The Makoto Way

The Makoto Way

Lean Culture Produces Flow

Truth – Sincerity – Trust – Fun

I want to talk about what Makoto means- who we are as a company and how we do what we do.

One phrase we use quite frequently is employee-driven continuous improvement. This is the ability to empower employees in teams to make a change for the better in their workplace. There is always a risk when you are a leader in a company that you will be too prescriptive in what you do and how to do it- that you don’t actually utilise the creative talents of your employees to come up with better ways to do things.

This is why we deliver a people-centric approach to Lean.

Value the employee

What we’ve found over the years is that having a much more people-centric approach to Lean increases the chances of growth and efficiency improvement in the business. This approach comes with the added benefits of retention and engagement of employees. Positive engagement of employees means you are much more likely to foster sustained positive change in a business.

Leadership directed change can be (although for the right intentions) less focused and sometimes fail more easily. A lot of that has to do with how long the leadership intends to be in the business, how long it intends to stay. In a lot of big businesses leadership has tenure; maybe a handful of years. While they are there, certain things may be a focus, but when they leave the focus shifts or leaves with them.

One of the fundamental things we understand is that having a Lean and Kaizen culture in a business is not just a series of tools or events. It’s a very organic way of working in a business. The tools are usually about 20% of what we are talking about, while the remaining 80% of what we are teaching and showing is focused on the culture. It’s a cultural shift.

There really needs to be an expectation by business leadership that although they set the strategy in the business, it’s up to the people what the business looks like in the long term. When you look at it this way- that it’s how much leadership empower their people, allowing the culture to develop and improve- it’s clear that a people-centric approach is what gets the results. Results the business needs to thrive and be sustainable.

Value the Lean Journey

Value the journey

Lean is not a cookie-cutter exercise of tools and techniques. It is a journey. While on that journey, as a leader you have to expect that your employees and your people working in your business are going to make their own version of Lean. You can give them the tools, you can empower them and you can teach and share with them. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to step back and let them do it their way to achieve the results.

It’s one of the best things about a thorough Lean implementation; that it comes from the people who work in the business. They may have had nothing to do with Lean previously, but they do have the understanding, knowledge, and desire to make positive change. When given the opportunity to do it themselves, they’ll really own it.

You’ll find the overall result will be growth, profitability, sustainability, an engaged workforce, and better retention. These things will always be the same despite who is driving the results. What’s different is how it looks and how it sounds. But the result is always good.

Value creativity

How the result looks and sounds is down to many factors to do with culture. Culture is a funny thing. People talk about the culture within a large company, but there’s a culture within departments as well. You’ve got to understand that if you are a large public company you’ll have many people in many departments. There’s a chance that although you can set the general direction, trying to constrain people into a certain branding or style can be a little risky. It can stifle creativity.

A great example is visual management boards- your metric boards. The style that works best for businesses is a free form board that has some general guidelines about how it’s laid out and what’s put on it. You provide some general guidelines so as to help teams actually understand what needs to be on their board but don’t over prescribe. If they want to have some printed measures and some hand-written measures on that board, or if they want to have three quality measures that they believe are important to them instead of the standard two, then that’s fine, let them do it. Let them do it their way.

This approach drives empowerment and ownership. If you just come in and direct what your people have got to do- and I’ve seen this before in visual management boards – there’s no interest. There’s no room for making it their own. It doesn’t matter if it’s an office or factory-based process, everybody is the same; they want the freedom to do what they do best. People want to be in control of their own destiny. As long as they know what the strategic outcomes are, they need to be the ones who are asked about how they arrive at that destination.

Our values

Now the final part of this; what does Makoto as a concept or way of being mean? What do we represent?

The Makoto symbol is made up of several parts which symbolise our values.

The first Makoto means truth. One of the most important concepts is to know the truth and show the truth, whether that is in a visual way or just by sharing information. Without knowing the truth, a team’s performance will not improve as the right decisions cannot be made. A big part of this Makoto is making teams feel that it is safe to tell the truth.

The second Makoto means sincerity. People need to know that you are sincere. They need to believe that you see potential in them and potential in the Lean improvement effort. When you have their best interests in mind, you will secure their buy-in.

The third Makoto means trust or belief. We believe in the potential of the people. This is why we invest in training, knowledge sharing and giving them the time and authority to make changes. We look forward to them surprising us with their creativity. We are bold enough to let them try.

Overarching these values is believing in the value of having fun. If people are enjoying what they are doing, if they are challenged and get to stretch their brain a bit, if they are taking the journey seriously- but not too seriously, this is excellent- they are then going to be at their most creative. Have fun.

These values are at the core of who we are and what we do as Makoto. If you would like to know more contact us here.

Much respect,


Leadership – Part 1

I wanted to share with you my thoughts in relation to Lean and Kaizen, and I hope that my point of view is something that you might be able to make use of and perhaps apply at your workplace. So I wanted to talk about leadership, in the Lean and Kaizen environment, and just a…

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