Steven J. Spear Remembers the Incredible Hajime Oba of Toyota


Joining me again for Episode #386 is Steve Spear, who reached out to share recollections of one of his most influential teachers and mentors, Hajime Oba, who passed away earlier this month at 75.

Hajime Oba and Steve Spear

I never had the chance to learn directly from Mr. Oba, but he is legendary in Lean circles and I know many people who were deeply influenced by Mr. Oba. I hope to interview more of them in the near future. My deepest condolences go out to Mr. Oba's family, friends, and colleagues.

Here is a classic 2001 WSJ article that features him:

“How Does Toyota Maintain Quality? Mr. Oba's Hair Dryer Offers a Clue”

In today's episode, Steve talks about meeting Mr. Oba and how he learned from him as a PhD student. One story that Steve shares was about sitting at his desk, thinking about a problem, and Mr. Oba told him:

“Don't think — do!” 

Hajime Oba

You'll hear more from Steve talking about the need to learn by doing and to test changes in an experimental fashion. It's not just “do” — it's Plan Do Check Act (or Plan Do Study Adjust or even Plan Test Study Adjust).

I hope you enjoy the conversation like I did. You can listen to the audio or watch the video, below.

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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