My Week with Mr. Masaaki Imai

Shortly after graduating from college, many moons ago, my Father gave me a book he promised would change my life.  The book was called “KAIZEN: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success” and was written by a man named Masaaki Imai.

I had heard the word kaizen before and had a general idea of what it meant… but little did I know the book would indeed change my life.

You see, over the past 15 years I have been practicing various forms of continuous improvement – lean, six sigma, and TOC to name a few – and now earn my living running Gemba Academy, a company focused on teaching others about the power of kaizen!

And while the last decade has been a blast the last few days just might have been the most exciting of all as I finally had the great honor of meeting Mr. Masaaki Imai in person.

Kaizen Institute & Gemba Academy Partner Up

For those that don’t know, the Kaizen Institute, which was founded by Mr. Imai, is now a co-owner of Gemba Academy as a result of their recent merger with Gemba Research.

This relationship affords Gemba Academy an awesome opportunity to spread Mr. Imai’s wisdom and insight through our online and DVD based lean training system.  We started the process this past week by videotaping Mr. Imai on an actual Gemba Walk.

We also captured a live lecture where Mr. Imai spoke about the topics of lean leadership and kaizen.

And, finally, I was able to sit with Mr. Imai for 45 minutes to chat about the time he spent with the Toyoda family and other lean giants such as Mr. Taiichi Ohno.  The picture to the right is a sneak peek behind the Gemba Academy production scene!  Lots of bright lights are involved!

Ohno’s Fat Cat!

One quite interesting (and funny) story Mr. Imai shared was how Mr. Ohno – who was quite the strict sensei while at gemba – was also quite fun loving outside of work… apparently Mr. Ohno even had a giant “fat cat” that he would carry around like his own child inside his home.

A Humble Man

The thing that I most taken aback by was how kind and humble Mr. Imai was (and is). Many of the so-called lean gurus of our time are not always the most humble and kind… in fact, some of them are flat out arrogant and hard to listen to. Mr. Imai is not like this at all which made meeting him all the more enjoyable.

We have several hours of video to work through and will be releasing some of it for free so stay tuned for that. Of course, if you want to see all the footage of Mr. Imai we’d love to welcome you to the Gemba Academy family.

7 Comments

  1. Claudia

    June 25, 2011 - 11:02 am

    Congratulations Ron, when I spoke with you couple years ago I got the same impression from you. You really live with a Kaizen spirit and never ends learning new technics to help us how to get there. I can not wait to se the videos. I hope one day meet you in person and share more best practices. Way to Go!
    -Claudia

    • Ron Pereira

      June 26, 2011 - 9:09 pm

      Thank you for the very kind words, Claudia!

  2. Mark Graban

    June 25, 2011 - 2:34 pm

    I’m very jealous that you got to spend time with Mr. Imai. My friend Greg Jacobson was given a copy of Mr. Imai’s book when he was working as an ER resident in Nashville. Even though the context of Imai’s book was not healthcare, it really resonated with Greg and influenced how they got started with Kaizen.

    I’ve been re-reading it this year, and “Kaizen” is really a powerful lbook.

    • Ron Pereira

      June 26, 2011 - 9:11 pm

      If we ever get Mr. Imai to the Dallas area I will definitely make it a point to introduce you to him, Mark. He really is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

  3. Flavia Ferrari Rossi

    June 28, 2011 - 2:54 pm

    Congratulations Ron! Uauuu it’s so important for you and for us that can read a little bit more about Mr. Imai. This week I invited him in my linkedin and I got surprised because he accepted me. At the same moment I thought exactly what you said “kind and humble man”.