Traveling to Japan Tomorrow – What Questions Should I Ask?


Tomorrow, I'm leaving for Japan and I'll be with Kaizen Institute for our second Lean healthcare study tour (see a PDF about the trip).

We have an incredibly diverse group, with attendees from the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, and Singapore. We're going to learn a lot about Japan and Lean and I'm sure we're going to learn a lot from each other.

Before my first trip in 2012, I wrote this post where a number of you commented about things I should look for and questions I should ask. I just realized I didn't follow up on that page… so I left a few comments now.

5s before after
A pharmacy employee at a Japanese hospital explains and shows the before and after of 5S


For this trip, do you have any advice for me, recommendations, or questions you'd want me to ask? Last time I learned that you have to ask the right questions the right way in order to get the right answers. And, tour hosts might not be as forthcoming to an outsider as they would be internally… but we certainly still learned a lot in that first trip.

We're visiting a Toyota plant, another factory, and three hospitals (including a repeat visit to one I saw two years ago). I have about four days of personal time in Tokyo, so personal suggestions about places to visit, restaurants, etc. are welcome.

I'll be tweeting and blogging about the trip as I can and will definitely write posts when I get back, as I did last time (see here and other posts).

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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. Hi Mark,

    I visited Tokyo Oct 10 – 22 Oct and enjoyed it very much. I’ve been to two Toyota plant tours on my two previous visits, but this time we focused only on Tokyo. And since I recently became vegan a whole new world was opened specially in a place such as Tokyo.

    Here are a few tips:
    – Mori Art Museum (breathtaking interacting art)
    – Ramen restaurant called Tan Tan (inside Tokyo station)
    – Hotel Okura

    Feel free to browse our map.



  2. I’m curious about how the hospitals handle daily patient care problems that come up. For instance, if a nurse or unit of nurses becomes overwhelmed with a high volume of patients do they have something to signal a problem, do they have a go-to countermeasure in place, something else…?

    I’ve never been to Japan, but I’d go straight for any place with manga, sake, and seafood (possibly all at once). It’s too bad you missed the cherry blossom festival, but I’ve heard there are some nice gardens with autumn foliage in Tokyo right now.

  3. I am wondering how Lean transformations happen in Japan. Hire a sensei? Hire a consulting firm? Trained by a payer that is doing Lean, etc? Is there a conversion moment for the executive team?

  4. Since you are in Tokyo, you can take a train to anywhere! I suggest Nara if you are looking for old shrines and temples(including a 15m Buddha at Todaiji temple). :)
    As we discussed at the improvement workshop last month, ask about how the frontline staff feel about bringing problems up since it seems counter to the Japanese culture.


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