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John Shook

John Shook

Chairman Lean Global Network; Senior Advisor, Lean Enterprise Institute

John Shook learned about lean management while working for Toyota for 11 years in Japan and the U.S., helping it transfer production, engineering, and management systems from Japan to NUMMI and other operations around the world. While at Toyota's headquarters, he became the company's first American kacho (manager) in Japan. In the U.S., Shook joined Toyota’s North American engineering, research and development center in Ann Arbor, Michigan as general manager of administration and planning. His last position with Toyota was as senior American manager with the Toyota Supplier Support Center in Lexington, Kentucky, assisting North American companies adopt the Toyota Production System. Shook co-authored Learning to See, the book that introduced the world to value-stream mapping. He also co-authored Kaizen Express, a bi-lingual manual of the essential concepts and tools of the Toyota Production System. With Managing to Learn, Shook revealed the deeper workings of the A3 management process that is at the heart of Toyota’s management and leadership.

Shook is an industrial anthropologist with a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, and is a graduate of the Japan-America Institute of Management Science. At the University of Michigan, he was director of the Japan Technological Management Program and faculty member of the Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering.

Shook is the author of numerous articles, including "How to Change a Culture: Lessons from NUMMI"; Sloan Management Review, January 2010, which won Sloan’s Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize for outstanding article in the field of organizational development.

Articles by John Shook
Bringing Together People and Invention to Achieve Radically Great Quality
The latest book published by the Lean Global Network details the principles and practices that will help you radically improve quality. More »
Create Profitable Value Streams
Why does lean product development focus on building profitable value streams? LEI Senior Advisor John Shook explains in this month's Design Brief Contributor's Corner. More »
How Designing Value Streams, Not Just Products, Creates Competitive Advantage
In this month's Design Brief video, individuals from TechnipFMC and Pella Corporation explain the processes that led to an improvement in their value-streams. More »
Learning From The Sensei Way at Work
Seek perfection by cultivating a daily discipline of mindfulness, whether in lean practice or Buddhist training, writes John Shook in his foreword to a new book by Dan Prock. More »
What are the Three A's of the A3?
John Shook explains the three A's of the A3 in this video clip from the presentation that he and Lisa Yerian, chief improvement officer at Cleveland Clinic, delivered at LEI's Virtual Learning Experience. More »
Are You Ready for the Next Crisis?
We think the presence of a robust, socio-technically balanced lean management and operating system—based on the Lean Transformation Framework—was invaluable in helping Cleveland Clinic handle the challenges arising from the pandemic, write John Shook and Lisa Yerian. More »
Jidoka Supports Leaders Who Welcome Problems with John Shook
In this clip from last year's Virtual Learning Experience, LEI Senior Advisor John Shook explains the socio-technical system of Jidoka, where the human and machine work are separated and allocated with purpose, and how this lean pillar supports the lean ideal of "respect for people.  " More »
Two Giants, Two Communities, One Lasting Thing
In this graceful elegy of the impact of two pioneers who recently passed away, John Shook says: "Ezra and Norm belonged to adjacent communities – one studied Japan, the other promoted enterprise improvement.  Ezra and the many proponents of the Japanese management boom set the table; Norm and his peers opened doors to achieving practical betterment.  " More »
Let's Celebrate Work
Is your work meaningful or menial? LEI Senior Advisor John Shook challenges us to aim to make all work meaningful by building our businesses based on the work itself and prioritizing the means over the ends. More »
Fundamentals Redux--An Appreciation of Kaizen Express
Kaizen Express is the expression of an approach to kaizen that is at once a return to basics while at the same time emphasizing the centrality of individual and team learning, says John Shook. This resource is grounded in the belief that the thinking of TPS can only be achieved through doing. More »
How the A3 Process Developed to Help Build Better Managers, Part Two
In this second of two articles, Isao Yoshino and John Shook explore how A3 emerged as powerful practice at Toyota for developing better managers. More »
How the A3 Process Developed to Help Build Better Managers
One of the hallmarks of a successfully executed A3 process is that it is a collaborative activity--a learning process for everyone involved: for learner and teacher, senpai and kohai, sensei and deshi, say authors Isao Yoshino and John Shook. Here's the first of two articles tracing the development of A3 thinking at Toyota. More »
Keep Calm and Manage Stably: Akio Toyoda’s Response to Crisis
Jeff Liker and John Shook comment on the recent remarks of Toyota President Akio Toyoda, stating that they "reaffirmed the remarkable ways of the company, leaving us with confidence that Toyota will continue to serve as an inspiration, even as the world continues to change in unpredictable ways.  " More »
Addressing Production Challenges that Arise from the Pandemic
How two companies with deep lean experience – General Electric Appliances (GEA) and Herman Miller – have responded quickly and with great agility to the frontline challenges presented by the pandemic. More »
The Impact of Social Distancing on Assembly Operations
Take a deep-dive look at how GE Appliances and Herman Miller are working on designing a safe work environment for production employeesduring the Covid-19 pandemic. More »
Coping with COVID-19: Lessons from The Plague
In this time of pandemic, John Shook shares some ways this novel coronavirus is impacting him personally, noting "For Camus, hope is the enemy. But, from where I sit today (I may sit somewhere else or lie prone tomorrow), hope embodied in action is in itself medicinal. The most powerful medicine is to take caring action.  ” More »
A Consciousness of Reality
There are countless cases of lean thinking being applied masterfully with the word lean (or the Toyota Production System) nowhere in sight, writes John Shook, who argues that lean thinking and practice can embody the power and potential of lean thinking as a holistic approach to making things better for even the world’s thorniest problems. More »
Time To Make Time
When the people in a lean system don't value time, everyone is cheated, says John Shook, in this fascinating reflection on the role that time plays in a close observation of work. More »
The Remarkable Chief Engineer
How can a system in which "we are all connected and no one is in charge" support purposeful and productive work? Toyota's famed Chief Engineer system has much to offer in this regard. John Shook explores how the leadership styles of, and ways of working by, the CE might provide something of a roadmap for all of us. More »
How Standardized Work Integrates People With Process
In this three part series on SW, John Shook argues that "the Toyota Way is a socio-technical system on steroids. A test for all our lean systems is the question of how well we integrate people with process (the social with the technical). Nowhere does that come together more than in the form of standardized work and kaizen.  " More »
Is Lean Thinking Art or Science? Yes
Calling the recent book Lean Conversations a landmark initiative on lean and the arts, John Shook observes that "If Jean Cocteau’s famous observation that 'art is science made clear' has meaning, we can all benefit from further exploration of the relationship between lean thinking and art & science.  " More »
Lean Production Begins with LPPD
To create a "turbo-charged product-creating machine, start by designing clear processes with useful tools and a “people first” culture--which form a socio-technical system underpinned by deep principles. More »
Standardized Work or Kaizen? Yes
Some lean folks LOVE to quote the Taiichi Ohno observation that “there is no kaizen without standards," notes John Shook, adding that it is less noted but equally true that “there is no maintenance of standards without kaizen.  ” More »
Thinking About the Why of the What of Problem-Solving
When we talk about problem-solving, what we’re really talking about here is creating adaptive capacity, the deep capability of an organization to tackle anything that comes its way, any obstacle that comes between you and where you want to go. Tackling problems one by one is what gives an organization capability for deep adaptability. More »
Surviving CEO Change, Evolving Through Culture and Being a Humble Leader
Dr. Mahaniah was kind enough to sit down with LEI’s Chairman, John Shook to talk about growing up in different cultures, from the Congonese to the Quakers, and how he became a CEO in an organization trying to become lean, and helped keep that movement going. More »
Mindfulness and Leading with Respect
Mindfulness is both more essential today than ever, and a foundation for organizational lean excellence. Here John Shook and Mike Orzen explore this theme. “The more lean thinking you do, the more mindfulness you’ll experience, and the more mindfulness you create, the more presence you’ll create…and the more lean thinking you’ll do.  ” More »
Postcard from Nashville
John Shook looks back at the key theme of LEI's Nashville summit on the theme of how to be better employees. More »
Thinking Fast and Slow and Lean with John Shook
On the 20th anniversary of Lean Thinking, John Shook delivered this Lean Talk on the principles the book introduced, how they developed over time, and the invaluable lessons the book still holds today. He also explores the concept of lean as a mindset and connects it to the models of thinking introduced by Daniel Kahneman in his book, "Thinking, Fast and Slow.  " More »
Thank you, Tatsuro Toyoda
John Shook remembers the late Tatsuro Toyoda, former president of Toyota. More »
Shaping Workflow Competencies with Human Capital
Leading IT firms gradually are shifting focus from acquiring the right talent to developing talent and focusing on how to grow people's capabilities, says John Shook, executive chairman at the nonprofit Lean Enterprise Institute, on pages 34-35 in this special workflow section of CIO Review. More »
Shook Addresses Current State of Lean Thinking After U.S-Turkey Tiff Compels Keynote Countermeasure
Indefatigable presenter John Shook quickly made this video as a countermeasure to being denied entry to Turkey, where he was scheduled to keynote an Istanbul conference. More »
A (Work) Pie in the Face to All Bad Jobs
Want Better Employees? Be a Better Employer More »
Back to Basics: John Shook on the Role of Questions in Coaching
In this throwback to the classic John Shook eletter "Coaching and Questions; Questions and Coaching," we learn the impacts of asking coachees the right questions, as opposed to giving them the answers. More »
Book Value: The Mental ABC's of Pitching
"With both the All-Star Game and our Lean Coaching Summit approaching, I got to thinking about ways that non-lean books offer insights into coaching and mastery," writes LEI Chairman and CEO John Shook. Read more More »
“Do I have to be a team leader for the rest of my life?"
In this reprint of his latest e-letter, LEI Chairman and CEO John Shook reflects on the powerful lessons in the new book, "The Work of Management," by Jim Lancaster. More »
Job 1?
Ford CEO Mark Fields just decided he needed to cut costs. Then he suddenly realized he had 1400 people he didn't need so decided to eliminate their jobs. Did he need those people two weeks ago? Will he need them two weeks from now? More »
A Thriving Community of Practice
"Lean theory and practice are thriving here in early 2017 with the arrival of a small but rich batch of new books," writes LEI Chairman and CEO John Shook. "These recent and upcoming books all bring new ideas and new stories that can help grow and energize the lean community.  ..  " Read more. More »
Lean Quotes from John Shook to Inspire You and Your Team
We share with you some inspiring quotes from LEI CEO John Shook. More »
Managing Workflow—the Lean Way
The main responsibility of CIOs and other information technology managers is to create an environment for work to flow, according to John Shook, CEO, Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) and Alice Lee, LEI executive director, writing in CIO magazine. More »
Innovation in the Work
"Innovation is a popular – and important – concept," writes LEI Chairman and CEO John Shook. "So, here are three questions. What is it? What does lean thinking have to say about it? So what?" Check out John's responses, and don't forget to follow his link to a new animation on innovation and lean. More »
You Can't Know If You Don't Know
Recently LEI Chairman and CEO John Shook found an interesting blog by Dr. Helen Kales of the University of Michigan, musing on a powerful set of words that can mean everything in lean thinking. The set of words resonated with John too, and he now shares his thoughts on the value it holds in his latest piece for the Lean Post. More »
Reflecting to Learn: Takeaways and Reflections on the A3 Process
In the wake of yesterday's interview with Mr. Isao Yoshino on the roots of the A3 process at Toyota, LEI Chairman and CEO John Shook shares more context about A3s and how they came to be. More »
Malpractice in the New England Journal of Medicine
Several weeks ago, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article by two physicians bashing lean and questioning its effectiveness. LEI Chairman and CEO John Shook found the piece full of holes and misconceptions and now shares his thoughts on the piece in the form of a rebuttal. More »
Learning from John Wooden: Everyone Is a Teacher & a Coach
John Wooden was arguably the most successful, probably the most influential, and certainly the most studied coach in the history of US sports. Learn why his coaching was so effective and what it means for lean thinking and practice. More »
Japanese Cult Invades Saskatchewan Government
Lean has become a political football in the normally congenial province of Saskatchewan. Read what John Shook has to say about the matter. More »
Book Value: The Mental ABC's of Pitching
It's time for a little lean baseball! Inspired by the Red Sox World Series win, John Shook decided to return to one of his favorite reads, The Mental ABC's of Pitching by H.  A. Dorfman. More »
A Connecticut Yankee Machinist in Toyoda’s Castle
“Culture matters,” John Shook tells us in his post about Charles A. Francis, an American who worked for Toyota group founder Sakichi Toyoda in the early 1900s, “but never let stereotypical views of national character be used as an excuse to not do the right thing.  ” Read this remarkable story of a missing piece to the larger story of continuous innovation in process technology between the United States and Japan over the past 150 years. More »
A Sensei in One's Own Land
In his first piece for The Lean Post, John Shook addresses the question of if, when, and how you and your organization should work with an external coach. More »
Managing to Connect the Macro with the Micro
LEI Chairman and CEO John Shook explains management PDCA: improving the way we align people with process to achieve purpose, connecting macro level business objectives with micro levels of value creation throughout the organization. More »
Lean Leadership Lesson: First Thing, Grasp the Situation; Last Thing, Grasp the Situation (Appendix 1 to the eletter “Lead from the Front, Lead from Behind”)
In this appendix to his eletter on lean leadership, LEI CEO Joh Shook explains how leading in a lean management company requires a radically different set of skills and mindset than required by traditional modes of leadership behavior such as is taught in American business schools and championed in popular literature. The thinking and skills demanded by lean management focus less on providing the right solution and more on providing the right questions. More »
Policy Deployment: aka Strategy Alignment, aka Hoshin Kanri (Appendix 2 to the Eletter “Lead from the Front, Lead from Behind”)
As a way of illustrating the most common misconception about hoshin kanri, namely, that it’s a top-down deployment process, LEI CEO John Shook explains in Appendix 2 to his eletter “Leadership Again,” how a middle manager at NUMMI, the Toyota-GM joint venture, made an impact on the organization. More »
Where Lean Leadership Begins
As with all lean practice, leadership begins with grasping the current state. For lean leaders that means understanding the external business environment, the organization's internal environment, and our own capabilities, according to LEI CEO John Shook. "Lean thinking teaches us that we are all leaders," Shook said.  "We are all teaching all the time, and we are all leading all the time by example. " More »
Presentation: Learning To See - Making Value Flow From End to End
What’s most  difficult in production often isn’t making the product but  organizing all the parts and materials that go into it, notes LEI CEO John Shook in the presentation “Learning To See: Making Value Flow From End to End.  ”He covers how lean management developed to solve this problem from Henry’s Ford Highlight Park, MI, assembly line to  the development of the Toyota Production System. He covers key TPS elements and methods such as value-stream mapping, built-in quality, one piece flow, waste elimination, total system efficiency, and developing people as problem solvers. More »
What Are the Lean Enterprise Institute and the Lean Global Network
John Shook, CEO of the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI), describes LEI and the Lean Global Network, a group of 18 education-oriented nonprofits dedicated to spreading lean thinking. Shook was speaking at a meeting of the Lean Enterprise Institute Hungary, a network member.  At about 10:40 into the video, John summarizes lean management as a different way of thinking about work, not as cost cutting or shrinking the size of companies.  “Rather than just cutting cost, it’s properly understood as a way of thinking, said Shook.  ” Lean companies want everyone deeply engaged in solving company goals, which means giving customers More »
For Lean Thinkers, "Clutch" Offers Lessons in Planning and Leading
Read an excerpt from Paul Sullivan's new book Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don't, discussing what made Toyota a clutch performer and why recently it seemed to choke. More »
Helpful Hints about Mapping off the Plant Floor in Support of Administrative Operations
Off the shop floor, the distinctions between material and information flows often blurs. Here are nine suggestions from LEI author John Shook for adapting the mapping tool. More »
Misunderstandings About Value Stream Mapping, Flow Analysis, and Takt Time
Value-stream mapping is not flow analysis, but rather a simple tool that guides you through the process of analysis to improve flows and design better ones in the future. By LEI author John Shook. More »
Learning to See (Foreword by Jim Womack and Dan Jones)
When we launched Lean Thinking in the Fall of 1996 we urged readers to "Just do it" in the spirit of Taiichi Ohno and other pioneers of the Toyota system. With more than 300,000 copies in print (including the Second Edition launched in the spring of 2003) and with a steady stream of e-mails, faxes, phone calls, letters, and personal reports from readers telling us of their achievements, we know that many of you are taking our and Ohno's advice. (learn more about the book here) More »
Books by John Shook
Learning to See Learning to See
Value-stream maps are the blueprints for lean transformations and Learning to See is an easy-to-read, step-by-step instruction manual that teaches this valuable tool to anyone, regardless of his or her background.  This groundbreaking workbook, which has introduced the value-stream mapping tool to thousands of people around the world, breaks down the important concepts of value-stream mapping into an easily grasped format.   The workbook, a Shingo Research Prize recipient in 1999, is filled with actual maps, as well as engaging diagrams and illustrations.    More »
Kaizen Express Kaizen Express
Kaizen Express is a concise but precise illustrated guide to the fundamentals of the Toyota Production System (TPS) and how to implement them. It is ideal for individuals or teams starting a lean transformation or in need of a quick refresher on the fundamental concepts of lean manufacturing. More »
Managing to Learn: Using the A3 management process Managing to Learn: Using the A3 management process
Managing to Learn by Toyota veteran John Shook, reveals the thinking underlying the A3 management process found at the heart of lean management and leadership. Constructed as a dialogue between a manager and his boss, the book explains how “A3 thinking” helps managers and executives identify, frame, and act on problems and challenges. Shook calls this A3 approach, “the key to Toyota’s entire system of developing talent and continually deepening its knowledge and capabilities.  ” More »
Four Types of Problems / Managing to Learn Set Four Types of Problems / Managing to Learn Set
The perfect problem solving gift set for all lean thinkers. More »
Value-Stream Mapping Workshop Participant Guide Value-Stream Mapping Workshop Participant Guide
  More »
Workshops Taught by John Shook
Managing to Learn: The Use of the A3 Management Process This workshop introduces the A3 management process and the way of thinking represented in the A3 format that capture the heart of lean management. Participants will be provided an overview of various forms and uses of the A3 format and will have an opportunity to create their own A3. Working in small groups, they will be able to read, discuss, and evaluate each another’s A3s. More »
Online - Introduction to Lean Thinking and Practice This online course serves as an introduction to the key concepts, philosophies, and tools associated with lean thinking and practice. Designed through a joint effort between the Lean Enterprise Institute and the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. More »
Understanding Lean Transformation Come explore the components of the Lean Transformation Model, see examples of what others are doing and reflect upon some potential gaps to close within your own organization. More »