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This month, we’re going to discuss an app that makes the case for being “lucid.” On the Bulletin Board, we’ll find out why the University of California at San Diego is putting Lean Six Sigma into hot tubs and we’ll cover a story about what hospitals can learn from The Cheesecake Factory.

For Tools of the Trade, this month’s book reveals a new villain called the “Advice Monster” and how to conquer it. The Special Request comes from a learner who’s curious about certain information gathering, and for Today’s Special, Tracy will be interviewing someone who’s been deep inside the Toyota Production System and is here to tell us all about it. Grab a biscotti, bring your thermos and come keep us company at the Just-In-Time Cafe!

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Podcast Transcript

Welcome to Just-In-Time Café,’s official podcast where we help you build your problem-solving muscles. We share best practices from over 20 years of success helping organizations from the Fortune 500 to small and medium-size business to government achieve their goals using Lean Six Sigma.


Tracy: Hey, Elisabeth!

Elisabeth: Hello, Tracy. How are you?

Tracy: I am wonderful today. I’m very thirsty for a cup of coffee.

Elisabeth: And I’m ready to put ice in my beverages.

Tracy: Yes. It’s that time of the year.

Elisabeth: It is. It is. So can you grab the menu and then let’s get into the – let’s get in where it’s less noisy and I will grab both our beverages.

Tracy: Sounds good. So Elisabeth, anxious to hear what’s on the menu today.

What’s on the Menu (Podcast Agenda)

Elisabeth: I’m anxious to tell you, Tracy. So this week’s Appetizer proves the benefits of being lucid. On Today’s Bulletin Board, we’ll find out why the University of San Diego put Lean Six Sigma in a hot tub. We’ll also discover what hospitals can learn from The Cheesecake Factory.

And then for Tools of the Trade, we’ll cover a book that warns of the advice monster and how to conquer it. And Today’s Special Request is from a learner who is curious about certain information gathering. We’ll come back to that. And then Today’s Special is an interview with someone who has gotten up close and personal with the Toyota Production System.

So let’s get to the Appetizer!

Tracy: Sounds great.

Appetizer: Lucid Chart

Tracy: So Elisabeth, tell me, why is it important to be lucid?

Elisabeth: Good question, Tracy. This, if you think about being lucid, comprehensible, graspable, transparent, this app is Lucidchart. And you recommended it and it was funny because I found it through another venue. This is an app that lets you basically build flowcharts among other things. But for us, what’s really important is to map the process and we use flow charts all the time.

And when I switched to Mac, I could no longer use Visio. They don’t make Visio for the Mac. So after googling for a few minutes, I found Visio Viewer by Lucidchart. And then I could at least – I could print them. I could view them. I could share my old Visios. I could share – look at other people’s Visios. And I wasn’t dead on my tracks not being able to access my old program.

So since Visio is still not interested in the Mac, I’m actually really thrilled in thinking I might even stop recommending using Excel, which is kind of a stock gap measured to build charts because they’re getting less and less friendly about their chart-building because you can do dynamic arrows in the boxes.

But Lucidchart actually – there’s a free version. You get a lot of upsells of the paid version but you can still have the free version. They got nice tutorials, friendly, easy interface. And then I just checked because this is a free version. You can upgrade.

But Visio, now they’re offering a $13 a month subscription which means 156 bucks a year. In five years, you’re spending close to $800 like that’s a lot of money. So this is a nice alternative. What do you think?

Tracy: I really like it too. I think it’s very simple. Over the years as a process improvement expert, people do ask us advice a lot on what kinds of software they should be using. And for the most part, we’ve been mostly software-agnostic. We sort of – because there are so many clients using different things, we basically say these are tools and how you use those tools is great. But I think having things like Lucidchart makes it easy to recommend something that is so easy to use. Everyone has access to it. And people – it’s easy to use.

So charts like these and software programs like these make it easy to offer opportunities so that you don’t need a license for the entire organization.

The other issue with Visio unfortunately is that everybody has to have it. Everybody had to buy it and the software and it’s not cheap. And not everybody knows how to use it. So this makes it a nice alternative to just having Vision.

And your Mac is exactly, that is a problematic thing.

Elisabeth: Yeah.

Tracy: Nobody can use it on their software or on their computer.

Elisabeth: I know.

Tracy: So it’s a nice option.

Elisabeth: It is. I was turned into trashing Visio aside from recommending Lucidchart. But I did recommend it.

OK. Next up is the Bulletin Board.

Bulletin Board

Elisabeth: OK Tracy, why did the University of California at San Diego put Lean Six Sigma into a hot tub?

Tracy: Well, it’s a very interesting reason. And mostly, it’s because they’re taking all of their students on tours to a hot tub facility, an organization, a manufacturing organization called Watkins to view Lean environments. So it’s really exciting. This is their – I will say, it’s their maiden tour. They put together a one day workshop that you can ride on a bus to two outstanding workplaces. One of them is Watkins Manufacturing as we have said. They manufacture hot tubs and spas and aquatic fitness products.

And the other one is Sharp Healthcare, San Diego’s leading healthcare organization. So you get to ride on the bus. You get to go with the instructors at UCSD and you get to see how they are implementing process improvement Lean Six Sigma into their organization and so you get to hear how people are applying it and it’s very insightful to go and see that happening in action in organizations.

So, highly recommend it and because I’m a student there, I know who the facilitators are that are going to be going. I’ll be going myself so it will be really fun. If anybody wants to come, it’s open. You can sign up and go to UCSD Extension. We’re going to provide the link. I highly recommend it.

Elisabeth: You know Tracy, a lot of people are jealous with San Diego because it’s like gorgeous and sunny for most of the year. And I am jealous because you have so much lean action going on in San Diego. It’s absurd. I’m very competitive. I want the Cape to become like San Diego.

Tracy: Well, it’s funny. There are a lot of Lean enthusiasts, consultants really that are practicing Lean and Six Sigma here. And maybe it’s because they really can live anywhere they want and they choose San Diego. I agree, I love living here. We’re just talking about that yesterday when we’re at the beach 90 degrees.

Elisabeth: Alright. Stop that right now. But let’s get back to the Lean side of it.

Tracy: You’re welcome to come to the tour, Elisabeth.

Elisabeth: Thank you. Thank you.

Tracy: OK. I’m curious and hungry, Elisabeth. What can hospitals learn from the cheesecake factory?

Elisabeth: It’s a really good question, Tracy. And I am hungry too. So this isn’t a new article. This is like five years old. But it’s a great article and it deserves a second pass. And health care can still learn a ton from the cheesecake factory. So I thought it was timely.

This is an article by Atul Gawande. He is the author of The Checklist Manifesto which is on our amazingly awesome Lean Six Sigma booklist, one of our featured picks. He is also a surgeon and he wrote this piece for the New Yorker. And I actually read it while I was eating in a cheesecake factory, a total fluke.

So, we’re on the road a lot, you and I. And cheesecake factory can become a go-to because there’s often a group of us and this can pretty much satisfy whoever – whatever food taste people have in the group.

And Gawande points out they got 160 restaurants in the chain. There are 308 dinner items so hence, the diversity of choice. There are 124 beverage choices, something for everyone and they’re good like the food. So, how did they do that?

And also, they keep it affordable. The typical entrée is less than $15. They got linens. It’s a nice place. It’s a go out option and people in starched white shirts and everyone seems to be happy. So then he backs off and he says, “Medicine, contrary to The Cheesecake Factory, the costs are soaring, service is mediocre and quality is unreliable.” And he gives these very stark, very sad examples of people’s parents going in for care, his own mother. And what’s interesting is these are not uncommon. You probably have sad examples. I know my colleagues do. I know my family does.

So what can health care take away from The Cheesecake Factory? Because, he points out, health care systems are changed too. Only one quarter of doctors now are self-employed or that was five years ago. I suspect, it’s even less than a quarter now.

So Cheesecake uses Lean techniques. You can see in what they’re doing. They’ve got standard work for every recipe, for every movement in that kitchen, the use of their space, the use of visual management for when food is up, when it’s ready to go. There’s no waste, very little waste. And they track what waste there is, so they’re really good.

And Gawande compares this to what happens with knee surgery, knee replacement surgery. And that’s a very common surgery now. And physicians do it the way they like. They use the implants they like. They do the follow-up they like. You’re dealing with lots of different experts so you have an amazing variation across the healthcare system of how knee surgery goes.

And if you step back into The Cheesecake Factory, they use PDCA, plan, do, check, adjust, when they try out new recipes. And the chefs refine them and then they train other people to tweak and get the standard work and then they roll it out.

He gave another great example on the healthcare side where they actually had a physician who did that knee surgery. So he tried to figure out the standard work. So he has looked at what was the best implant. He studied it. He looked at the results of people who used different implants n their surgeries. And he said, “Well, this one has the best results so we’re going with this.” Standard piece.

The he studied the results of follow-up. And there were some people who used a machine. Some people had physical therapy. But the results were clear. The machine didn’t work anywhere near as well as the physical therapy. People got out of the bed faster. They got moving faster. So they got rid of the machines. Saved $90,000 a year and then there was more money for physical therapy.

So, really nice examples of getting that standard work, using plan, do, check, check, act, and getting rid of wastes. And I would love to get this out in health community. Again, to get people to think about that. It’s so needed.

So, really nice examples of getting that standard work, using plan, do, check, check, act, and getting rid of wastes.

Tracy: It really is. And I think what’s really interesting is I used health care a lot to show that process is really important because a lot of times people think, “Oh, process isn’t that important. If you’ve got smart people, they will figure it out.”

Well, healthcare has some of the smartest people in the world, doctors, nurses, and they care. They care about their people. They came to nursing because they want to help. It’s not that they’re not motivated to help.

And so, why are there so many issues in health care? Their processes are broken. And so, I agree with you. In industry that actually has been applying process improvement for a long time and still when you talk to people about their expenses in healthcare, it’s crazy how many people are still having bad experience. They’re sort of deplorable.

And is it really the people? No, it really isn’t. And so, when you talk about standard work, it really made me think of this example I used all the time and it’s a health care example about a standard checklist for operation’s rooms before operating on someone. And really, it’s kind of the pre-checklist and then post-checklist and how it actually reduced accidental deaths by a certain percentage just by using a checklist.

Elisabeth: Yes.

Tracy: And so, because when you – as you say, Elisabeth, there’s so much variation. People coming from different places, doctors having different process, and they’re not necessarily tied to one hospital.

I think the other example I heard about standard work is if anyone had surgery, they probably gone through an experience where they’ve had to mark – put a marking on let’s say the leg they were going to be getting knee surgery. While some hospitals would use x for x marks the spot and other hospitals would say x means, “No, not that leg.”

Elisabeth: Oh no.

Tracy: So, what does that do? It’s just creating issues for the doctors still.

Elisabeth: Yeah.

Tracy: So, I agree with you.

Elisabeth: And with patients.

Tracy: Yes. So I think The Cheesecake Factory is paving the way for health care.

Elisabeth: Hey, bring this article when you go tour – do the Sharp tour at USCD.

Tracy: Yes, I think I will. Thank you very much.

Elisabeth: Cool. Next up, Tools of the Trade.

Tools of the Trade: The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier

Tracy: So Elisabeth, what is an advice monster?

Elisabeth: OK. The advice monster is a great cautionary tale. This is from the author, Michael Bungay Stanier, who wrote The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way You Live Forever, which we just read. With the advice monster, it’s about telling people what they should do.

And you know those moments when you’re imparting your years of wisdom to someone you’re coaching or someone you’re just trying to help and they get quiet. And at some point, you realized, “I don’t know that I’m really helping them. I don’t know if they’re listening. I don’t know if I’ve just overwhelmed them.”

And he’s saying, “Yeah, you did. You just overwhelmed them and that’s not how people learn and it’s not how people want to be led.” So little pieces like that just got my brain firing like, “Oh yeah, I got to conquer that advice monster.” And he gives you really good how-tos. The book is seven questions. But the genius of the book is both the simplicity of those questions but also the offer to the reader to find out more on their own if they want. If you’re curious, there’s more.

So he gives you great examples. He guides you to build your own habit that’s based on Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, and a great book. So he uses that model and he gives props to everyone he quotes, all the research he quotes so it will take you directly to their websites.

But it’s up to you to dig more if you want. So there are interviews with thought leaders. There are his wacky webinar videos that we both enjoyed. And then there are links to other websites and there are great resources. And I got it as an ebook after I bought the book because I like having both. But the ebook, you could actually hit the links and go straight to stuff.

So those are all the reasons that I thought this was a great book that I’m already using. How about you?

Tracy: I loved it as well. And I absolutely agree. It was mixed with I’ve been doing that all along and I don’t actually know it was a technique. So there was some of that, many of those pieces. Like for example, I always use the a question and what else in my training. So when people – I go, “Does anybody have an example of this?” I go, “And what else? And what else? And what else?”

And then there’s more interaction and activity when I use that. At the same time, I got a lot of really new advice that I thought was excellent as well. And I may have known it but didn’t really put it together with success.

As an example, what I’m saying is one of the recommendations in this book is figure your trigger. Find out what is causing you to react a certain. And then find a 60-habit to replace it. And I never thought about it like that.

His example is, “I would like to do 20 minutes of meditation every day.” But that’s a little too hard. So what I do is I set a goal of sitting on my meditation caution for one minute and then I actually practice the habit. And I love that because that – really the 60-second piece is what I was not putting together in my own challenges with working out or taking positive habits. So I really loved that. And I think that can apply to work and home. And there are lots of other really good insights into this book.

And I really do like his style. You wrote a review that I loved reading on this book and he’s great. He has got a great personality. I think he’s funny.

Elisabeth: He is funny.

Tracy: And I just love the way he explains things. It’s very entertaining and enjoyable as well as educational.

Elisabeth: Yeah, he is great. And you reminded me, I did incorporate one new question to my coaching last week which was, what’s your greatest challenge? And I thought I got pretty good coaching questions. I do a lot of his questions already. But I got new information from every single one of the 11 people I was coaching when I ask that question. That was important stuff. I didn’t know these challenges they were having and it opened up a whole new line of inquiry.

So, really useful, really accessible, and fun. I enjoy this book too.

Tracy: Yes, me too.

Elisabeth: Up next, Special Request.

Special Request

Elisabeth: So Tracy, here’s a question for you from one of our subscribers. What takes place with the information gathered from process walk interviews?

Tracy: I love this question. I think it’s great. This question actually came up on one of my webinars that I just recently did called Process Walk Orientation for Participants of Process Walks.

And ultimately, that’s a great question. So you spent all this time interviewing people during the process walk, what do you do with the information?

So I think the purpose of the process walk is really to get everyone on the same page to see the real process in its current state. And so ultimately, the big part of what you’re doing with this information is to share, communicate what you’re seeing and debrief the walk, the observations, and the opportunities with the people you are walking with because that’s when those connections and the alignment is reconfirmed with the group.

And so ultimately once you do that, people go, “Yeah, I saw that too. And can you believe that?” And so that’s really the team building aspect of getting alignment and everybody seeing the process the same way.

But ultimately then you’re going to build a current state map and then you can identify quick heads. I think that is something that is a real game for these groups is a quick head is a one or two-person change that could be implemented immediately.

We usually have more than 5, sometimes up to 17 quick heads just from walking the process together. And people love that because we’re always in solution mode anyways. And they could be very impactful in terms of these quick heads.

And so ultimately, that’s what you do in the immediate future of doing a process walk. And then of course later, you design a future state. You come up with the implementation planning. You implement those solutions through either Kaizen events or additional meetings with the team. But ultimately, people love the process walk if it’s done well and sharing that information and sharing insights is always I think one of the nicest parts of doing a process walk.

Elisabeth: That’s great. It’s all about the debrief. And that’s what you’re saying is when you get together and you actually look at what you all discovered, that’s where all the light bulbs go off and it’s a really nice team builder.

Tracy: Yes.

Elisabeth: Nice one. Next up, Today’s Special.

Today’s Special: Interview with Darril Wilburn, Senior Partner at Honsha

Elisabeth: So Tracy, you interviewed somebody who has been deep inside the Toyota Production System. Can you give u a little preview of who you talked to and what this was all about?

Tracy: Absolutely. So I had the pleasure of talking with Darril Wilburn of Honsha. And Honsha originally was created as a consulting company, originally created by all people that used to work at Toyota. And Darril is going to be talking with us about a very special opportunity for anyone to go to basically the origins of Lean in Japan at Toyota. And so, I’m really anxious to talk about this opportunity with Darril and I’m sure that people are going to be really interested to hear what this opportunity is.

Elisabeth: Yeah, and to go to Japan. Sign me up right now. OK, Tracy. Looking forward to it.

Tracy: Yes, stay tuned.

Hey, Darril. Welcome to the Café today.

Darril: Hey, Tracy. Thanks for having me.

Tracy: I’m so glad you are able to meet me for a cup of coffee.

Darril: Yeah. And actually, I am having coffee so that’s a good thing.

Tracy: What kind of coffee do you like anyway?

Darril: Well, I’ll go Starbucks or anything that has a little flavor to it. So not that picky.

Tracy: Well, good. So everybody, welcome. Thanks for joining us. I have Darril Wilburn here from Honsha. Darril has been with Honsha for 10 years. He is a partner. I’ll tell you a little bit about Darril. He worked at Toyota. He studied the Toyota Production System and he was part of Toyota’s Internal Sensei group or you’re a student of that group. Is that right, Darril?

Darril: Yes, I was a student of the Internal Keepers of the Flame of the Toyota Production System.

Tracy: Nice. OK. And then you developed and implemented the Toyota Way in 2001 at Toyota’s largest manufacturing plant in North America. Where is that largest manufacturing plant?

Darril: That’s in Georgetown, Kentucky.

Tracy: Oh nice. OK. And then you also worked with the Toyota Institute in Japan to implement the Toyota Business Practice. Is that right?

Darril: Yes, that’s right.

Tracy: Wonderful.

Darril: It was a great project. Both of them, great projects so I’m very lucky.

Tracy: Oh good. And so now, you’re at Honsha and you get a chance to work with lots of different companies, hundreds of companies in the USA, Brazil, Indonesia, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, and a couple of others. You’re busy.

Darril: Yes, very busy. And one of the things I like to do is keep my list of countries visited going. So I get to add a couple every year and so hopefully, I’ll get to several before I’m finished.

Tracy: Now, I have a question. Do you speak more than just English or is English your primary language?

Darril: Well, I also speak a little Scottish and Irish, a little Australian as well so yeah, I’m multilingual.

Tracy: Very nice.

Darril: So unfortunately, it’s just a variation of English.

Tracy: Yeah, I know what you mean. And you probably have different accents depending on where you go.

Darril: Well, I’m not even talented in that way so I just keep down the middle of road.

Tracy: So tell me a little bit first of all about your experience with what you’ve done with Toyota working in that manufacturing plant and with implementing the Toyota Business Practice. Tell me about these awesome projects that you were lucky enough to be a part of.

Darril: Yeah. So the first one was The Toyota Way that we had our own internal Toyota Way. There was the External Toyota Way by Dr. Liker that most people are familiar with the book. And we internally globally were working on the DNA of Toyota ourselves. Toyota figured out really who we were. And the result of that was an internal document called The Toyota Way 2001.

And interestingly enough, they called it The Toyota Way 2001 because they really couldn’t come to a consensus, to full consensus that this was the package. This was the DNA. And so Mr. Cho who was the President then said, “Well, we’ll kind of market in time and then we’ll be able to evolve this as we grow and we know more and more about who we are and we can implement The Toyota Way 2010 and 2020 and 2030.” I think that’s more metaphorical than actual but that was his thinking is that we’ll be able to evolve and grow and continue to know who we are. So it’s a great project internally we did at the plant in Georgetown.

And the Toyota Business Practice was really the actions that go with the values. The Toyota Way was the values that we say we align with. Then the Toyota Business Practice was the actual actions that we were supposed to take every day. And what we decided as an organization is that problem-solving was really the Toyota Business Practice all the way from the top executive in the organization trying to look out 5, 10, 20 years in the future trying to anticipate problems. And then even the mid-managers trying to solve problems in order to execute the company plan. And then team members every day trying to Kaizen and problem-solving based on their standardize work. So we figure this was our way. So we implemented globally a new standard of how we did problem-solving.

So we implemented globally a new standard of how we did problem-solving.

And now, 10 years later, if you go into any plant in the world, you will be able to see that same methodology shared across all levels of the organization and across all functions. So it has really been – it’s a great learning for me but also for Toyota. It was good for them to be able to standardize what they were doing in problem-solving.

Tracy: So what do you think was the biggest challenge around doing that getting the standardization across and then 10 years later it’s still implemented?

Darril: Well, everybody wants to do their own way. It’s the same – it’s the business we’re in today and we’re trying to help other organizations. People don’t necessarily see the need to change always. We were the same. Our initial kickoff was with the North American Vice-Presidents and they were reluctant as well. They felt like they already knew how to do this and there was really nothing more to learn on how to do problem-solving.

But my teacher, who was an Executive Vice-President globally at the time, he was really pushing hard saying, “This is what we do. So we must learn and be able coach and teach this to everyone.”

And it was interesting. He said, “If you can’t do this or you would not do this then really, you’re not Toyota person.” So I think everybody understood what he was saying about saying that is we need you to be on board. So that was a challenge. But eventually, we all came in. It took many, many years to get that standard throughout the world. But now, it is the standard and we continue to improve it based on the standards. So it’s wonderful.

Tracy: Wonderful. Thank you. And so now, you’re with Honsha. And the first thing I learned about Honsha when I heard about Honsha was that everyone and tell me if this is wrong, but I heard that everyone at Honsha used to work at Toyota. So every consultant came from Toyota. Is that true?

Darril: Well, there was a point when that was true. We’ve grown ourselves and also been able to take some people in to Honsha and train and develop them over the course of many years and so we feel confident that the characteristics and the skills that we want to have super train in Honsha and also a reflection of where we came from which was Toyota. So maybe it’s 95% now. But the vast, vast majority still do come from Toyota.

Tracy: OK. Wonderful. And tell me, how did you decide that you were going to become part of Honsha and transitioning from working at Toyota to Honsha?

Darril: Well again, quite lucky to have had great experiences in Toyota that kind of gave me not necessarily the deep skill set in every possible TPS tool but again, you have broad cross-section of a lot of experiences. And I was lucky enough to develop a nice network internally. And so when I decided that I wanted to do training and development and coaching and implementation of TPS outside of Toyota, I was able to tap into the network and then I met Samuel Obara who had just recently started Honsha. And we came together and we started to grow Honsha from that point.

But yeah, it’s again, I was very lucky to be able to work on some projects in Toyota and then really lucky to meet up with Sammy and build a great company.

Tracy: Yes, I know Sammy as well because him and I teach in San Diego State for a while. We are both part of the Lean Enterprise Program put on by San Diego State and Mark Myers.

Darril: Yeah. I met Mark. I’ve done some workshops there as well.

Tracy: Yeah. So Sammy is great too. I love him. He is a great teacher and he has some really great stories about some of his experiences.

Darril: Yes. I learn from him every time we’re together.

Tracy: So, one of the things that was really a big interest here and this part of this podcast interview is to talk about something that you guys offer that I think is pretty interesting. And that is a Lean tour of Toyota at Toyota facility in Japan. So how long have you guys been putting these tours on?

Darril: Yeah. We’ve been doing the tours about five years now. We’re getting ready to do our seventh one this summer and our eighth one will be coming up in October. And so yeah, we decided several years ago that some of our clients were asking for this service. And honestly Tracy, when we first started talking about it, I wondered if people would truly want to do that. I mean I knew that there would be a few but enough to kind of keep the program going because I had been to Japan when I worked at Toyota and I thought it was a wonderful experience, life-changing. But it was mainly a though because I was internal and I was getting a chance to kind of go to the source.

But when we started talking to people and offering that, that chance to go to the source. And when we go back to Japan, we go to Toyota but we also go to suppliers. We go to some places that are non-manufacturing examples of Lean or what we call Lean. Most places there don’t call it Lean. And when we say Toyota Production System to a non-Toyota company, they actually get a little offended because they know that Toyota does well with the production system but they have their own way and they adapted a lot of the tools and techniques. So we get a chance to see a cross-section of companies.

And when we say “Toyota Production System” to a non-Toyota company, they actually get a little offended because they know that Toyota does well with the production system but they have their own way and they adapted a lot of the tools and techniques.

But when I had first thought about and was exploring this, I really didn’t know if it would go. And since then we’ve had again, our seventh one coming up this summer. We got the eighth one coming up in October. And we’ve been able to fill 15 to 20 spots every time. So people have really taken hold this idea of going back to the source to learn the origins of Lean in the Toyota Production System and in other cultural parts of Japan as well.

Tracy: So, when you go on the tour, you also visit suppliers as you have said. Who are the people that you find are most interested in going? Is there a certain type of audience that you’re finding attends? Or what would your suggestion be in terms of who would go to a tour to Toyota in Japan?

Darril: Well, we target the tour – we call it an Executive Development Mission. So we target the tour to managers and above. Though we had a lot of Lean practitioners from companies go as well. So it seems that everybody who goes, finds some thought stream that they start to connect to during the week that relates to their position.

So if you’re a CEO that goes maybe looking at, “How do I create a vision for my company based on what I’m seeing in these very mature organizations where it would be Toyota or other ones?” For example, one supplier we go to has been in business for 100 years and they were supplier to the Toyota loom works before Toyota even made cars. So that’s an example of the maturity level that we like to see. And people go and the CEOs go and see that and they develop a better vision for what they could be.

But at the same time, you can be a Lean practitioner and go and see how tools had been implemented and the techniques had been implemented within these companies and draw inspiration from that as well because what we many times see as a very complicate thing in the US or in other countries, when you see at the source, you see how simplistically it started. So when you’re even a Lean practitioner and you go to the source then you can draw the inspiration from the fact that many of the tools and techniques have been implemented and they’re still in a kind of a simplistic state. So you can see that we don’t need all the complications that many times we put on top of the techniques and tools here in the US or in other countries.

Tracy: What do you think and I know that you’re an internal guy and you’ve been with Toyota for a long time so I don’t know if you can answer this question, but what would you say is the biggest contrast from going and seeing Lean from any other company? What do you think it is that Toyota – people see at Toyota when they go there that’s different than anywhere else?

Darril: So, that’s a great question because it’s one of the things I think about a lot when I’m working with organizations. Trying to help them understand what it feels like, not just what you see inside of a Toyota organization, but also what it feels like. And I know that’s a little bit squishy. It’s difficult to define the feeling.

But it’s almost like you’re in this, and I don’t want to be overly dramatic or anything, but it’s almost like an orchestra where you can kind of feel this rhythm throughout the organization when things are running well. And then when things aren’t running well, you don’t feel and you immediately know. It doesn’t take a lot of time and effort and energy to know when you’re out of standard.

So when we go to other organizations, many times or most times, that’s not the case. I remember a few years ago, I was doing an initial Gemba walk at a government contractor that was making some vehicle store for the military. And I asked them and I said, “Are we on break?” And he looked at me with kind of a sad face and he said, “That’s part of the problem. I can’t tell.” So it was this thing where you can never really tell the rhythm and the flow of the work.

So, it’s a thing that you see. It’s also a thing that you feel. So when we go to these companies, we try to emphasize and look at how the things are all connected from end to end and top to bottom. And what is not seen so much and we try to emphasize as well is the management system that drives all that. It doesn’t happen by accident. This thing is planned out down to the second.

Now, not every organization does work that may reflect back to a moving line conveyor. But it at least gives you the inspiration to say, “How can we get closer to creating work systems that allow us to know how things are going? Are we ahead or behind? Are we red? Are we green?” And that helps people do better work.

And so I think it’s imperative for leaders to be able to set those systems. So that’s part of what we hope people see when they go to Toyota in Japan or even in Kentucky or some of these other great companies that have really dedicated themselves to creating this good work culture.

Tracy: Yes. And that is a – I was actually going to ask you about the management system that people do see because I think you kind of nail that you said it’s simple. Some of these tools are simple. Some of the things that are implemented are simple. And I think people focus on kanbans or work cell even and maybe replicate it.

But it sounds to me like you’re also saying, “See what people do. See how the leaders are behaving. See the management system in action.” And I think that was not so readily apparent to people until they went and just try to implement a kanban or a work cell and it didn’t really work because they were missing that management system piece.

Darril: Yeah. It’s very important to be able to link all those things together with your management system. Having then developing the leadership team to be in a very supportive culture as well or at least make their behaviors more supportive, that helps that management system run better. And so, you can have the bare bolts of the management system and it’s going to be really good. But if we have good, well-trained leaders who can help support that, that makes everything connect and work together much better.

Tracy: Wonderful. Well, is there anything else you want to share about the tour or maybe something that you would want people to know about the tour?

Darril: Yeah. I’ll share another surprise I think that I’ve had. I mentioned before that I wasn’t quite sure if it would take all for naught. And then we’ve seen that it has been very successful and a lot of people want to go. And you ask about the levels that people that grow from maybe a practitioner level all the way up to CEO.

We also have a wide variety of experience levels that go as well. And there had been three or four instances where people have gone on a tour and they’ve been really at the end of their career or at least they can see the end from where they are. And I’ve been really moved by their reflection at the end of the week when they talk about what this trip is meant to them. And more than once, maybe twice or three times, this group of people had said, “I feel more inspired now. I can go back and give even more. I want to extend my time so I can leave a legacy of this kind of system where I work.”

And honestly, some of these people are moved to tears at the end of the week just reflecting on what it meant to them to be able to come and rejuvenate their careers this way. So I think again, not to be too dramatic, but for some people, it really ends up being life-changing.

And one of the gentlemen who actually went about four years ago just retired. He sent me a note about a year ago and he said, “Since that trip, my wife and I had actually done a lot more travel internationally than we ever did before.” He said, “It not only did inspire me work wise, it inspired me to see the world. It’s a big world out there.” And so, those kinds of things keep me going back and be inspired every time I go as well.

Tracy: Well, I’m happy to say that I have this on my bucket list and I definitely want to go as well. And I agree with you. I do expect to be inspired. I think in traveling all the way to Japan and seeing where it all started and just an appreciation for the culture and the background of the Toyota Production System, and I really – I can see how it can be very life-changing for people.

I think in traveling all the way to Japan and seeing where it all started and just an appreciation for the culture and the background of the Toyota Production System, and I really – I can see how it can be very life-changing for people.

So, I don’t think you’re being dramatic at all. And so, I appreciate you saying that. And it’s always nice to hear that it has that effect on people. So, thank you.

Darril: You’re welcome. And if you end up going Tracy, please give me a note just because I need to warn the people that you are coming. So, Tracy is on her way. So we can make the proper preparations.

Tracy: Right. That’s funny. Yeah. OK. I know. I might be a little loud and obnoxious too. They might not be used to that.

Darril: Yeah.

Tracy: So how would they get a hold of you, Darril? If someone wanted to reach out and maybe ask you more about the tour, how do they find out about you and how they could reach you?

Darril: Yeah, a few ways. So one, you can always look at the website, My email is [email protected] And like everybody else, I’m on LinkedIn as well. So if you want to look me up there, I’ll be glad to connect with you.

Tracy: Good. And what we’re going to be also doing is on the website, there’s an article that we’re going to share with you that Darril wrote and it’s called Clean Hands. And Darril, can you just give us a little introduction of what that would be about because I read, I loved it but I’m sure you could do a better job of telling our audience what it is that you’re writing about?

Darril: Well, I don’t want to give away everything. And I want them back to read it. But I think I do a contrast in the article around this idea of getting your hands dirty in order to be able to solve problems.

And this particular instance, I was actually working in a factory that made a hand soap. And so, without spoiling everything, we at the end made the contrast from getting your hands dirty to say that we have to get our hands clean in order to solve problems. So I think it’s pretty good example of the things we talked in Toyota around problem-solving.

And the Toyota business practice I put into a real case where reluctant people were led to a process maybe that they didn’t even know they were going through. And then at the end, we were able to see, at least get a chance to glimpse where root cause might be for this problem that had plagued them for years. And we’re able to as a team come together and resolve it.

So yeah, so please read it and let me know what you think.

Tracy: Wonderful. So, I just want to say to our audience, thank you for joining us today. And Darril, thank you so much for meeting me for a cup coffee in the Just-In-Time Café. It’s always a pleasure talking with you.

Darril: Thank you so much, Tracy. I appreciate you asking and thanks for the coffee.

Tracy: You’re welcome. And we hope you enjoyed this episode and found it valuable. We’d love your feedback on the podcast. So please leave us a review on iTunes or on our website. And don’t forget to subscribe. We’ll see you next time.

Thanks for Listening!

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Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Master Black Belt at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Master Black Belt at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. For over 30 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Marriott International, Inc. build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.
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