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,


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