Lean Blog — 455: Ken Pilone, the Author of Lean Leadership on a Napkin; Toyota Says ”Lean” and More

Former Toyota employee and author

Episode page with transcript and more

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.

This podcast is part of the #LeanCommunicators network