Ken Pilone, the Author of Lean Leadership on a Napkin; Toyota Says “Lean” and More


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My guest for Episode #455 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast is Ken Pilone. He is the author of Lean Leadership on a Napkin: An Executive's Guide to Lean Transformation in Three Proven Steps.

Ken has more than 30 years of experience in Organization Development in Government, Retail, Automotive, Distribution, and Aerospace. He is currently the Senior Manager of Business Process Engineering at Providence Health & Services — a role that encompasses internal Lean consulting, including executive coaching, lean training, leadership development, and all functions typical of a lean promotion or PI/CI function.

He spent nearly 20 years with Toyota as Lean consultant within company as well as with suppliers, vendors, partners and community groups. He a co-creator of the University of Toyota at the company HQ. He led the work to adapt the Toyota Production System to non-production environments (warehousing, supply chain, HQ administration depts., sales, product distribution, dealer operations, etc. In addition, he led the Center for Lean Thinking.

Ken has a Masters in Industrial Psychology and Organizational Development with his Toyota experience, Ken has developed specialties in Lean consulting in non-production environments, curriculum development and delivery, leadership and management development coaching, Toyota problem solving method training and public speaking.

Today, we discuss topics and questions including:

  • Your Lean/TPS origin story?
  • How did you end up at Toyota?
  • How did they train and develop you?
  • What did you have to unlearn?
  • The University of Toyota – purpose for that?
  • Bigger challenge: Translating TPS and Japanese where it's not manufacturing or where it's not Japan?
  • The “Center for Lean Thinking” at Toyota — No heartburn over the word Lean? Why call it that? Was there debate about that?
  • “The Toyota salute” = a shrug (I dunno)
  • TPS = Lean? It depends??
  • Hard to get Toyota to define TPS — always changing
  • How was Toyota distinguishing between TPS and Lean internally?
  • Copying practices vs. principles?
  • “Single biggest failure mode” = practices & tools and why aren't I getting the same result…
  • “Toyota Traditions” curriculum
  • What inspired you to write the book?
  • 3 step approach — introduction, integration, and internalization? Vs. implementation?
  • The most common or most harmful misinformation out there about Lean and Lean leadership?
  • 5 Whys — why 5 isn't a “rigid rule”?
  • Why could it be seen as “offensive” if somebody describes themselves as a “sensei”?

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.

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Automated Transcript (Not Guaranteed to be Defect Free)

Announcer (2s):
Welcome to the Lean Blog Podcast. Visit our website Now here's your host, Mark Graban.

Mark Graban (12s):
Hi, it's Mark Graban here. Welcome back to the podcast. It's episode 455 it's August 24th, 2022. Our guest today is Ken PIlone. You will learn more about him in a minute, but he is the author of a great little book – Lean Leadership on a Napkin: An Executive's Guide to Lean Transformation in Three Proven Steps. So we'll be talking about that book. We'll be talking about his time at Toyota. We'll be talking about his time working in healthcare, or at least a little bit. We'll probably do another full episode about that down the road. So long discussion today, but there was so much to pick Ken's brain on a lot of great thoughts, insight stories, opinions.

Mark Graban (53s):
I think you will really enjoy this episode. So for links and more information, look in the show notes or go to Well, hi everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. Our guest today is Ken Pilone. He has more than 30 years of experience in organizational development in industries, including government retail, automotive, distribution, and aerospace. He's currently working in healthcare. He's the senior manager of business process engineering at Providence health and services. He's joining us from California. Now, when we say automotive, Ken spent nearly 20 years with Toyota as a lean consultant within the company, as well as working with suppliers, vendors, partners, and community groups.

Mark Graban (1m 41s):
He was a co-creator of the University of Toyota at the company headquarters when it was located there in California, and he led the work to adapt TPS to non-production environments. And in addition, he led a group called The Center for Lean Thinking. So Ken has a master's in industrial psychology and organizational development, and I'm happy to say he's the author of a book I've been enjoying quite a bit. It's called Lean Leadership on a Napkin: An Executive's Guide to Lean Transformation in Three Proven Steps. So Ken, thank you. Thank you for being here today. How are you?

Ken Pilone (2m 17s):
Well, it's my pleasure. And I'm doing well. Thank you so much for including me.

Mark Graban (2m 21s):
Yeah, well it's, it's, it's great to talk to you here. We'll we'll come back and talk more about the book, but you know, three, three proven steps, certainly. And, and you, you, you touched on this in the book, it doesn't mean three easy steps, right?

Ken Pilone (2m 34s):
That is absolutely right. I mean, it's simple to explain, but hard to execute. Yeah.

Mark Graban (2m 39s):
So you explain well in the book and we'll, we'll get to tap into some of that here today. And, and, and there are so many stories and things we can touch on here today. So I'm really excited about it. And I think we can connect dots as your career has shifted. Ken, in particular, I'm interested in hearing about, you know, bringing these ideas from TPS and lean into healthcare. But you know, first off, if, if I do have standard work for the question I start with, most of the time I do like to ask guests, you know, what their, their lean origin story. And my understanding will we'll hear a few is that actually started before, which is, which is interesting, I think.

Ken Pilone (3m 18s):
Yeah, well, I had my embryonic beginnings in lean, I'll say with quality circles and aerospace, and then it was, it was couched really as, as promoting efficiency within the aerospace business, which had a great need for that. However, it was not lean as we know it today, but that's how I first sort of cut my teeth on the idea and the improvement, the, the notion of people getting together to improve things and, and across organizational collaboration and sort of the, as I said, sort of the embryonic beginnings of what would eventually shape up in my mind is lean.

Mark Graban (4m 2s):
So for, for context, you know, let's say some younger listeners might not really be familiar with quality circles as a, a term or an approach. I mean, you know, it's something that's still used in Japanese companies. I, I rarely hear the term here in the states anymore. So if you could just give kind of a quick overview of, you know, that quality circle approach as you experienced it.

Ken Pilone (4m 26s):
Yeah, well, yeah, it occurs to me that I haven't heard the expression either in a really long time. I mean, quality circles is, it was one of several attempts that I remember in the early days to try to engage more people in improvement rather than just having top executives by means of stone tablets decree, what would change. But instead started to get people closer to the actual work, to get together and, and try to figure out how to improve quality. And that was the focus back then. It was primarily and almost exclusively around defects managing defects.

Ken Pilone (5m 8s):
And so on of course from that came other disciplines, Six Sigma and so on, but the quality circle movement at that time was very popular in widespread, but it seems to have given way to lean in other methodologies since then.

Mark Graban (5m 21s):
Yeah. And you know, my, my exposure to quality circles, like you said, it was engaging team members. So that there's one in the plus column for that giving people some leeway to choose what they're motivated to work on, I think is another plus. But I think, you know, one of the challenges, it seems like the typical quality circle project might take six months to complete. So, you know, maybe the, the more recent creation, which is arguably not a Toyota practice of let's say the Kaizen Event is, is meant to be a more accelerated, more focused improvement burst instead of being something where, you know, a team gets together weekly, monthly, trying to speed up some of that improvement.

Ken Pilone (6m 8s):
Yeah. Yeah. That was my experience too. I mean, it, it, it's hard not only to maintain or achieve much momentum when you have these random meetings, but half of the opportunities when you did get together was going cycling back and, and trying to remember what we did last time and what we decided we're gonna do this time. And new members would come and, and old members would leave. And so there's always a, the challenge of bringing people up to speed and it was, it was awkward and stilted, but I, again, I think it's the, the biggest contribution that came from those days is the realization that people closest to the work actually had something worthwhile to say they had something to listen to and they had something to contribute to.

Ken Pilone (6m 55s):
And, and that by itself was new,

Mark Graban (6m 59s):
But it seems like there's been maybe an effort to reduce in a way, well, you know, to reduce the lead time and maybe reduce some of the batch sizes of the work or, or minimizing delays between the actual work, you know, from, let's say a quality circle or a TQM project to a Kaizen event or blitz, but then it seems like more the ideal. And this is why I'm curious to hear your experiences at Toyota. I mean more of the ideal of everybody improving something everywhere every day, where it doesn't necessarily require the formality of a project or an event. I'd be curious here are your thoughts on, you know, kind of moving toward maybe an ideal of continuous flow Kaizen, if you will.

Ken Pilone (7m 47s):
Yeah. That's interesting, as I've explained my experience at Toyota to others where organizations less sophisticated in this area, focus on a series of events or they'll have like departmental Kaizen events here and there, and they track 'em on boards and all that compared to Toyota where events were actually relatively rare, the closest there really would be to an event is that the, at the end of a shift where the people in a given work group or team would sit around on a picnic table reflect on the day and what went well, what didn't go well, and what they're gonna try tomorrow, what experiments they might wanna conduct.

Ken Pilone (8m 35s):
And even at headquarters where, you know, it's, it's all white collar work improvement was part of every dialogue, part of every meeting, part of every agenda. And so it, the improvement events were rare and not very conspicuous. It was just embedded in the daily routines there. If you're gonna work there, you're gonna be involved in improving all the time everywhere. Yeah. So,

Mark Graban (9m 7s):
So, you know, you're describing as others, describe how Toyota is come back and, and, and talk about your book. As you've seen in other settings, there's a challenge of getting from here to there or getting from where our organization is. So like describing what Toyota is, is different than having three proven steps or, or a methodology for, for helping others change. So, you know, I, I, I do wanna come back to that later if that's okay or unless

Ken Pilone (9m 37s):
You have. Yeah, no, no. I think that's where the evolution of this lean thing is going is, is to get to some point where it's organic and part of the fabric of, you know, their institutions rather than just stuck on ornament, on a tree, so to speak of, oh, we're gonna do lean now and look how shiny and beautiful it is, but it's a standalone thing. It's not really the tree.

Mark Graban (10m 12s):
Yeah. Yeah. So how, how did you then end up, it'd be interesting, the story of, to hear the story of how you ended up working at Toyota.

Ken Pilone (10m 25s):
In, in many ways it was quite a fortunate sort of accident. I had been working at aerospace company and we had four divisions there in the Southern California, one of which was dissolved and they consolidated into three divisions. My division was unfortunately the one that was dissolved and I was at staff level in that division. So everybody at the top part of the, that organization or that division was either given an opportunity to be assimilated into the remaining three divisions or go find something else.

Ken Pilone (11m 8s):
Coincidentally, my boss there happened to play tennis with the VP of HR at Toyota. And so on the tennis court, he mentioned to this gent that, Hey, he was letting go of a guy was in a training development area because of this layoff and was, and he was trying to help me land somewhere. And so what followed was a request to interview with the VP of HR in Toyota, which ironically, you know, in the same town where I live.

Ken Pilone (11m 49s):
And so I had driven by Toyota many times over the years on my way to work. And I remember thinking someday I'm gonna work there. Yeah. It's I it's really odd how everything converged, but in the end then I got an interview and was selected to be the training and development manager at the company headquarters as my first role there. That's how, how it came to be.

Mark Graban (12m 20s):
Yeah. So you had exposure to maybe related improvement methodologies where maybe there was some shared philosophy, but as you were coming in, coming in to work on training and development, and then the Toyota University, how did they bring you up to speed? How did they train and develop you being new to Toyota? What did you have to learn? Was there anything you had to unlearn?

Ken Pilone (12m 46s):
Well, yeah, there was a whole lot. I had to unlearn, there was the weirdest company I'd ever joined. I couldn't, I couldn't make sense of Toyota for a long time. It, it wasn't as if there was a very deliberate onboarding to Toyota or the culture. And I liken it to moving to a foreign country where you've essentially got no preparation and you just, you just immersed in it. And eventually you learn the, the language and from that, you then learn the culture and then, and you begin to appreciate the history and all the other kind of things that come from that.

Ken Pilone (13m 26s):
And so it was really a, a process of gradual immersion and assimilation into it, more so than anything deliberate, but it was also various points where my approach or my work behavior there was corrected, which taught me what was valued by the organization. For example, if I would take a project and quote, make a decision without having consulted with the stakeholders or the line people, whatever the people were that were involved or should have been involved in that decision. I was coached by my boss by a means of questions.

Ken Pilone (14m 8s):
Well, who, who have you shared this with? Who have you discussed this with? Where did, how did you come by this decision and who did you include? And when I would say, well, nobody, I just thought it makes sense. Cause you know, I come from aerospace. That was the expectation, just do it. Right. And so it was feedback like that. And correction like that along the way, that's help me understand it. This is a different kind of place. And yet at the same time, almost paradoxically, I was given more autonomy than I ever had at an aerospace at all this autonomy.

Ken Pilone (14m 49s):
But yet at the same time, I was really not expected to be a decision maker per se.

Mark Graban (14m 57s):
Right? Yeah. Not the sole decision maker of, you know, there, there there's maybe a mindset difference between knowing the answer and figuring out the answer and figuring out would involve input from others or support from others even to be working on it. Perhaps.

Ken Pilone (15m 17s):
Yeah. I remember developing a curricula that made perfect sense to me and I thought that's what I was hard to do. And, and as a new person there, I says, okay, I wanna, I wanna show what I can showcase, what I can do. And I developed this beautiful, you know, management training curricula. That was the sum total of what I had learned. Right. And what I absorbed in my career and what the rightness of leadership was about. And only to get, you know, basically sent back back to start over. Oh yeah. And it's like, you know, you're, you're basically, you don't even know who your customers are.

Ken Pilone (15m 57s):
You don't know what they want. You, you haven't consulted with them. You don't know if the delivery mechanism, you don't know what they already know. You don't know what they don't know. You don't know what they need to know. It's like, oh my God. So it was very humbling experience.

Mark Graban (16m 10s):
Yeah. Yeah. So then I'm curious you, you mentioned earlier, can you, can you recall anything when you said there was a lot you had to unlearn, like what, what, what's a, what something comes to mind?

Ken Pilone (16m 27s):
Well, I think part of it is that the whole notion of how problems are solved, how decisions are made, how questions even get answered, required me to be turned more or less inside out because I no longer really understood what my role as a manager was, you know, because it didn't fit at any definition I had been exposed to in industry before not just aerospace in any place. Everything that I had been taught was the right. In fact, coincidentally, I was teaching management at Cal state long beach at the time.

Ken Pilone (17m 10s):
And I had been quite successful at it for nine years. I was teaching in the evenings as an associate professor there or adjunct professor, I guess they called us. But nevertheless, and I'm in teaching stuff. And now when I think back on it, I cringe at the stuff I was teaching and the books that I was providing to teach the rightness of management, the rightness of leadership. And so I felt like I was hired for that reason. You know, I know all this stuff. Right, right. Yeah. And yet when I came here, I, I felt like at first it was kind of irrelevant what I knew.

Mark Graban (17m 52s):

Ken Pilone (17m 53s):
So it was, I thought, what have I done?

Mark Graban (17m 57s):
But, but what I hear you saying is thankfully they coached you through it as opposed to leaving you on your own, you know, to, to, to understand and to figure out. And I, and I'm, I'm guessing, I mean, it seems like going through some of that experience yourself probably helps you relate to people that you've worked with along the decades who maybe now we're having similar discomfort of like, that's pretty fundamental. Like what, what is my role here that changes a lot that's difficult to go through, right?

Ken Pilone (18m 32s):
It is indeed. And in fact, obviously most of the people that get hired and got hired into Toyota headquarters came from American companies, other American companies. And so for most people, if not, you know, virtually all people, it was a different experience. And so the people that were coaching me had themselves been through that same transition and we had a lot of laughs about it, but they were in a much better position to be sensitive to what I was dealing with and provide me some advice and share in my confusion about things, but, and, and very patient.

Ken Pilone (19m 15s):
But it was as if these same people who I learned to really respect had themselves undergone a transformation in their own leadership, which I could see on display. Eventually I got to be getting it by watching what other leaders were doing and mimicking, albeit awkwardly mimicking what I thought they were doing and like learning a golf swing that feels uncomfortable at first until you finally sort of get groove it. So I started practicing and pretending to be like other people.

Mark Graban (19m 58s):

Ken Pilone (19m 59s):
So fake it till you make it right.

Mark Graban (20m 1s):
Yeah. Yeah. So then you're, you're going through that process of learning and changing and then having to help others learn and change, you know, tell us about the learning or maybe first the purpose of the university of Toyota and, and what, who the customers were of that and, and what you figured out needed to be learned and, and, and maybe coached on,

Ken Pilone (20m 30s):
Well, first of all, the universe… Halfway through my career, there are guessing I was about 10 years into my career at Toyota. And I was tapped on the shoulder along with a half a dozen or so other people and asked to go figure out what a corporate university was and then see if it made sense for Toyota and if so, build it. And so we, we moved into some temporary spaces together. We sat at little tiny rented desks and faced each other. And people from across the organization came together to kind of create this. And we did come to the conclusion after touring other universities.

Ken Pilone (21m 12s):
And what have you, corporate universities that it did make a lot of sense for us. And, and I think the primary need for it at that time was that the training was so fragmented that it was hard to improve on it because it was, there were bubbles of training everywhere. So I was responsible for what we called associate development, which was basically employee HR training kind of things. But we, I had a peer who was involved in sales training and another peer was involved in parts training. And another peer was involved in service training, a technician training, another peer was involved in the sales training. So, and we were moving along in our respective silos and it was recognized that, you know, maybe there's some gains here if we could collaborate and co-locate and begin to sort of leverage that, that collaboration.

Ken Pilone (22m 9s):
So that became, that was sort of the roots for Toyota. And so we bought a building that was close to the Toyota campus block or two away and outfitted it as the university of Toyota and then different in some cases on the same floor, but different floors housed different kind of specialties among, which was the, what we called the global knowledge center. There's a whole story around that, but I'm, I'm not sure that's where we wanna go right now, but, but how we were embedding Toyota, the Toyota heritage into what we were doing and sharing that globally.

Ken Pilone (22m 56s):
But, but nevertheless, so that's where the university of Toyota came in. It was an attempt to standardize, I'll say, and consolidate and take advantage and leverage opportunities to work together.

Mark Graban (23m 10s):
And, and do I hear you're right? That it was focused on not just Toyota north America. Was it also focused on Toyota's expansion and to let's say Brazil or, or Europe to help support consistency and development there, or was this north America?

Ken Pilone (23m 27s):
Well, it started out as being north America. It, but the company was going through explosive growth in those days globally and Toyota, Japan, of course, the company headquarters was really tapped out in terms of their capability to reach all of the, the far flow enterprise and particularly new locations, but even existing locations. And it was the training they did offer was almost exclusively around TPS manufacturing. And they quickly realized that they, they didn't have the, the capacity.

Ken Pilone (24m 10s):
And, and then from an English speaking standpoint, they didn't have the capability either. So just didn't have enough what we call coordinators to go around. And so Toyota USA being sort of the oldest child of the, of the overall enterprise, the most mature took on the family business, so to speak. And we were asked to take on the responsibility of providing education training to the, the far reaches of the globe, which was a daunting task as you can. Well imagine, but, and, and that became the, the global knowledge center.

Ken Pilone (24m 54s):
I was not part of the global knowledge center, but I was dispatched by the global knowledge center, many on many occasions. And I went to places like Singapore and Egypt and all over Asia and all over Europe and all over the country, all over north and south America. So it was a, in that era, two, two sort of things came out for me. One is that, regardless of where you went, this is surprising to me that as soon as you walk in a door of a Toyota facility, I remember walking into a Toyota dealership in, in Cairo.

Ken Pilone (25m 37s):
And yet it felt like home.

Mark Graban (25m 41s):
Yeah. How so somehow,

Ken Pilone (25m 43s):
Somehow, well, somehow it seemed as if the artifacts were similar, the, the culture was similar. The, the methodologies that were employed, the problem solving routines were similar. And even though outside the door, the culture was vastly different. When I went inside the facility, it felt like home, it felt very similar, and that was a, a great insight. And the other was how hungry they were and open. They all were to us coming to them to provide additional training, particularly when it got outside the manufacturing domain.

Mark Graban (26m 26s):
Right. So when you talk about, you know, different countries and outside of manufacturing, I was curious, you know, in your work through the university of Toyota, as much as you could generalize. So what, what was the biggest challenge translating TPS to non-manufacturing environments or translating TPS to just a non-Japanese site or team

Ken Pilone (26m 52s):
Or both? Well, it, it, yeah, it's, it's a little hard to generalize, but I would say that there, depending on the type of location, for example, if it was a brand new plant or brand new facility, that was a completely different deal than if you had gone to a more mature Toyota facility just to improve it. So, for example, I remember going Puerto Rico, the Toyota Puerto Rico was actually very sophisticated and they were very much in tune with Toyota, but we were providing as, as we did continuous learning to try to, you know, keep every, all the plates spinning, so to speak from a learning standpoint, very open.

Ken Pilone (27m 43s):
But on the other hand, some of the facilities that I visited were brand new, new, new offices, or new subsidiaries, new partners, new suppliers, one of which comes to mind is Canadian Pacific railway, where, you know, they weren't new supplier, but they, but we were working with them to try to treat our product differently. So it required a whole lot of background training on what is Toyota? Why do we ask what we ask? Why do we expect what we expect? Why are we so different? Right. So it really depends. And I think the challenge there for me was adapting to each condition, trying to figure out what is it that this, this particular task requires?

Ken Pilone (28m 33s):
Is it background? Is it history? Is it leadership training? Is it TPS? What, what is it that I should bring here? And, you know, vast differences in complexity.

Mark Graban (28m 47s):
Yeah. Yeah. And we'll, we'll come back later, you know, I'll ask you about adaptations to the healthcare environment in particular. Okay.

Ken Pilone (28m 57s):

Mark Graban (28m 57s):
That'll be, yeah. It's of interest to me, it'll be of interest to a large subset over our audience here. But, you know, I wanted to ask one other, you know, question just back to the center for lean thinking and, and this might not be the most monumental thing to talk about, but I think it's interesting of like, there are some who will say, ah, Toyota never uses the word lean. This seems, you know, and I've seen Toyota's website, corporate website makes sort of a, a reference I'm paraphrasing of like, well, you know, a lot of other people would use the word “lean” to describe the Toyota production system. I'm just curious, you know, if you remember some of the thinking around calling it the center for lean thinking, as opposed to let's say, say the center for Toyota thinking

Ken Pilone (29m 43s):
That's a great call out. Actually there was a, when, when that was happening, when the University of Toyota was happening, there was this emergence of, on the word lean on the, in the vocabulary business vocabulary. And while it wasn't really a clearly pardon me, articulated that we need to now start calling it lean. The zeitgeist around us that was around seemed to be crystallizing around the notion of lean, particularly non-production improvement mentality and, and along and parallel with all that came out.

Ken Pilone (30m 33s):
You know, Jeff Liker's book on the Toyota Way, which is really interesting, but I was there when he came and visited and asked us questions about, you know, what is this thing? What is the Toyota way and all that, that's a whole conversation by itself, but nevertheless, so we thought, you know, what that seems to be where this subject matter is moving. And at the same time too, most of the work that we were responsible for at the university of was in the white collar space because our plants were big and complic complicated enough to justify their own training and development arm.

Ken Pilone (31m 19s):
So they were pretty functioning pretty independently, and they were getting a lot of attention from Japan. However, the other side of the, of the coin was being pretty broadly neglected, which is the white collar space. So we saw this as a way to kind of extrapolate what we could from TPS and say, and call it lean a, because it was hip those in those days. And it was more descriptive in some ways, actually, even though we didn't, you know, Toyota didn't coin a term, nor would it necessarily describe what they do as lean.

Ken Pilone (31m 59s):
In fact, many people thought that's not really a apt description. I, I,

Mark Graban (32m 3s):
I bet there was debate. Yeah,

Ken Pilone (32m 5s):
Right. Yeah. There was debate about it. And, but we felt like it seemed to be more or less on the cutting edge of current business thinking of which we wanted to align with.

Mark Graban (32m 18s):
Yeah. And then, you know, there's, you know, there's of all the different forms of sometimes endless online debate or arguing, you know, let's say on LinkedIn is if somebody posts a question of like, is lean the same as TPS, like people will discuss that endlessly to what effect sometimes I, I don't know. I try not to get pulled into that, but I'm trying to pull you into it a little bit here maybe, but like not to argue, but like, if, if I mean, is, if you're looking at what an organization describes as lean, it seems like it might be in pretty close alignment or a high fidelity adaptation of TPS, or it could seem like it's veered off pretty wildly, but they use the word lean.

Mark Graban (33m 12s):
So maybe I'll just make a statement. And, and, and I'm curious, your reactions, if people say is lean the same as TPS, I think the answer is the classic. It depends. What, what, what do you think?

Ken Pilone (33m 24s):
Well, first of all, I think that's my, my standard answer for almost every question.

Mark Graban (33m 29s):
It's a very helpful answer. It's

Ken Pilone (33m 30s):
Usually, yeah. You know, it, it's usually followed with what I call the Toyota salute, which is a shrug it's like, oh yeah, because you know, it, it's, it's hard to pin down. First of all, lemme back up, it's hard to pin Toyota down to define it because it keeps morphing and changing. Right. It's like what, what Toyota was when I was, there is probably not as representative of Toyota to, as it is today, because it is constantly moving and evolving and growing and changing. And so, so it's hard to describe that, but I will differentiate between TPS and that's really what our challenge was because TPS arose, as everybody knows from the production environment, that's, you know, that was the whole, whole point of it is to, is to have a methodology, to run, to make cars and to compete.

Ken Pilone (34m 32s):
And, and that was arose historically as the reason is the methodology to be able to do so. But what we were asked to do was to extract the more fundamental principles from Toyota as they manifest themselves in TPS. So we had to sort of go upstream if you like and say, well, we see problem solving going on and manufacturing floor. We see team members working together to work through a manufacturing issue, but what's, what's the philosophy in play here where, and, and that's the, the germ we thought that we need to capture, which is empowering people.

Ken Pilone (35m 19s):
For example, we didn't call it that, but just made I call Toyota's management system. Common sense. Yeah. Because, and we say, well, how do, how do we adapt that? And what, what does that look like in a sales operation or dealership or a parts Depot or, or, or what have you, how, how does, what is the operating principles and philosophies and heritage, if you like, what does the Toyota way look like regardless of the setting? And to me that that captured was captured more in the broader sense of lean than it was in the, in the manufacturing context, in, you know, some areas, even though they're, non-manufacturing like, for example, in a warehouse it's manufacturing esque in that there's repeating cycles of work over and over and over again, in other places that I worked, it is very abstract and, and the work differs from day to day.

Ken Pilone (36m 25s):

Mark Graban (36m 26s):
We see those two types, sorry to interrupt, but we see those two types of settings, let's say within healthcare work that is very repetitive and kind of high volume versus work that is mass customization of a service, if you will.

Ken Pilone (36m 39s):
Absolutely. Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, and in fact, in my work in healthcare, I've come to that conclusion that much of the work can be subdivided into that work that is repetitive and predictable, and it's fairly straightforward. You scheduled and, you know, you have a given input, a different, a given process and there's given output and it's, it was helpful for me to be able to differentiate those areas because in those cases I was able to apply TPS principles pretty directly.

Mark Graban (37m 16s):
Yeah. Yeah. So we, I think it's really important that you highlighted there. What I hear you saying is the difference between TPS practices and then principles and philosophy. So, I mean, here's a different three P practices, principles, philosophy of kind of bringing out the higher level principles and philosophy seems in a lot of cases, more directly transferable where you may then develop a slightly different practice. That's still true to the principles and philosophy.

Ken Pilone (37m 52s):
You said it better than I did

Mark Graban (37m 55s):
You helping me think through that though way was I was just building on what you were saying. So thank you for

Ken Pilone (38m 1s):
That. No, I think, but I think that's, you know, I think that's a good way to looking at it. I think the, the framework of the Toyota whale I'll yield to versus TPS should be recognizable those underpinning of philosophical philosophies and practices, as you pointed out and even policies, if you wanna another P in there.

Mark Graban (38m 29s):
Yeah. It's a four P now there we go. That's four P good. Not confused. I mean,

Ken Pilone (38m 35s):
We can market that. Yeah. So, so, and that requires us to zoom out quite a bit when you're looking at the kind of work and saying, depending on the nature of the work and the sophistication of, if you like of the, the organization with a leadership there, sometimes you have to zoom out pretty far to be able to say, let's, let's, let's talk about what our principles are. What do we believe in here? What is our culture here, as opposed to you need to, you know, put a pokey device in this x-ray machine?

Mark Graban (39m 15s):
Right. Well, you know, I think back to when I was starting at general motors in 1995, there was, I, I probably shouldn't have it, but I still have a copy of this 1995, 96 guidebook of general motors. They called it Competitive Manufacturing sSstem. But if I were to pull that green book, I know it's on a shelf here somewhere and go back through it. My memory is that it was all about practices And the company at that point. And I know GM has changed a lot over 25 plus years, like trying to copy practices and paste them into an environment that had altogether different principles and philosophies could, you know, maybe should not really have much effect, or maybe it makes things worse, like trying to install the practice of an and on cord in an environment where the principles and philosophies are don't, you dare stop the line.

Mark Graban (40m 14s):
And if you do, you're gonna get yelled at why spend the money on and on boards. If you're not gonna have a change in principles, philosophy, and policies, I'm sure you've seen things like that in other settings.

Ken Pilone (40m 27s):
Oh, no, absolutely. And I think that's the biggest single failure mode when it comes to lean adoptions is the, the practices tools, what have you are readily available? And I think some of the appeal of, of this stuff is that it is readily available and easy to use. And which of course was the point. But so you might ask, well, if I've copied all the practices, why am I not getting the same result? Because most organizations don't follow the process of plowing before you plant to put it in more simple terms, they just spray the seeds out there and hope for the best.

Ken Pilone (41m 16s):
Well, yeah, that's probably not gonna work, but it's easy to fall in love with that because you know, you, you have all artifacts on the walls and different things going on at mimic, I'll say Toyota or mimic lean, but yet they never seem to achieve the gains. And I've been called in over my, during my consulting career called in a number of organizations says, well, what what's missing here? And I, I compared it to a puzzle. I said, well, if you look in a puzzle box, you got all these pieces, but there's no picture on the cover. Right? Box's like, you know, you can look at every individual piece and say, oh, this is red.

Ken Pilone (42m 0s):
This is blue, this is green, but it doesn't work together. It doesn't fit together. It doesn't inform an overall image of what you're trying to accomplish. And it's unsustainable. If the culture is toxic to those very same behaviors, like pulling a line, I mean, pulling the cord rather. Right. You know, it's like, great. We have a cord, Toyota's andon cord. We're the same. Right. Well, not really.

Mark Graban (42m 29s):
Yeah. Yeah. I love the way that, that analogy you used. I mean, you know, Toyota people say it's a company of farmers. And when you start talking about plowing and seeds and planting and developing and growing people, I'm, I'm mixing the metaphors a little bit.

Ken Pilone (42m 46s):
Well, not too much, actually much of the Toyota history. When I went back, I unique opportunity to work on, pardon me with a team developing the program that ultimately became known as the Toyota traditions, which was a curricula to help onboard new people going back to the earliest days. So I had an opportunity to go to Japan and study that. And, and I got to really appreciate the, the earliest beginnings of the company and it's rural roots. And so it, it's not unlike, you know, we built a plant in, in, in the Georgetown Kentucky.

Ken Pilone (43m 32s):
Well, there's not much of a town there. Yeah. We went there and, but it was mostly rural people. And even today, I mean, those plants pull in the locals who are, I'll say, plain folk. They, they, they, they understand and appreciate common sense as simple things and metaphors that they can relate to. Yeah. Yeah. So,

Mark Graban (43m 59s):
Well, as you're, you know, passing along what you've experienced and learned at Toyota, Ken and, and, and how, you know, things that you've done outside of Toyota, I wanna come back and talk about the book a little bit. Again, it's Lean Leadership on a Napkin: An Executive's Guide to Lean Transformation in Three Proven Steps. So that book has been available. It is available. I, I love asking authors about their origin story for the book. Like there's a lot of books out there already, as you know, and you know, you, you have a lot to, to bring to this from your experience as in perspective. So I'm not questioning that you should have, but I, I wanna know what was the spark of why you decided to write a book and, and to write this book?

Ken Pilone (44m 42s):
Hmm. I would say that it, part of the origin story is twofold. One was in my ex in my years at Toyota, I remember being impressed at how stories and pictures were embedded in everything, even, you know, in the, a threes, the simplistic images to try to explain what would otherwise be a fairly complicated idea. And so I developed a knack, I think over the years of, of recreating the ones that I had been exposed to on a napkin or in a tailgate of a truck or, or in actually, I remember one time I was actually drawing in the dirt of the, of a, a rear window of, of a truck.

Ken Pilone (45m 45s):
I used that as my canvas. Wow. And so it was a way to try to talk about basic fundamental ideas, principles, tools, what have you, in a simple way. And so over the years, I would basically draw those images out on napkins, literally, and tablecloths and trucks. And, and I remember I went to, this is in healthcare. I went to a physician's office who I had been coaching, and he had on his wall, a bunch of the napkins that I had drawn with them over this previous session.

Ken Pilone (46m 27s):
And I was flattered, but a little surprised. And I said, oh my gosh, what are those doing? He says, I, I, I like them. I appreciated them. And I used them to teach my people. He was a, a physician, but he was also a manager leader. And he said, you know, you should staple those together and call it a book. And we, we had a, we had a good laugh about it, but it, but it sort of, I started asking other people what they thought of, something like that. I said, it wouldn't be much of a book. In fact, even today, I, I, I tell people, you know, my book was intended to be brief and short and heavy on pictures and images.

Ken Pilone (47m 17s):
And I said, if I could have made it into a comic book, I would've.

Mark Graban (47m 21s):
Yeah. Well, and, and, and so listeners understand it's, it's certainly not a picture book. There's a lot of words here, but, you know, to a relative slim, 150 pages, it's not overwhelming. Right. You know, I, I think it's very readable and there are illustrations that are helpful for sure.

Ken Pilone (47m 37s):
Well, yeah. And I think that, that is the part of, of this is that as I started to craft the story and fill in the white spaces between images, if you like, but, but to try to draw on what I had learned and what was I thought was unique and would offer something to the community of, of learners out there that might be a little different than what they had previously been exposed to. And with a overwhelming bias towards simplicity. That was what I was after with this. I, it seemed to me that there were a lot of really good rich texts.

Ken Pilone (48m 20s):
I'll say really well thought out books in that regard, and that the library shelves are full of books about Toyota and about lean and all that. And yet what seemed like a gap to me was for those people that just for particularly those executives that just wanted a basic primer, you know, tell me what this thing is. And, and, and feed it to me in a way that I can easily grasp it. I don't have time or energy necessarily to, to absorb all the other things that are out there, but this was to kind of get them started.

Mark Graban (48m 56s):
Yeah. And, and there's a great mix of, you know, a discussion of principles and practices and, and stories and a little bit of history. So, I mean, I think even, you know, if there there's a listener here who says, well, I've, I've read dozens of books about lean already. I mean, there, there are tidbits and things in here that are, are new and, you know, unique contributions and a lot of good reinforcement of principles and philosophies that people might have read from other Toyota people or other students of Toyota. So I really do encourage people to check it out. And, and, and can you give us, you know, and this is detailed much more in the book, of course, the three proven step approach that the subtitle alludes to introduction, integration and internalization, this seems very different than another I word that people use implementation.

Ken Pilone (49m 55s):
Yeah. And, and it's been my experience that implementation is actually the easiest part. The, the heavy lifting occurs in that first phase of sort of introducing the concept of people. And while it might seem pretty simple and pretty straightforward, it turns out, and it was for me, by the way, I thought it was pretty simple, but it turns out that's where all the gravitational pull is because it's radically different in many cases from an organization's habits or executive habits. And remember that this book was really aimed at, at executives with were top decision makers to decide if they wanted to embark on this journey in the first place.

Ken Pilone (50m 44s):
And so it, I tried to be realistic about it, but for a person who has been in, in leadership for long period of time and learned all the habits that, that we, you know, embed in our culture expectations we have of, of managers, it's, it requires deep reflection and a wide-eyed assessment of, is this really something I wanna do? Am I really ready for this? You know, it's because it's gonna require me personally, as a leader to be different Jack differently.

Ken Pilone (51m 27s):
Right. And I know, you know, John Toussaint is one of my heroes out there and, and, and I'm, I'm so taken by the guts that it takes to be able to reinvent yourself, I'll say so. So that's why the introduction part, I mean, the introduction sort of softens it, but it really is the most by far the most difficult part, because that's where you're plowing the field, right. That's where you're preparing yourself and your organization to do something fundamentally different.

Ken Pilone (52m 11s):
Once you get to that tipping point and you start to integrate and start to include some of these things, embed some of the practices and that we talked about before adopt some of the principles, then if the pressure is maintained, you're on the down hill side of that bell curve, where implementation as you put it or internalization as I put, it becomes relatively straightforward. Yeah.

Mark Graban (52m 40s):
Yeah. So it seems like if, yeah, so, you know, implementation often seems to be sort of a one step approach that, that short changes, introduction, or laying the foundation, understanding, you know, business drivers instead of just going and doing stuff. And then if that doing stuff, if it's done to people, I mean, I think another way maybe of using the word internalization is that if people weren't really fully participating and they, they haven't been able to internalize the principles and the purpose, as soon as the consultant or that engineer or whoever put some practice in the place goes away, people would, you know, not unreasonably go back to their old way of doing things.

Ken Pilone (53m 24s):
Well. Yeah. And I, and I think that's is ultimately what is hurting the Six Sigma movement, because, you know, we have people who, who come in, experts who come in fix things and then leave where oftentimes the people left behind are just left with here's your new machine run it. But it, you know, it, as opposed to having in, in investing in the people themselves, to be able to do these things and have it, their own ideas, come to the surface and, and be deployed and be treated like fully functioning adults, as opposed to just worker bees.

Ken Pilone (54m 6s):
Right. And it's new to everybody. I mean, it's new to leaders for sure. But it's also new to employees. You know, the workforce isn't used to being asked to solve problems. Isn't used to experimenting, isn't used to taking risk. It isn't used to solving or, or answering questions that typically they, they would just tee up to management. Yeah. I got a problem boss. Yeah. What should I do? And the boss come dreams up something and they go do it without a lot of skin in the game.

Mark Graban (54m 43s):
And, and, and there's, I mutually reinforcing habits on both side of the equation, because let's say if you're in a culture where you're never allowed to be quote unquote wrong, you're never allowed to have a bad idea. Like, you know, workers, it's easier and it's less stressful to say, okay, boss, you do it. You know, even if you don't believe they're really gonna come up with a good solution, it's safer, it's easier. And people get conditioned on both sides of that. Leaders have conditioned themselves say, I have to jump in with the answers. And then frontline team members get conditioned to like, well, just, yeah, just let the boss do it. So breaking that cycle yeah.

Mark Graban (55m 23s):
Is key. Right?

Ken Pilone (55m 25s):
Yeah. It, it, it's safer. You know, in my book, I there's a story or, or an example. I try to use where, where people come to work in traditional organizations and often they check their adultness at the door because outside of work, they, they are expected to solve problems and, and manage money and deal with families and, you know, contribute to society and make decisions and all that stuff. So it's all part of being a grownup, you know, and yet they come to work and as I put it, they, they get a little smaller, they seem to slump, they like shrink. It's like, now I'm in this sort of mother, may eye mode, you know, is it okay if I go to the bathroom?

Ken Pilone (56m 7s):
Is it okay if I do this? You know, and they wait for, for permission and direction all the time. And then when they go home at night, they get stand up again, like fully grown adults thought that dichotomy, why wouldn't people to bring those grown up skills to work

Mark Graban (56m 27s):
Well. And, and you see that. And I apologize. I, I didn't leave enough time for us to really talk about healthcare. So maybe we can have later this year, another discussion that really, you know, focuses more on healthcare, but what you're describing or what we're talking about can, I've seen it in both manufacturing. And I've seen that same dynamic in healthcare, people of the same age who may not even have a high school diploma, people with advanced master's degrees fall into that same way of being in the workplace. It's sad to see it happen in manufacturing. It's sad to see it in healthcare. Maybe it's more surprising to see people with advanced degrees fall into those same behaviors and organizational dynamics that they're sort of conditioned to, or forced to go along with.

Mark Graban (57m 19s):
There's so much lost potential from that

Ken Pilone (57m 23s):
We, we live in comfort zones. I think across the board, whether it's work or home or family or society, whatever, we, we tend to reinforce our comfort zones over and over again. And for some people that bubble's pretty small, and it takes some courage to push on the edges of that, cuz it wants to pull you back to what's known and what you know, where people have some degree of confidence that they know how to be.

Mark Graban (57m 53s):
Yeah. Yeah. So Ken, maybe, you know, there's a couple things, maybe we can do these relatively rapid fire because each of these questions could probably be a whole episode in and of itself. But in the book you talk about, this would be a fun game of family feud. We could survey 100 former Toyota people, but we're not, we're just asking Ken in the, in the book you write about misinformation, that's out there about lean and lean leadership. Like either there's a couple different ways maybe to answer this, what's either the most common misinformation or, or, and or what's the most harmful or counterproductive piece of misinformation out there.

Ken Pilone (58m 38s):
That's a tough one. I would have to say what, what comes to mind first of all, is that on the part of leadership that you have to abdicate your role and your responsibility, you, you have to give up, you know, and I, I try to tell my leaders that empowerment is, does not equal abandonment. It just, and, and the other part of this is I would say many leaders are so conscious of the, the present and you know, the results that they're expected to achieve today.

Ken Pilone (59m 19s):
And they really don't have eyes on their legacy and what they're leaving behind the other, the other notion that I'm constantly trying to dispel that lean is hard. It's not hard.

Mark Graban (59m 32s):

Ken Pilone (59m 33s):
It's at least it's not hard to understand. And, and sometimes people resist it. You imagine healthcare, healthcare talks about the need for simplicity. And yet we do everything we can to make things more complicated. Oh,

Mark Graban (59m 45s):

Ken Pilone (59m 46s):
So, so, but if people understood that, look, this is common sense. We're not asking for anything exotic here. You don't need to be a PhD to understand this stuff. You don't have to have a black belt to understand this stuff. This is pretty straightforward stuff. And it's almost as if people love this aversion to it being simple. It can't, if it's simple, it can't be any good

Mark Graban (1h 0m 13s):
Or yeah. Or somebody I've, I've heard people say, and I think there's something to it, but it's hard to sell simple. Right? You wanna portray something as complex and that there's rare understanding that you have to hire somebody to bring in

Ken Pilone (1h 0m 29s):
Well, and, and if that's the case, I'm in trouble because my whole book was premise on that, on the notion of being simple and straightforward.

Mark Graban (1h 0m 39s):
Well, but that takes a lot of understanding and reflection and effort to communicate these things simply. And I think you do, you do a great job of that. Two other, maybe this next one, this next one will be easier to answer. And I think it falls into common misinformation that people take five. Why very literally, and in the book you say it's not a rigid rule than number five. Tell, tell us a little more about that.

Ken Pilone (1h 1m 7s):
Oh yeah. I mean, it, it, it's really more of a philosophy around digging deeper when we think we've solved the problem. Rarely have we. Yeah. And that is you keep quote solving the same problem, quote, over and over again. Right. Clearly, you know, you're, it's like painting over rust, you know, it might look good for a little while and then you're gonna have to quote, solve that problem again. So why not take whatever time it takes to get to the bottom of it and, and, and build it correctly, get to the root cause now. And some simple problems. It might only take three whys to get to the root cause.

Ken Pilone (1h 1m 48s):
Really understand it. Know. Yeah. It's also possible. That'll take more than five. Yeah. It's also possible dig too deep because if you keep digging, why, why, why, why forever. You're gonna be talking about, you know, the, the universe at some point. Right,

Mark Graban (1h 2m 4s):

Ken Pilone (1h 2m 5s):
We're we're we need to find that sweet spot in, in going through the, that root cause analysis to where there's just something actionable that will solve this problem permanently. If I get to that point, all the other additional whys are unnecessary. Yeah. And counterproductive. Yeah.

Mark Graban (1h 2m 25s):
I, I I've I've often said, if you keep asking why too many times you either end up blaming society or Congress and, and we, we, we don't have direct action over like, you know, Congress, we vote every couple years, but, but yeah. I, I get your point of like, we can, we can get to a point of like, well, that's human nature. Like, well, okay. Let's come back up a little bit.

Ken Pilone (1h 2m 48s):
Yeah. We're not really gonna change human nature today. Right. So, and I think that's the, a misunderstanding, and I think it's true of other tools. If you like from lean is that sometimes they're taking too literally or misinterpreted, for example, I'll just leave you with this thought the a three, I had clients in my consulting days, it would say, well, we adopted a three. And I said, let me see 'em and all it was was a narrative written, a tiny font. It's like, here's our a three it's one page. Well, I, okay.

Ken Pilone (1h 3m 29s):
Let's go back to the beginning. So there's a lot of misinformation there, even about how to use the most basic fundamental tools of lean. Yeah.

Mark Graban (1h 3m 39s):
Yeah. You make me think of one other thing. That's maybe more of a misunderstanding than a misinformation and I'll credit another former Toyota person, Pascal Dennis, who has written some great books as well. Yeah. Yeah. Pascal really helped me understand. Let's say if we're talking to someone about someone will say like, oh, we, we found the root cause. Okay. Well how'd you find the root cause? Well, we went through the five whys. Well, how'd you do that? Well, we talked through it in a conference room and we found the root cause like, you know, Pascal taught me like at best you have a suspected root cause and you need to go and test your understanding with countermeasures. And I found that to be very, that's something I've tried to pass along and something I've tried to continue to put into practice.

Ken Pilone (1h 4m 26s):
That's a great point. It's easy to describe this process, but it is not necessarily easy to accomplish it. It can take months of diligent, you know, work. I wish we had more time because there's some great examples that came outta manufacturing that I remember around root cause in the five wise. But, but nevertheless, sometimes while these tools and philosophy seem simple, they are simple. They're simple to understand, but they're not necessarily simple to execute.

Ken Pilone (1h 5m 9s):
Yeah. So, so yeah. Pascal gave, did you a service?

Mark Graban (1h 5m 16s):

Ken Pilone (1h 5m 17s):
And frankly speaking, most people take a very superficial approach to this particular topic.

Mark Graban (1h 5m 22s):
Yeah. And I was, I was guilty of that earlier on, so thank you to Pascal. So we all we learned we grow, right?

Ken Pilone (1h 5m 28s):
Yeah. We all, yeah, we all did. I mean, we all start out with approximations of what we think is right. And then, you know, with, if you have a good coach and I don't necessarily mean an ex outside consultant here, but if you have a good coach or mentor leader who's in, that gets it, those people will guide you as you make more and more attempts at learning.

Mark Graban (1h 5m 52s):
Yeah. So maybe just one last one here before we go. And I Damon Baker and I talked about this recently, Damon had been at Danaher for 10 years and learned from a lot of former Toyota people. But this idea of, and you talk about this in the book, which is why I'm bringing it up. I think there's a misunderstanding that someone can say, I am a sensei and you say that that could even be offensive. So tell, tell us what you've learned and what you teach others about the use of this word sensei.

Ken Pilone (1h 6m 23s):
Well, at the risk of alienating, some of your listeners,

Mark Graban (1h 6m 27s):
I started it. So it's, we'll

Ken Pilone (1h 6m 30s):
Blame. I didn't know really the meaning of the term myself when I was at Toyota, other than the context of karate. And in fact, I went through karate training and I had a sensei, but what I learned then, and also at Toyota is that it's an honorific term that is ascribed to a person, usually a person that's very humble, would never, ever considered themselves. That like me, introducing myself to you, as you know, I'm the world's greatest expert in this particular subject, you know, it comes across as arrogant and, and off putting.

Ken Pilone (1h 7m 17s):
Now, if somebody said, you know, I'm gonna introduce Mark, who is world's greatest expert. That's a different thing. But if you call yourself that it's not considered is considered to be ingenuous in it's. So there are industries out there who perpetuate this idea, and it makes me wince when I, you see on a business card, you know, on a, and I understand the context is different,

Mark Graban (1h 7m 43s):
But yeah. Yeah. Well, sometimes companies do that to people. They give job titles like that I've I've seen. And I, I don't know. I mean, I don't know, who's certifying, I've seen someone who is a certified sensei, which kind of flies in the face of that. So yeah, I could choose I'll use Pascal as an example. Again, I would absolutely refer to Pascal as a sensei to me.

Ken Pilone (1h 8m 9s):

Mark Graban (1h 8m 10s):
And part of it is, I know Pascal would never, ever say that he was a sensei. He, he shares that philosophy.

Ken Pilone (1h 8m 18s):
Yeah. Well, I mean, and it also flies in the face of a core, fundamental lean principle of humility.

Mark Graban (1h 8m 25s):
Right. Right.

Ken Pilone (1h 8m 26s):
A humble person would never refer to themselves as a sensei. Yeah.

Mark Graban (1h 8m 32s):
And humility versus false modesty. You can figure out that difference usually soon enough. So,

Ken Pilone (1h 8m 38s):

Mark Graban (1h 8m 39s):
Yeah. But gosh, so that was one of the things I, maybe we can take a deep dive some other time, you know, in the book you talk about these principles, that, again, sound simple of respect for people. These pillars, respect for people, respect for humanity, or, you know, no, sorry. Leading with humility, I got that humility. Yeah. I got that wrong. Sorry. No, the, the, yeah, those two key principles of respect for people and leading with humility, I got the humanity humility crossed up here. So, but those, those principles are, are something Toyota people will emphasize. And I think it's interesting that people organizations are more often trying to learn or adopt practices.

Mark Graban (1h 9m 22s):
I don't, you know, I can't think of a time someone reached out and said, could you help me become more humble?

Ken Pilone (1h 9m 29s):
You know, that's a really interesting thing. And I know we're running short on time, but I do wanna say this humility happens when you adopt certain principles and certain behaviors by asking, for example, by asking the workforce, what they think about a problem, you'll learn new things. And that makes you almost like, oh my gosh, I didn't even know. You know? And so it's not as if you can go out and read a book about becoming humble, but I do think that if you practice the Socratic method of open questioning from a place of curiosity, rather than judgment, right.

Ken Pilone (1h 10m 12s):
I just really want to understand, you start to realize and appreciate how much you don't know. And, and that I think prepares you to become a humble leader in some organizations, Toyota being one of 'em, they would deliberately put top leaderships out of their comfort zone, but heading departments that they know nothing about for exactly that reason, because it fosters humility and that leader now the leader has to listen. Cause they don't know, they're not gonna make decisions. They're not gonna solve problems because they don't understand it themselves. Yeah.

Mark Graban (1h 10m 52s):
Wow. So thank thank you for, for all of that, Ken and we'll, I would love to take a deeper dive into that. Some time we can talk more about healthcare and just one quick story back to you. One of the most effective hospital laboratories, I ever hospital laboratory directors who I ever met was a nurse who was put out of her comfort zone. They needed somebody to run the lab and she couldn't tell people what to do, cuz she didn't know how to do the work. And, and, and Stephanie was her name would talk about how that helped her grow so much, not just as a lean leader, but just as a leader.

Ken Pilone (1h 11m 28s):
Absolutely. A hundred percent. That is exactly the point.

Mark Graban (1h 11m 33s):
Yeah. And I think healthcare rarely does that. Like here it was sort of an emergency and it, it turned out to where I think there's something to be learned from how she went about that.

Ken Pilone (1h 11m 44s):
Yeah. And I think I'm at my, in my current role and all the roles I've had, I was, I was at my most effective when I was in that space where I didn't really know what to do, but I knew how to ask questions. And I knew, you know, I, I had learned the power of humility not to deploy it. Like, you know, fake modesty as you put it is legit. You know, it's like, I'm sorry, I maybe I should know this stuff, but I don't tell me, teach me.

Mark Graban (1h 12m 17s):
Yeah. We'll we'll we'll come up with a, a certification. How's that

Ken Pilone (1h 12m 23s):
I be got your counter for humility.

Mark Graban (1h 12m 26s):
Well, Ken, thank you so much. Our, our guest here again today has been Ken Pilone. His book again is Lean Leadership on a Napkin: An Executive's Guide to Lean Transformation in Three Proven Steps. It's a, it's a really nice book. I I've had the opportunity to have a couple of conversations with Ken over the years. And I've, I've thoroughly enjoyed today. The opportunity to continue that and this time record it and share it with others. So Ken, thank you. Thank you so much for doing that.

Ken Pilone (1h 12m 56s):
Yeah, you're certainly welcome. And I, and I do wanna say this Mark, because you may not remember this, but you and I were at an event together, it was a, a healthcare improvement event I think put on by Catalysis. And I remember we chatted out there in the book space, people selling books. And I told you about this idea. I don't even know if you remember this and I asked for your advice and your advice is right. Cause I had never written before you says,

Mark Graban (1h 13m 28s):

Ken Pilone (1h 13m 28s):
Start by writing. And I'm like, okay. So thank you for that.

Mark Graban (1h 13m 34s):
Well, I'm glad you brought the book to completion and that, that is quite an accomplishment to celebrate because I, I try to remind myself this all the time as I'm starting to write something new, like yeah, there's this sort of like with problem solving, right? You can't just think about it and expect then it's going to come out perfectly. At some point you've gotta you, we can apply plan due study, adjust to, to writing. So it's plan write, edit, adjust. It's a different term here.

Ken Pilone (1h 14m 5s):
I love that love that's

Mark Graban (1h 14m 7s):
Well, I'm, I'm glad you did. And you know, thank you. Thank you for sharing here today.

Ken Pilone (1h 14m 13s):
It's my pleasure. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I hope we get to do it again.

Mark Graban (1h 14m 16s):
Well, great. I will sign you up for that for sure.

Ken Pilone (1h 14m 19s):

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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.



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