Coaching the Lean Mindset in Service


D.J. Duarte, Owner & Co-Founder, Makoto Flow Ltd, Iwakuni, Japan


Lean, Behaviors, Culture Change, Leadership





This proposal explores the rationale and value of applying lean principles & practices into service industries & shared service sectors. As an owner of Makoto Flow, Ltd. a lean knowledge sharing consultancy firm based in Japan, we know that LEAN is 20% technical (tools) and 80% behavioural (leader driven). Our unique experiences due to being mentored by three different Japanese Toyota Production System (TPS) sensei’s for more than 20yrs, it is our obligation to clearly convey “key enablers” of one of the most successful continuous improvement / change initiatives of our time. Unfortunately, their well-documented success of more than 60+ years has “often been misunderstood”. As an excellent point, the mantra of “memorize before you customize” was never intended to stifle creativity, rather just the opposite whereby standards create laser focus creativity so one attains the desired results. Many companies have tried to imitate Toyota’s tools in hopes of outperforming their competitors and even going as far as to connect other CI methods; as opposed to aligning with the philosophies and principles to drive true behavioural change while influencing the whole system.

The objective of our presentation is twofold. First, it challenges those perceptions that the world’s most powerful change optimization initiative is difficult to implement in service and/or shared service industries and how it truly has enhanced the customer experience. Second, it aims to inform, engage and inspire leaders to radically change their behaviors, specifically 12 distinct behaviors. As you may already know, this is not an easy transition especially in today’s organizations that so diverse with tremendous amounts of functional and global cultural challenges.

It is these two objectives that has afforded me the opportunity to work with some of the best-known companies in the world living and driving the “Makoto Way” in industries as varied as: custom manufacturing (High Mix Low Volume & Low Mix High Volume – products ranging from automotive, consumer lifestyles, flavors & fragrances, electronics & medical devices); aerospace (maintenance & internal logistics); healthcare (front desk & out-patient care); logistics (supply chain management); office/transactional environments (finance, human resource, insurance, planning & procurement); oil & gas (offshore drilling, rig services, vessel maintenance & processing) and service & hospitality (casino operations, hotel/lodging, restaurant & retail outlets). Those experiences have proven without contention that most companies miss a key component to their journey.

Brand names aside, the core has and will always be gaining alignment with the key leaders that run the business(es) and manage the systems. What that means in our eyes are those mid-level leaders that directly support the creation of value to the customer experience both upstream and downstream. These are the “ladies and gentlemen” that serve as leaders of front desk operations, housekeeping teams, in-room service delivery teams, call centers, procurement groups, emergency trouble desk handlers, claims department clerks and many others as you can imagine. It is important that “value creation” is defined and clearly communicated on a daily basis. As an example, the value creation in a restaurant has two primary enablers – experience & price. Whereas in a Human Resources Department its – information & accuracy. In both situations, getting it right is important. Unfortunately, many times it isn’t right and we have tremendous “rework or excess effort” to improve or even repair the relationship. When value is not created at every level, sustainability is doomed. Hence why people leave jobs, why food is not prepared correctly, why calls go unanswered, etc. By connecting what people do to the value, they create possibilities. If we encounter non-value added work, we first understand why the situation exists and second, how we can create opportunities that do add value to the experience. For us, this is done by engaging the hearts and minds of those leaders via “powerful conversations” and connecting them to activities that demonstrates their viability.

By engaging these influencers the right way, they help to drive the critical paths within an organizational value chain. This ensures people & talent engagement is connected to strategic & improvement initiatives. When aligned, that execution is on point delivering sustainable profitability month by month and quarter to quarter.