Get a copy of Mr. Isao Yoshino’s Top Leadership Lessons

If you don’t have a copy already, you can click here to get a PDF of the top 10 Toyota leadership lessons that Mr. Yoshino shared me in 2015 & 2016. I’m working an a new addition with 10 more!

Top 10 Experiences from Japan Lean Study Trip – May 2018 – #JapanLeanStudyTrip

Japan Lean Study Trip 2018 participants with their daruma dolls - of course!

Writing this post has been on my mind ever since I wrapped up an exciting, fun and engaging week of learning in Japan with my inaugural week-long #JapanLeanLearningTrip last month.

I realized today that I’ve only slept in my own bed for 13 nights since I left for Japan on May 9th to lead the #JapanLeanStudyTrip 2018. I’ve been eager to write a post to share more details about our Japan learning trip, but have been on the go. Thankfully, my children were with me for part of these travels too. I have many blog posts to catch up on, but I’ve been wanting to share this one the most with you all.

So happy to have put together and led a great learning experience in Japan

A vision realized

When I moved to Japan in January 2015 I knew that I wanted to learn as much as possible about Japanese culture and Lean thinking and practice and to share my insights broadly – which was the genesis of this blog 3.5 years ago.

Now, nearly two years after moving back to the U.S., it was a thrill realize the vision to lead a study trip to Japan and to be able to share my experiences and insights with others in the actual place.

Come to Japan with me in 2019!

And I had so much fun on this trip that I’m looking to put together another one in May 2019 (likely the week of May 13). If you are interested in learning more, send me an email and I’ll put you on the list to contact when I have more information regarding specifics.

Katie Anderson and Rick Guba

Special Thanks

I want to thank Rick Guba, of the Ohio State University Fisher School of Business’s MBOE program, who shared my vision of taking people to Japan to learn about the people side of Lean and for partnering with me to deliver this program.

I also want to thank Mami Takeda, our invincible co-leader and boots-on-the-ground coordinator, and Isao Yoshino, a 40+ year Toyota leader who was John Shook’s first manager, who spent over three full days with our group. The program was a collaboration with them to make a complete experience for our group.

Mami with our group waiting for the Shinkansen to take us from Nagoya to Tokyo on Wednesday.

And of course thanks to our 15 amazing participants who all were engaged in learning and discussion – and fun! – each and every day of our 5.5 day program. Two-thirds of participants on the May 2018 trip were graduates of the OSU MBOE program, and the other third were open enrollment participants from around the world (United States, Argentina, Australia, and Canada).

Everyone on the trip was a seasoned Lean partitioner and was ready to tune their eyes and ears to learn more deeply about the human dimensions of Lean concepts and Japanese culture.

Focus on Respect

The focus of this learning experience was about “respect for…” (people, craftsmanship, precision, engagement, learning, improvement, and more).

Of course we wanted participants to see examples of the technical aspects of lean thinking and practice in action, but more importantly, we wanted everyone to come away with an appreciation of the human dimensions that are essential to Lean and customer service.

As I reflected on after my visit to Japan in January to prepare for the May Japan Lean Study Trip, Lean thinking is not inherently Japanese – but there there is a richness of experience and learning that is hard to get anywhere else (for example, these stories of respect and customer service experienced in everyday life on that same visit).

Ten Highlights from Japan Lean Study Trip – May 2018

In no particular order, here are ten of the standout experiences from the #JapanLeanStudyTrip 2018 from my perspective and based on feedback from participants. Each experience is deserving of its own blog post or two.

I plan on writing more about the many amazing learning experiences on this trip in more detail, but I wanted to get something out to you before more time passes. Enjoy – and come join me in Japan in May 2019! 

1. Many days with Isao Yoshino

Usually on study trips like this one, participants get to hear from and learn from business leaders from Toyota or other companies. But it isn’t common that someone like Isao Yoshino spends many days with the group, going to the sites, talking on the bus, and joining for meals and generally hanging out.

Mr. Yoshino offered two formal lectures to the group on Toyota leadership and hoshin kanri, but the real highlight for most participants was the opportunity to spend time with and have casual 1-1 conversations with Mr. Yoshino.

I’ve written about the leadership lessons that I’ve learned from Mr. Yoshino and after the past year of spending more time together, it is time to put together a second edition. If you don’t have a copy already, you can click here to get a PDF of the top 10 Toyota leadership lessons that Mr. Yoshino shared me in 2015 & 2016.

Learn with Isao Yoshino and Katie Anderson

Separately, as many of you know, I am spending a lot of time with Mr. Yoshino on several collaborative projects this year.

Come join us at an upcoming event if you are in the U.S. (San Francisco – July 16, 2018) or Europe (Amsterdam and Nijmegen – October 2018). We are also working on a special project together, of which I hope to be able to share more details soon.

2. Visiting a Japanese Elementary School

The unexpected site-visit highlight for most participants was our visit to a Nagoya-area elementary school.

On the bus to the school, I talked about the Japanese concept of “mottainai”, which translates roughly as “deep regret of waste”.

This cultural value of “no waste” is embedded in Japanese children at an early age, as demonstrated on how schoolchildren are taught to serve and eat lunch together. Also, the value of cleanliness and taking care of community, which I have written about previously is taught through all students and staff taking part in daily cleaning of the school.

This was my second visit to the school in the past year (twice to the elementary school and once to the middle school). It is wonderful to see kids just being kids (excited for foreign visitors, goofing off a bit, and laughing) , no matter the culture, but also how different cultures teach different values to children based on expectations set for them.

3. Ashikaga – the 5S City

The town of Ashikaga is a personal favorite for me, ever since I first visited the town and lead a learning tour there in May 2016. The town of Ashikaga uses 5S priciples as a way to revitalize both the community and industry, and over 150 organizations in Ashikaga practice 5S as a way to engage their people.

You can read about my past experiences in Ashikaga in this series.

On this trip we visited Ogura Metal and Kikuchi Gears, where we talked with the two passionate leaders of these family owned businesses. And, of course, no trip to Ashikaga is complete without lunch at Coco Winery.

Ogura Metal highlights include incorporation of 5S principles with TPS to make the “Ogura Production System”, leadership engagement and support for frontline kaizen, and development of a fun and whimsical manufacturing workplace environment.

Mrs. Noriko Ogura has become a friend of mine over the past three years and I was so happy that our group got to learn from her personal stories and leadership insights.

Kicuchi Gears highlights include technical applicaiton of 5S principles in both manufacturing and back-end office areas, engagement of people in kaizen, and respect for people.

4. Shinkansen Cleaning “7-minute Miracle” and Omotenashi

On the final day of our study trip, the group learned about how the Japan Railway East cleaning company TESSEI transformed its business practices to create the “7-minute miracle” changeover of the Shinkansen trains as they come into and depart Tokyo Station.

The passion Mr. Yabe, former president of TESSEI, has for the TESSEI employees and delighting customers through “omtenashi” (Japanese hospitality) was contagious. After a formal lecture and discussion with Mr. Yabe, we went up to the train platform to watch the changeover happen several times, with narration by Mr. Yabe.

5 and 6. Toyota Suppliers – Mifune and Isuzu

Our first full day began by visiting a tier 3 and a tier 2 supplier of Toyota. The value stream view point seeing rolled metal move to pressed metal to what would then be final production of Toyota vehicles coming off the line was a great learning connection of companies working together to deliver value to customers.

Mifune highlights include hearing from their passionate founder and now Chairman Mr. Umemura, learning about the die changeover SMED improvements the employees have made, and seeing the visual management systems that connect hoshin strategy down to daily work.

Iszusu steel highlights include their focus on innovation for the future, visual management, and workplace training.

7. Learning about Toyota – Toyota Plant Tour and Toyota Techno Museum

Learning about the Toyota Production System at the source of where it all began in Toyota City and Nagoya was what many participants thought would be their number one experience on the trip. It was highly ranked and is always amazing to see what Toyota does, but participants reflected that seeing other companies earlier on their journeys and the elementary school were even more impactful experiences.

But all agreed that going to Toyota was a major highlight on their bucketlist and one that they wouldn’t have wanted to miss!

8. “Lean” Sushi – lunch at Kura Sushi

It’s “lean” fast food in two definitions of the word: healthy and great value proposition. Visual management, managing WIP, 5S principles, deep knowledge of customers, and fresh ingredients make for an amazing 20 minute lunch (or longer if you want).

Ordering direct-to-order sushi and have it zip to your table announced by the sound of electronic cartoons never gets old

9. Conversations, enthusiastic greetings and lots of waving

Every day the daily conversations on the bus and at meals contributed to our wider learning.

At the end of each day, we asked everyone to reflect on their top takeaways and insights and to share them broadly. It was a packed agenda full of interaction and learning.

We also started out each morning with our own morning chorei meeting – a warm up of call and response of Japanese greetings such as Ohiyo Gozimasu and Arigatou Gozimasu!

Plus, I appreciated everyone’s enthusiasm and quick learning of how to show respect and gratitude to our hosts by waving *very enthusiastically* out of our bus window until we had pulled out out site. Well done everyone!

10. Enjoying food and cultural experiences together

One of the important parts of leading this trip from my perspective was to ensure that everyone had a chance to experience aspects of Japanese culture outside of the formal program.

Special thanks to Mami for leading this early morning visit to a local shrine in Nagoya!

For more photos, check out the hashtag #JapanLeanStudyTrip on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Extra highlight for me from my trip to Japan in May

Another highlight for me was having my husband and two children join me in Japan for a week. Our children are now 4 and 7 and it had been nearly 2 years since we left Japan, so this trip was a special experience to revive memories, visit friends, and reconnect with a core part of their early childhood experiences. It was like we had never left!

Come to Japan with me in May 2019

I’m beginning to put together the details for a similar open-enrollment learning program to Japan for 2019. Likely dates are the week of May 12-18. Send me a message if you are interested in learning more as details develop. Isao Yoshino will be part of the trip for sure!

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Upcoming posts include more details from the #JapanLeanStudyTrip, highlights from the U.S. Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit that I attended this month, an interview with Jeff Hunter and giveaway of his new book “Patient-Centered Strategy”, and another installment of Toyota Leadership Lessons with Isao Yoshino.




Katie Anderson
About Katie Anderson 135 Articles
Lean thinker and coach. Passionate about developing people. Healthcare change agent. Living in California again after 18 months in Tokyo. Writing about lean and leadership.