Category Archives: @Work

New WLK Logo

The blog has a new logo that I created a couple of weeks ago.    I don’t have much creativity, but I tried my best to design something that looked like what I wanted.    I used Powerpoint to create the image.   Nothing fancy, but way better than having Work Life Kaizen written in plain text at the top of the blog.

If there are any graphic artists out there that want an opportunity to get their work published, ping me!   Otherwise, let me know what you all think of the new logo?

—  Jason


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Introducing New WLK Weekly Planner

I’ve used various planners over the years; Franklin Covey, Time/Design, Moleskine journals and each had certain benefits that complimented how I go about processing my actions and commitments, but each also had drawbacks that didn’t leave me completely satisfied and really trusting it.

I decided to create my own weekly planner over the Holidays that would incorporate the mental and physical processes I go through to prepare for the week ahead and to track new commitments as they happen.  I wanted to share the weekly planner with each of you.

The first thing that is a little different is the planner template is on a 11×17 paper format.   I do a lot of work on 11×17 paper throughout the course of a work day.   The planner is organized so that if you fold the paper in half and then fold the top half again, each of the sections will be aligned with each of the creases.

The planner incorporates GTD as I’ve been an avid fan for years now and really like the framework and concept to get things out of your head and on to paper, so you will see lists for @Actions, @Waiting For, @Phone, and @Someday.  Other GTD related sections includes a Weekly Review for your Friday afternoon reflections and it includes a Weekly Priorities section so that after you perform your Weekly Review, you can list your top 3 priorities for the next week on your new planner sheet.

The planner  includes the Compact Calendar from David Seah ( so that you can quickly look at the days ahead and determine an appropriate due date for your actions.

After using for the last few weeks, I’m satisfied with the layout and how it is working out.   Only time will tell if I come to completely trust this format, but I’m super excited about having my own planning sheets versus relying on 3rd party products and spending the cash annually to renew.

Let me know what you think, if you feel it could be incorporated into your planner.   I’m open for suggestions, feedback, and other kaizen opportunities.

Available for download: Weekly Planner templatev2_WLK


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Getting to the Point

I had a great experience recently @ work that I wanted to share. We learned about a new personality test known as Enneagram. I’ve had past experiences with Myers-Briggs and the DISC model, but never heard of Enneagram until recently.  So what is it?

The word Enneagram is of Greek origin and refers to a diagram with nine points or lines. “Enneagram” is the name of the system of knowledge as well as its symbol (see picture to right).

There are 9 Enneagram types and each represents personality and characteric types that are said to be about what type of person you are @ birth. It’s not so much about what you’ve become, rather giving you insight into the true type of person you are, very close to your core being.

From my experiences thus far, you can realize for each Enneagram type what types of values, innate strengths, potential liabilities, preferred and challenging work settings, and work styles you prefer just to name a few. This was an eye opener to see what type I was and what type my fellow team members were so that I can use this for my personal growth and to help when coaching my directs or dealing with others like my wife, kids, and friends.

I’m definitely going to reach out and learn more and I recommend if you haven’t heard of Enneagram that you do some research and take a free online test to see where on the 9-point scale you fall.

BTW, I was a 3-The Achiever. I’m testing the wife tonight to see if we share a connection in the symbol 🙂

Think about your day, reflect, and put your energy into making tomorrow better @ work, @ life!


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Value of Hourensou – What’s That You Ask?

Here’s an interesting Japanese term…hourensou. Ever heard of it? It’s a common term amongst those at Toyota, but really you can’t find much on it from the Web or from all the great published books on Toyota or Toyota Way.

The word hourensou is broken down into 3 meanings (hou = report, ren = inform, and sou = feedback).

So why a post on hourensou? I want to share my insights on the power of communication (verbal and written) in the workplace and how something perceived to be so simple can really be a visual key to separating your strong performers from your weaker performers.

What does it mean?

Hourensou means to report out to other’s frequently to keep those necessary informed of your work, while remaining open to feedback and direction from a peer or direct. This could be in the written form by using an email to communicate daily progress on a project to the stakeholders or in the verbal form to have short frequent walk-ups to a direct to share and get feedback on the progress of an assignment.

At Toyota, being able to communicate effectively is essential. Assignments are given with the intent that others will follow hourensou from start to finish. If an assignment will take 3 months to do, the expectation from working level to Executive management is that multiple (6-10) updates occur during that period. While performing hourensou, you are also performing nemawashi, a more common Japenese term meaning to prepare the roots or gain consensus. As you involve others in your assignment, you are obtaining their feedback and incorporating it so that the final product is the work of many instead of one.

Hourensou doesn’t equal micro-management

For those of you that have never heard of hourensou before may think it sounds a lot like micro-management of other’s work, but it is quite the opposite. In my opinion, micro-management is when you smother your team members and tell them what to do and how to do it. With hourensou, the team member has ownership of the assignment, makes decisions on his or her own, but by informing others frequently gets necessary feedback to keep the assignment progressing on schedule within scope, both key elements to reducing team member burden.

Whether you have heard of this term before or not, the key is the value of open communication is imperative to having a strong team working towards common goals.   Does your team value communication?



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Given any feedback recently? 5 Steps to Try.

If you are a manager or someone responsible for the development of others, when is the last time you gave those people any feedback? I don’t mean the ‘good job’ or ‘atta boy’, but real, constructive feedback based on those person’s behaviors dealing with certain events @ work?

As a Manager, feedback is a critical component to aid in the personal and professional growth of your members. We probably all realize the importance of this role, but giving feedback, especially when it is to offer improvement is not easy for many managers to do. In this post I offer my suggestions on how to give feedback, but as always would like to get your thoughts and methods used to kaizen my own processes.

5 Step Process to Giving Feedback

1. Make it timely – you want to strike while the iron is hot. For example, if you recognize that your team member was spending time on their laptop and not paying attention during your section meeting, you should prepare to give feedback right after the meeting is concluded. Don’t wait for your next 1 on 1 or for the behavior to happen again. As Nike says “Just do it”. Waiting puts additional pressure on yourself because you know you need to do something about that member’s behavior, but you are waiting for the next perfect opportunity and waiting too long could result in the team member not recalling the situation as clearly due to the gap since the behavior was recognized.

2. Approach with a question – always, always, always ask for permission to give the team member feedback. You should do every time when giving positive reinforcement or coaching direction. You want to ensure the team member is ready to discuss what you have to say. Giving feedback isn’t about using your authority, rather more about seeing eye to eye and having very open coversations.

3. Be specific with examples – This is the crux of your feedback. Emphasis needs to be placed on the behaviors. Based on the previous example above of the team member working on the laptop during the meeting, your feedback should be specific to how that behavior impacts himself and others around him. For instance, the feedback may go something like this…when you work on your laptop in the section meeting, it looks as if you don’t care and that the updates others are sharing on their projects is not important to you. That is just one potential impact caused by that type of behavior, there could be many others. The key here is that you are focused on the behavior, not the action.

4. Listen – be ready to listen because after giving the feedback to the team member and discussing about the observed behaviors, you will want to find out how the team member plans to address the situation. Instead of dictating what is going to happen, find out what the team member is thinking and guide their development based on the end state you want them to reach.

5. Follow up / PDCA – Working @ Toyota you realize quickly that one key skill everyone must develop is Plan, Do, Check, Act or PDCA. This is the last step in the feedback process although it is equally important. If you recognize the need for feedback & determine when to give it (the Plan), address the observed behaviors and ask the team member how they will address it (the Do), but never follow up and see what progress is being made (the Check) then you’ve reduced the value of giving the feedback in the first place. You need to check with the team member in your one on one meetings and continue to guide them in the right direction (the Act) like I blogged about in an another post entitled Effective One on Ones @ Work.

Try out these steps, see how it goes, and post your reflection points back to the blog.



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Effective One on One’s @ Work

“The secret to winning is constant, consistent management.” — Tom Landry

Over the years I’ve had my share of Supervisors and directs. No two people are the same, each person is unique in their own ways and you have to be flexible with your methods to make your one on one meetings effective whether for managing your boss, your directs, or both. This post is focused on the fundamental elements of one on ones (e.g. frequency, duration, and structure) and I’ll provide suggestions on making sure one on ones are an effective use of both parties time.


I reference the quote from Tom Landry, former Dallas Cowboy’s coach, “the secret to winning is constant, consistent management.” I think this quote is a good fit for this post because in order for one on ones to be effective, I truly believe you need to be meeting weekly. Both the boss and the direct need to be persistent and consistent.

Persistency is important because it is so easy to let your busy schedule and overwhelming workload push or even cancel the meeting. If you prioritize your calendar and time, make sure the one on one remains a ‘must have’ and look elsewhere for finding time.

Consistency is defined as the steadfast adherence to the same form. Keeping weekly meetings with your boss or directs over time develops a habit so that having the one on one meeting is like grabbing your morning coffee, submitting your timesheets, or calling your spouse on your way home from work.


My thoughts on duration is the meeting should be 30 minutes. I’ve been involved in meetings that are 60 minutes and I think on occasion a 60 minute meeting may be necessary, but often time is wasted when set to 1 hour. 30 minutes promotes prepareness, focus, and attention. Because you are being consistent and meeting weekly, 30 minutes gives both parties ample time to share their updates. By also meeting for only 30 minutes, the remaining 30 minutes is freed so that the team member and Supervisor can work on the priorities discussed and actually get some work done.


There should be 3 key agenda points for an effective one on one.

1) Direct’s weekly discussion points (10 min duration)

2) Supervisor’s weekly discussion points (10 min duration)

3) Supervisor’s coaching, development, & performance reviews (10 min duration).

Direct’s Updates

I reserve the first 10 minutes of the one on one to the team member. This allows the team member to speak first, to share updates based upon their understanding of the priorities. Doing so serves multiple purposes; ensure the team member is prepared to cover their list and has considered the talking points to raise up and the process becomes a good check of their PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) skill for the Supervisor to match his or her own list. You want many of your follow up items to be addressed in the first 10 minutes by the team member.

Supervisor’s Updates

The next 10 minutes is the turn of the Supervisor to review his or her follow up items from the previous weekly meeting and anything new that came up over the last few days. Focus here is typically on project and/or operational updates depending on the work. Just like the direct, the Supervisor also needs to be prepared. The weekly one on one requires more than just showing up, it demands dedication to review the actions items from the last meeting for yourself and your direct, to consider the action items to check on, and to be ready to listen and to give feedback and set direction.

Coaching & Development

The last 10 minutes is critical to encouraging the behaviors of your direct. This time could be utilized to review the team member’s performance review targets, to discuss progress towards their personal development plans, and/or to simple share feedback on the behaviors that you’ve observed since the last meeting. Giving feedback, whether positive or negative needs to be timely and the weekly one on one is another opportunity to be consistent with your team members. I’m not suggesting you hold all feedback until the one on one and I’ll talk about feedback further in a future post (say that 3 times quickly), but if the team members realize you are focused on helping them grow personally and within the organization, this last 10 minutes becomes a very effective portion of your one on one.


In closing, effective one on one’s are held weekly, with a duration of 30 minutes, with a defined structure where both the direct and Supervisor understand the expectations of each other! So before your next one on one, get organized and focused on making the most of those 30 minutes.

That will wrap up this post….what methods do you use to make your one on ones effective @ work? I’m very interested in feedback & open comments.


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Teach and Be Taught

Akio Toyoda, the newly appointed President at Toyota recently stated in his speech to the company about the importance for all team members to be open to the phrase “Teach and Be Taught“. This got me thinking how relevant this phrase is to the purpose and being of the blog.

Growing up as a kid my parents, teachers, and coaches always seemed to push me to think on my own and let me solve some of life’s opportunities (as I like to call then now). Instead of giving me answers or taking care of things for me, I learned the importance of being able to make decisions for myself and think on my feet.

For certain this applies to where I currently am employed, Toyota. As a company with a very strong philosophy where decisions can be made at all levels of the organization and you are expected to visit the gemba to do your own genchi genbutsu, you witness first hand the value of other’s taking time to teach and those being flexible to be taught. Toyota strives to make the workplace a learning organization and whether you work at a place like that or not, you should try to spend every day teaching others or learning something new whether surrounded by family and friends or with co-workers.

Lets take the phrase and focus on each word individually:

– Teach

– Be Taught


Francis Bacon Sr. once said “Knowledge is power”. As individuals, we all have acquired different types of knowledge, some others have and some do not. Everyone takes to particular interests creating different levels of experience amongst peers. No one person knows everything, but daily you will encounter people who know more or less on particular topics.

When you know more, your focus should be on sharing that knowledge with others. Whether at home with your kids or at work with peers, you need to be open to teach. Teaching is not natural for some, but if we want to further those around us, you should make a point to teach something to someone everyday. For instance, this could be teaching your daughter how to swim in the pool or taking time to demonstrate to a peer at work how to run an effective meeting.

Teaching is not always in a controlled setting either. For instance, sometimes I hear team members who share that they don’t receive coaching from their Supervisors in their One on One meetings, but after asking some questions, you grasp that the Supervisor is giving specific coaching at that person’s desk throughout the day. Teaching others can come at any time or place. Don’t wait for specific circumstances to teach your knowledge to others.

Be Taught

Not everyone is interested in being taught. Some people believe their way is the best way and they aren’t always looking for feedback. To be taught you need to have an open mind. If you think that you can’t learn from your kids because you are older or that as a Supervisor you feel as if your way is always the right way, then you are mistaken. You need to start everyday with an open mind.

You also need to think deeply. When the opportunity arises to learn something new, consider alternatives and maybe through your deep thinking you can adjust other’s thinking. Situations aren’t so one-sided, you often can be teaching one moment and be learning the next moment.

Listening is a critical skill when it comes to being taught. So often when you are not interested or already thinking of your next action, you fail to give the moment you are in your fullest attention. Listening if done correctly requires discipline and a true interest in each of your conversations throughout the day. If you are sitting in a One on One and have become disengaged from your meeting because you have already covered your items, you miss out on an opportunity to learn something. Not every single meeting will result in you walking away with that “lightbulb moment”, but if you aren’t listening you’ll never know.

Genchi genbutsu (go and see) is effective when being taught. If you are learning how to play golf, wouldn’t you like to go see others play? Or if your Supervisor is asking you to learn a business process, wouldn’t it be easier if you went to the actual site where the users perform the process to see it yourself to speak with others and even do the work. When being taught, you should be willing to do some genchi genbutsu.

Starting the Day

From this day forward, think about how rewarding it would feel to know that you have shared your knowledge with others and in return learned something new that you could apply. See if you can apply the phrase “Teach and Be Taught” into your day and see how it impacts the people around you.

Any comments or feedback is welcomed.

P.S. If you have never heard of the ‘gemba’ or of ‘genchi genbutsu’, go do a little investigation on your own to learn more about it.

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life.”


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