Monday, May 15, 2017

Beware Prizes, Belts & Self-appointed Experts

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Sir Isaac Newton

My corresponding tweet has had a lively time – thanks. Seems like you all are as tired of this as I am.

Indeed, who cares if Joe Schmoe is a Master Lean Sensei (MLS) and a Super-Duper Advanced Black Belt (SDABB)?

Or if Questionable Financial has received the Mortimer Snerd Prize for RGQ (Really Great Quality)?

Ever known a chest-thumper who is also a sensei? What happens to chest-thumping companies? Jim Collins has written a fine book about it: How the Mighty Fall.

What’s the most common quality of all great senseis – and great companies?

Humility, no? A deep understanding that the world is much bigger than we are, so well expressed by Sir Isaac.

Don’t want to be misunderstood. Building a career sometimes entails achieving certain professional degrees and certifications.

And plenty of fine organizations have committed themselves to achieving some prize or other.

The best ones recognize that the prize or certificate is nothing more than a kick-start, a proxy for the hard work of building a management system & getting results.

And some awards are worth pursuing, but these are almost always based are on detailed feedback from the customer.

At TMMC, our old Toyota Cambridge site, we were lucky enough to have Mr. Hayashi, a venerable sensei from Operations Management Consulting Division (OMCD).

Hayashi-san and his small team would visit a few times per year. He’d give us homework, check on previous homework, and provide very tough feedback, (often very funny, in retrospect,).

(“You have learned nothing since my last visit, Pascal-san…”)

I remember one time, Hayashi-san standing by himself by the Final Assembly line, taking notes. I asked the great sensei how his visit was going.

He smiled, “After many years, I finally understand this important assembly problem.” He went on to explain in great depth to this lowly, not-so-bright manager.

Always practicing, always teaching.

Best regards,


Monday, May 1, 2017

Interview – Andy & Me and the Hospital

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Fine interview last month on my latest book, Andy & Me and the Hospital.

Good questions & a chance to talk about Tom & Andy’s latest adventures.

The boys get pulled into a major New York City hospital in crisis.

Can Tom & Andy translate Toyota’s powerful methods and thinking to save the hospital from disaster?

The book reflects my experiences the past ten years working with healthcare leaders at every level.

Had fun writing it. Hopefully, my best book.

Thanks to our colleagues at Taylor & Francis and Catalysis who will also be posting the interview presently on their website.

Best regards,


Monday, April 17, 2017

In Chess & Business, Lies & Hypocrisy Do Not Last Long

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

I paraphrase the great Emmanuel Lasker, philosopher, mathematician, and world chess champ from 1894 to 1920.

I encourage you all to play chess. It’s fun, engrossing and wonderful for the mind. Chess’s wildly romantic history and mythology is an added bonus.

(Nowadays you can download grandmaster level chess programs on to your Pad!)

One of the great charms of chess is its binary nature.

You win or lose based on

  • The strength of your ideas, and
  • Your skill & courage in implementing them

Is Lasker's maxim true in business?

In small business, I'd say Yes.

Our success or failure depends on the depth of our strategic understanding, and the energy & intelligence with which we execute.

(Luck plays a part too, of course, as always & everywhere.)

How about BIG business?

Based on my experience, I'd say Yes - with important reservations.

Monopoly, oligopoly, and market rigging (e.g. to keep competition out) are all too common.

(The countermeasure is intelligent regulation in accord with the "Less is More" principle)

Another exception is large companies suffering from Big Company Disease, the villain in my last book, The Remedy.

Perhaps the greatest power of the Toyota management system (aka "Lean") is its ability to make problems visible.

Lasker might add, "thereby, we expose lies & hypocrisy."

Good Lean companies are thus, a meritocracy. The best & brightest prosper, and bozos are exposed.

Play chess, have fun, kick butt and take names.



Monday, April 3, 2017

What is Courage & What’s It Mean for Strategy?

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Strategy entails answering two questions: 1) Where are we going?, and 2) How are we going to get there?

Last time I talked about how we might create a pull for achievement, and thereby transcend the limitations of the carrot & stick.

Today I’d like to talk about how we stay the course. Achievement is hard, achievement hurts. How do we sustain our drive in the face of hurtles, hassles and hammerheads?

The ancients defined Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Justice and Courage.

Courage is the most admired, and rightly so. (Marcus Aurelius called in Fortitude). Breakthrough – transcendent, enduring achievement – requires all the Cardinal Virtues, and courage most of all. In fact, Courage makes the other virtues possible.

So what is Courage? It is not fearlessness. Courage is the capacity to overcome fear.

Courage, like True North, entails head and heart. [Getting the Right Things Done]

Courage without the head is simply foolhardiness. Courage means you understand the risks, and do it anyway.

Is courage a virtue under any circumstance? I'd say not. Is a courageous terrorist admirable?

Courage is only admirable when exercised in the service of others, of the greater good, of True North.

So what does this all mean for the practicing manager? Define & communicate Purpose clearly. Seek to develop Courage in yourself and your team.

Courage is our fuel. Understand that achievement hurts, and that you will fall down many times.

‘Fall down seven times, get up eight times…’

Best regards,