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Japanese Management Lingo

In last week’s Pocketblog, we looked at the 5S approach to ordering and organising a workspace, introducing five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke.

It struck me that there are an awful lot of Japanese terms that have enriched our business language, so I thought I’d list a few more.  Of course, readers of the Pocketblog will also probably be familiar with gemba too.

I think that some of the concepts that they raise are absolutely fascinating – and necessary to us in the West.  Let’s look at a few more, some familiar, some little known.


Collaboration and information sharing.  Keeping others informed.


Radical change.  The opposite of…


Continuous flow of incremental improvements.


A progress tracking approach that follows instances through a process.  Literally ‘billboard’.  Increasingly used in project management and team workflow.  There is a lovely (free) web-based app called Trello that works on Mac, PC and mobile app formats.


Literally: ‘death from overwork’.  Don’t!


The spirit of co-operating for the common good.


Perception and foresight, coupled with good judgement.


The sense of regret when we become aware of waste and failure to use well any things of value.  (I am so glad I now have a word for this).  It comes from the concept, ‘mottai’ that things have inherent value, or dignity.  Nice.

Muda, Mura and Muri

… are the three forms of waste

  • Muda
    Wasted effort
  • Mura
  • Muri
    Unreasonable – even ridiculous – requirements


Literally, ‘going around the roots’.  Refers to the informal stakeholder alignment and political process that lay the groundwork for effective consensus or change.

Pecha Kucha

Currently popular style of presenting, with 20 slides, each lasting 20 seconds.  Gives a fast and dynamic way to present an idea.  Pecha Kucha nights often consist of a dozen or more presentations.  Literally, ‘chit-chat’.

Poka Yoke

Making error proof.  Creating something so that mistakes cannot be made.


Public truth.  The things that are appropriate to share in a public situation.  It literally means ‘facade’ and we might contrast it with ‘honne’, meaning your true feelings.  Puts me in mind of the Johari Window.

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12 Blogs for Christmas


This has been a great year for the Pocketblog, seeing reading figures rise substantially and reaching the milestone of our 100th blog posting.

So, with Christmas coming at the end of the week, let’s do a round-up of some personal favourites from among this year’s Pocketblogs.

Here is something for each of the twelve days.  Enjoy!

1. Start as you mean to go on: Happiness

After some New Year’s Resolutions to start the year off, we dived into the subject of Happiness, with ‘Happiness – as simple as ABC?’ about Albert Ellis’s Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy – the fore-runner of CBT.

2. … and Start Topical

We then moved into a subject that was much in the news in February; and still is.  With ‘Bankers’ Bonuses and Brain Biology’, we looked at recent neuroscience and how that relates to Adams’ Equity Theory.

3. Generations

In February too, I wrote two blogs about sociological ‘Generations X, Y & Z’ and ‘Generation Y at work’.  I followed this up by another about what comes ‘After Generation Y?’.

4. The Gemba

In May, inspiration waned for a week, so where did I go to find it?  ‘The Gemba’.  I got it back, and later that month, got idealistic in ‘Reciprocity and Expectation’ looking at the Pay it Forward ideal and the realities of Game Theory.

5. Why do we do what we do?

In the first of two blogs on how to predict human behaviour, I looked at ‘How to Understand your Toddler’ (mine actually) and Icek Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behaviour.  Later in the year, in ‘Predicting Behaviour’, I looked at whether a simple equation (hypothesised by Kurt Lewin) could predict all behaviour.

6. One of the Best Business Books of the Year

… according to the Journal Strategy & Business is Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters.  In ‘What Makes a Good Business Strategy’ we looked at some of his ideas.

7. The Apprentice

This year, I have been a big fan of both series and have written my own episode by episode analysis of both The Apprentice and Young Apprentice.  I also did one blog on each for Pocketblog: ‘The Apprentice and Five Levels of Leadership’ and, for Young Apprentice, ‘Decision Failure’.

8. Drucker Triptych

Has any one individual been as influential in establishing management as a pragmatic academic discipline as Peter Drucker?  To recognise his various achievements, I wrote a triptych of blogs over the summer:

  1. The Man who Invented Management
  2. Management by Objectives
  3. R.I.P. Corporate Clone: Arise Insightful Executive

And one of Drucker’s direct contemporaries was W Edwards Deming, so I also took a look at ‘Demings’ System of Profound Knowledge’.

9. Crazy Times

Will history look on Tom Peters with the respect that it holds for Drucker and Deming?  Who knows?  But without a doubt, Peters has been influential, insightful and provocative for thirty years or more, and I am sure many of his ideas will survive.  In ‘Crazy Times Again’, I drew a line from FW Taylor (father of ‘Scientific Management’) to Peters.

10. The Circle Chart

In ‘Going Round in Circles’ I returned to management models and one of my all time favourites: Fisher and Ury’s Circle Chart. I applied it to problem solving rather than, as they did, to negotiation.

Fisher and Ury are experts on conflict resolution, as is Morton Deutsch. In ‘Conflict: As simple as AEIOU’, I looked at a fabulously simple conflict resolution model that originated in Deutsch’s International Centre for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution.

11. Two Notable Events

Two notable events made the autumn memorable for Pocketblog: one sad and one happy.

  1. In ‘A Bigger Bite’ we marked Steve Jobs’ passing
  2. With ‘Three ways to get it wrong’, we marked our hundredth blog, by looking at one of the towering social psychologists of today, Daniel Kahneman

12. And finally, our most popular topic

Tuckman’s model for group formation has proved to be our most popular topic by far this year.  We have returned to it three times, each time looking at a particular facet:

  1. ‘Swift Trust: Why some teams don’t Storm’
  2. ‘Team Performance Beyond Tuckman’
  3. ‘Tuckman Plus’ is the first of two posts.  It is the last topic post of 2011 and its companion (‘Part 2: Transforming’) will be the first of 2012

So here’s the deal

  • Have a very merry and peaceful Christmas.
  • Have a very happy and healthy New Year.
  • Be good, have fun, stay safe, and prosper.

From all at Management Pocketbooks,
our colleagues at Teacher’s Pocketbooks too,
and from me particularly.


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If I were an employer…

… but I’m not: I’m a trainer

imageAs a trainer, a lot of my focus is on giving my participants the best possible learning experience.  I want to give them the best, most relevant, most accurate, most practical information that I can.



My clients are often Learning & Development departments in large organisations, who tell me what training their staff need, and agree with me what I will design and deliver to meet that need.  My public seminars advertise what you will get, and you turn up and get all of it and more.

The Gemba

As a trainer, I rarely get a chance to ‘go to the gemba’ – the place where the work gets done.  And that’s a problem, because, that’s where my training has an effect…

… or doesn’t.  Because, if I am not there, how can I know?  Happily, I am often asked to come in and coach staff directly, but as a trainer, I am really only able to directly influence whether participants like my training, and learn from my training.

These are, respectively, Levels 1 and 2 of Kirkpatrick’s four levels of learning.  The value to the business, however, comes with levels 3 and 4:

  1. Level 1: How do participants react?
  2. Level 2: What do participants learn?
  3. Level 3: How does the training affect workplace behaviour?
  4. Level 4: What results can the organisation measure?

Levels 3 and 4 result from the way that learners, trainers and employers collaborate to transfer participants’ learning back into their workplace.

So, If I were an employer…

If I were an employer, considering any training, or development investment at all, my first purchase would be the new Transfer of Learning Pocketbook.

This is an excellent addition to the Management Pocketbooks collection, by regular authors, Paul Donovan and John Townsend.  It offers you 17 factors that affect transfer of learning and allocates them into five stages.

The Training Process

This creates an exceptionally thorough analysis of how you can boost the value of any training you offer.

How Transfer Friendly is your Organisation?

The book ends with a learning transfer test to help you assess how ‘transfer friendly’ your organisation is.  It has fifty questions that you score on a scale of 0, 1 or 2 depending on whether you:

0 – don’t agree
1 – Partly agree
2 – Fully agree

To give you a flavour, here are five sample questions:

  1. Training professionals regularly participate in business unit/departmental strategic planning meetings
  2. Our course venues provide adequate space for participants to associate and exchange
  3. Our managers communicate clear expectations of forthcoming training to future learners
  4. Wherever possible, learners’ managers send pairs of ‘learning buddies’ to the same course
  5. Our trainers understand and speak the workplace jargon of the trainees

This should give you a transfer-friendliness score out of 10.  For your full evaluation, out of 100, buy the book!

Other Management Pocketbooks by
Paul Donovan and John Townsend

Paul and John have, between them, written a lot of Pocketbooks on the subject of training.

And, finally:

The Great Training Robbery, and

The Red, Green and Blue Trainer’s Pocketfiles of Ready-to-Use Activities

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Go to the Gemba


Gemba is a Japanese term that means ‘actual place’.  If like me, you like the odd bit of history, the gemba can sometimes send a shiver down your spine, to be where something important happened.  As an enthusiastic reader of Patrick O’Brian’s books, (see one of my favourite and most read posts: Aubrey and Maturin, Arthur and Merlin), visiting HMS Victory had that effect.


It’s a schadenfreude type of word – a word for a concept that we all recognise, but for which there is no word in our language – like schadenfreude.  I’m sure there should be a name for such a word – and there probably is: if not in English, then probably in some language.  Of course, in English, we don’t need to make up words, we just borrow or steal these ‘loan words’ from their source language.

There is in fact a whole book of these types of words and I expect it would tell me what they are called.  Is there a word for ‘a book I’d love to have but would probably only look at for a few minutes and then put on a shelf and never look at again, so I shan’t buy it unless it turns up for a quid at a charity shop’?  Suggestions below, please.

Back to the Gemba

Wikipedia tells me that gemba is used by Japanese police for the scene of a crime, and their on-the-spot reporters report from the gemba.

I discovered the word gemba through its association with another Japanese concept ‘kaizen’ or ‘improvement’.  In the body of knowledge, practices and tools called kaizen, ‘going to the gemba’ means heading for where the work is done and the value is created.  I spotted the word in The Improving Efficiency Pocketbook.


Usually, it’s pretty easy to come up with a topic for a Pocketblog, but this week, I had a serious bout of blogger’s block: about 24 hours’ worth.  My usual solutions failed me: flicking through Pocketbooks, grazing the web, walking about, taking my daughter to the park and sleeping on it.

So in desperation, with little time left, I went to the gemba.  I sat at my computer and stared.  I looked for a Pocketbook I’d not read yet and grabbed Improving Efficiency and decided that, come what may, I’d write about it.  Then I saw it:

‘got a problem? Go to the gemba.’

I could never resist irony.  I had to write about it.

So here’s the deal

Improving Efficiency PocketbookWhen you want to solve a problem or improve a process, go to where the work gets done, where the problem is happening, where the workers work.  As Philip Holman and Derek Snee say in the Improving Efficiency Pocketbook:


‘Attempting to solve problems in isolation (perhaps in a management meeting) without visiting the workplace and involving the people who actually do the work is a recipe for failure.’

Other Pocketbooks you might like

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