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The Pocket Sensei: Mastering Lean Leadership One Lesson at a Time

Posted by Maggie Millard

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Jan 25, 2018 7:05:00 AM

Know Why Kata.pngMany Lean initiatives fail not because of the accessibility to Lean tools, but because leadership is unavailable when it is needed most. There seems to never be time for developing the important skill of Lean leadership - how do you lead team improvement efforts while urgent daily fires consume your project and your attention?

Our friends Hal Macomber and Calayde Davey have written a book to aid in this effort, called "The Pocket Sensei: Mastering Lean Leadership with 40 Kata." 

The book delivers a rich yet simple repository of Lean leadership and kaizen practices focused on in-the-moment behavioral adaptations you can make within your work situations. This on-the-job learning tool demonstrates how to engage and build fundamental Lean leadership skills across all your project and organizational levels. It is a wonderful starting point to develop individual and team Lean Leadership in a very practical way.

The book will be released as a special edition for the Lean Construction Institute, Vancouver, Canada, in 2018.

In celebration of this event, the book will be free to download from Kindle until January 26!

Throughout the material, you’ll find accompanying illustractions (as Hal and Calayde call them) that bring a fun light-heartedness to a very serious endeavor. Many of the katas focus on developing a mood for learning and how to bring yourself and your team into the enthusiastic mindset of a beginner. 

Rebecca Snelling, National Lean Director at JE Dunn Construction, along with her Lean leadership team are using practices from “The Pocket Sensei — Mastering Lean Leadership with 40 Katas”  to develop Lean leadership and kaizen skills company-wide. The book by Hal Macomber and Calayde Davey describes how to instill Lean behaviors through specific practices - or katas - in everyday work settings.

Sysun Howell, Senior Project Manager and Lean Leader at Joeris General Contractors, has also been practicing katas for about 15 weeks with various teams across their company. “The kata lessons have changed the team dynamics and are creating an environment supportive of continuous improvement.  It is amazing to see the transformation in employees’ morale.  Hallelujah!”

Most katas focus on developing group learning for continuous improvement. “My Hypothesis Kata” and “Our Hypothesis Kata” for example, describe how to develop Scientific Method-based skills. The katas develop a habit of making set expectations about your work ahead of the outcomes you plan to have. Thereafter, follow those expectations with immediate critical reflection. This applies to even the simplest of actions. “Our Hypothesis Kata”  takes this routine a step further.  It teaches you how to engage in an outward mindset with others in the moment of working — at gemba. This practice is so simple, yet it’s a habit seldom seen in workplaces today. Repeating this kata openly teaches you and your team how to build intuitive, quick always-available critical thinking processes, and develop your leadership and kaizen skills in the moment of performing work.

Another kata - “Counter-FUD Kata” focuses you on becoming highly aware of new ideas, to test and experiment on them before premature dismissal. We’re used to hearing each other out, but we tend to quickly dismiss our own new ideas without giving them chance — without even discussing your own idea with others at all. The kata practices your ability to pick that idea up — however seemingly audacious or insignificant — and to become open-minded while bravely practicing the skill of testing ideas before dismissal.

Anyway, I hope you love the free download - be sure to leave a comment below and tell me what you think!

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