best in the world at blank? Or is just the idea that you're setting a goal for really high achievement in a specific area?

Norman Bodek (16m 60s):
Well, either one is, either one is, well, you know, I like being the best at something. Why not? If I'm gonna do something, why shouldn't I do it the best? I wanna be the har the best Harada teacher outside of Harada in Japan. I wanna be the best. And I work very hard on that. Do you know what I mean? I practice, I write every single day to improve myself on what I'm doing. I should always be growing every day. That's, that's a, that's, that's the great secret. So yeah, I mean, being, you can use the Harad method is following, say I established a goal this month, I wanna attain $400,000 in sales. Well, that's an excellent goal.

Norman Bodek (17m 40s):
Then you, then we get people to write down the purpose. Why do you wanna earn the $400,000? Why do you want to earn it? Well, I'll make more money. I'll, I'll be happier. My, my, my company will be more successful. My family will be, will be very happy. My son will be able to go to college, et cetera. So you have a very strong purpose of what you wanna do, and that's a wonderful goal to shoot for. And the, and the trick is, you can attain it. Yeah, you really

Mark Graban (18m 9s):
Can. And, and so the key is breaking it down though, into nobody leaps whether it's being the best accountant in the world overnight, or if a hospital wants to be the best at patient safety performance. It, it doesn't happen overnight. It's not like snapping your fingers. So breaking it down into those 64 steps sounds like that that's,

Norman Bodek (18m 29s):
Well it's such a key factor. Yeah. These are 64 tasks that you think you have to do to attain your goal. Now say, I wanna, I, I want to, I wanna, I wanna win the, I wanna go to the Olympics now. The Olympics maybe is six years away, right? And, and I wanna shoot the shot put. And so I study that could be one of the areas that I'm gonna look at. What is the world's best shot putters doing today? Well, they're shooting at 66, I don't know, 66 meters. And then I say, well, I can do 40 meters today. Well, I gotta improve by at least 26 meters. So I begin to learn how to do that.

Norman Bodek (19m 9s):
And I do it in, like you said, mark in very slow steps. Do you know what I mean? I believe, first of all, I have to believe in myself. That Iain my goal. Then the second thing is I'm willing to work every day to do what's necessary. Well, I gotta build up my skills. I gotta take that shot put, I have to learn how to turn, I have to learn how to twist. Do you know what I mean? I watch, I study other people's videos. Then I have to build up my muscles. I have to eat the right, the right vegetables, the right, you know what I mean? Take, take, take care of myself properly. And then I have to live a well-balanced life. This is the key to Harada a well-balanced life. In fact, one of his students, she won the gold medal.

Norman Bodek (19m 53s):
She's standing on the platform and they're interviewing her. They said, what did you do to win the gold medal? And Mark, believe it or not, she said, I wash dishes at home every night. Now what's washing dishes at home got to do with her winning a medal? Right. So

Mark Graban (20m 10s):
I was like, nothing.

Norman Bodek (20m 10s):
Yeah, yeah. But the funny thing is, is Harada would go to their home in Japan. The school teacher goes to your home at least once a year. I never saw a teacher in my house. Yeah. So the teacher goes there and he goes to the home and he sees the mother is drunk. There's no father, do you know what I mean? The place is filthy. The TV is blasting. And he can understand how does he rise this student from that environment. Now erotic can say to the mother, turn the TV down and don't drink. It's not gonna happen. But if the child starts to do something different like this girl did by washing dishes and showing the mother that she really is interested in sharing and working at home to make it a better environment, then slowly the environment will change.

Norman Bodek (20m 59s):
Everything has to start somewhere. This is a very simple but powerful process. I wish everybody would do it, mark, that everybody would learn the Harada method and everybody would be successful in life.

Mark Graban (21m 13s):
Well, and and to, to that end, you're doing a lot of work speaking and, and, and training people in the method. Can you talk a little bit about what

Norman Bodek (21m 21s):
You're doing? Yeah. Well, I, I do a lot of keynote talks and I, you know, why don't you invite me in? Those are listening. Invite me to your, to your company, your annual company event as an example. I'd love to do that. So I do, I do a lot of keynotes, conferences and things like that. I also go into company, I do trainings. I do a two and a half day training in, in, in companies. And I run what's called a five day instructor certification course. I do this with very small groups in Portland, Oregon. And people joined me, like I had, there was nine of us last last month. Nine, one person came from Belgium, another came from South Africa.

Norman Bodek (22m 4s):
Oh wow. Another came from Australia. This was interesting. We spent five days together and I taught them the Harada method step by step. But I taught them how to teach it. And then in the class, they get up as instructors and teach it to each other and we get a chance to critique them to make sure they're doing it right. Mm. It's an amazing process. And that's what I do. I mean, I'm singular in what I'm doing. I wasn't always this way in the past. In the past I was scattered all over the place doing a dozen different things. But now I'm pretty much committed to just teaching people this great methodology and getting them to understand that they can be a champion.

Norman Bodek (22m 52s):
It's not a mystery. Right. You can do it just the way Mark Raven is a champion. You've worked very hard, mark, you know, to attain the level of expertise where you are now. And it's wonderful. And I'm very happy I played a small role in your success.

Mark Graban (23m 10s):
Well, you've played a big role, Norman. I've learned a lot from you and appreciate everything. You also taught Joe, cuz Joe Swartz has done a lot of great work with Kaizen and his organization in Indianapolis and speaking on, on, on his behalf. I know we're both very grateful for that. And so, well, I thought you were, you know, I, I thought you were pretty focused before, I mean, you kaizen and practices from, from Toyota and other companies, you know, you were, I mean, it seemed like that was a, a pretty strong focus, but that this is pretty much all the training you're doing now. Is that correct?

Norman Bodek (23m 44s):
Well, I mean, I would, I would teach people quick and easy kaizen. But my main thrust, I love this Hararda concept and I see what it does. And it's changing people's lives for the better, making them more confident. Do you know what I mean? More capable in what they're able to do. It gives them a central focus on what they really want to do in their life to be successful. And it works. It really works. And I would hope your audience would call me. You can always call me. And you can always start by, by reading my new book,

Mark Graban (24m 27s):
The Harada Method. So if you go to lea and, and find the, the page for this episode, you can find links for Norman's website, how to buy the book, how to contact him. You can find that all there. So, Norman, do you have any final thoughts for, for the listeners about the Hirata method or the work they might be doing?

Norman Bodek (24m 51s):
Well, I tell you the, the gift that I've gotten in my life came to me over 40 years ago. I had a, a teacher, a meditation teacher by the name of Rudy, and I only studied for two years because he died in a plane crash. But he planted a very deep seed in me and he said, Norman, the only thing that you should want in your life is to grow every day. You should ask inside your heart just to grow. And that's, that's what I do. I ask every day to grow that I can be a better person, that I could be a better teacher. And it's a privilege for me to be capable enough to be able to transfer this methodology to others so that they can do it and they could be successful with it.

Norman Bodek (25m 42s):
And now I'm teaching many people to become teachers so that this could spread all over America, if not over the world. And Mark, it works. And I thank you so much for the privilege of speaking to you and your group, and I do wish you the best and let's stay in touch.

Mark Graban (25m 58s):
All right. Well thanks Norman. It's great to talk to you as always. And thanks for sharing your experiences and your passion for the Harada method today.

Norman Bodek (26m 6s):
Thank you.

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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 have already read this book over 5 five times. Each time reading, it gives me new insight and excitement, recall back as same feeling as when I read Deming’s book of out of the Crisis. I started to practice with the forms you sent to me and wrote the diary for a week. Surprisingly, I feel my change since the third day of writing! Now, I am back to the book again and try to work out the details systematically. Urgently need a mentor for myself, and lot of questions, I will bring them to your workshop soon. thanks Norman!


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