Lean Management Means Shifting from PPT to PPS

One of the fundamental behavior changes required by organizations today in order to successfully practice lean management is to shift from communicating via PPT to communicating via PPS. By PPT we mean Microsoft PowerPoint and by PPS we mean a Practical Problem Solving approach, such as the one practiced by Toyota. Whether you refer to it as A3 thinking, the QC storyline or your own X-step practical problem solving method, it’s important to reduce the PPT and make PPS a central part of daily management and planning.
Why do we need to shift away from PPT? It’s a wonderful tool that has allowed us to communicate and share ideas widely and rapidly. It’s a fast and powerful tool for organizing information, but like any fast and powerful tool, it can do damage if used inappropriately. Here is a clever and funny Youtube video on “How NOT To Use Powerpoint By Comedian Don McMillan“:

And furthermore, when is the last time you were treated to a PPT show on the gemba? Chances are, the closer you are to a PPT show, the further you are from the gemba – where problems are found and where value is added. Practical problem solving, on the other hand, by definition happens on the gemba.

The dialog of daily management in a lean enterprise should be one of “target, actual, please explain” based on routine visits to the simple visuals on the gemba which show normal versus abnormal. The organizational learning experience within a lean enterprise involves a manager who is experienced in developing the practical problem solving story playing what Taiichi Ohno called the “game of wits” by thinking and working our problems.

Ideally this is thinking is summarized on one page, in a standardized way that becomes a sort of language of management. This is sometimes called “A3 thinking” in reference to the size of the one sheet of paper used for the practical problem solving story.

The irony here is that it currently takes us a 23-slide PowerPoint presentation to effectively teach practical problem solving via the A3 thinking approach. I suppose we could shut off the projector and go straight to pencil and paper. But that would require everyone in the room making the immediate lean management shift from PPT to PPS.

Are you ready?


  1. sean

    December 19, 2007 - 5:22 pm

    Sometime during the past few days the formatting of the blog posts in Firefox as gone crazy.
    The right margin of the text bleeds into the graphics and text on the right side of the blog

  2. Jon Miller

    December 19, 2007 - 9:10 pm

    Thanks Sean. I think it’s fixed. Please let me know if it’s still odd or if you notice anything else.

  3. Frederick Poon

    February 1, 2008 - 6:22 pm

    I learn this pps in Toyota Way where A3 size is the biggest size that can go thru’ a fax machine in Japan / US.
    Now we should aim at A4 size report because we should solve one problem at a time with the concept of one piece flow.
    Any comment is welcome.

  4. Raya

    September 2, 2008 - 6:17 am

    i need that 23 slides of .ppt 🙂
    pretty plzzz…

  5. Anatta

    May 14, 2009 - 6:59 pm

    can anyone explain what is the 10 point guideline under problem statement of the PPS?

  6. Jon Miller

    June 15, 2009 - 2:30 pm

    Hi Anatta,
    You can find the 10 points of problem statements here. In short, a good problem statement:
    1. Must not assign a cause
    2. Must not contain the solution
    3. Must not be based on conjecture or belief rather than fact
    4. Must be short
    5. Must describe actual current condition or problem condition
    6. Must describe the ideal or desired condition
    7. Must be measurable
    8. Must be nclear
    9. Must be specific
    10. Must not refer to issues outside of the scope of the actual problem

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