Lesa Nichols: Reflecting on Hajime Oba and Her Toyota Experience


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My guest for Episode #399 of the Lean Blog Interviews podcast is Lesa Nichols, a former Toyota and TSSC employer who now works with organizations through her company, Lesa Nichols Consulting.

Lesa Nichols

Today, Lesa shares reflections on working closely with the late Hajime Oba. This is the third podcast in a mini series, following my conversations with Steve Spear and with Hide Oba.

In the episode, we talk about topics including:

  • Lisa's non-traditional path to TPS: From public relations to the shop floor
  • Working with plant president (and future company chairman) Fujio Cho
  • Choosing between being a “technical scientist” or a “social scientist” of TPS
  • Meeting Mr. Oba and working with TSSC
  • Helping find American expertise to learn from
  • Becoming a powertrain production manager
  • Key lessons from working with Mr. Oba:
    • “Managers must fight to have floor time”
    • “Safety is an assumed thing?” — what does this mean?
    • Don't look for waste, look for overburden (both physical and mental)
  • Why is openly admitting mistakes such an important thing at Toyota
  • Why Toyota's “soul is around manufacturing”

Lesa was also a contributor of a chapter to the anthology book Practicing Lean. You can read her chapter here, for free.

The podcast is sponsored by Stiles Associates, now in their 30th year of business. They are the go-to Lean recruiting firm serving the manufacturing, private equity and healthcare industries. Learn more.

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

Video of the Episode:

Thanks for listening or watching!

This podcast is part of the Lean Communicators network… check it out!


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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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