The Sensei Way at Work : The Five Keys to a Lean Business Transformation book cover
1st Edition

The Sensei Way at Work
The Five Keys to a Lean Business Transformation

ISBN 9780367370701
Published October 13, 2021 by Productivity Press
188 Pages 28 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The Sensei Way at Work follows in the wake of dozens of successful business books on the Toyota production system, lean enterprise, and the Toyota Way, yet it is unique. It identifies the five keys that sustain successful lean production in Western enterprises—a challenge that has stymied business leaders, managers, and lean coaches for decades.

The first reason for our frequent inability to sustain the initial gains of lean startups is a misunderstanding of the Japanese term "kaizen mind." Many mistranslate it as a "hunger" for business efficiency and cost reduction. In fact, kaizen mind is a psychology of "mindfulness" joined with "creativity." And once evoked by a sensei, it can be applied (without training) when a leader mandates that employees and managers solve quality problems and redesign the work together.

The second reason is our need to develop new change leaders who know "the way." A sensei immerses prospects in a series of challenges until they learn to do the work of change with the mind of a leader, that is, from the states of presence, flow, and compassion.

Lasting organizational transformation becomes possible, even inevitable, when its leaders learn the five keys and realize "one big thing" in the Sensei Way.

Table of Contents


List of Figures



Foreword: John Shook



1. Lost in Translation

2. Ackoff’s Mess

3. Western Business Goes East

4. The First Key is Kaizen Mind

5. The Second Key is Lean Thinking

6. The Third Key is Lean Coaching

7. The Fourth Key is Change Leadership

8. The Fifth Key is The Sensei Way

9. Be the Change


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Dan Prock, President of Sensei Way LLC, is a strategic change consultant with a degree in engineering, advanced degrees in psychology, and 28 years of experience in consulting on lean implementation and manufacturing, and organizational initiatives. During his graduate program Dan worked at AT&T and did his first value stream map by hand for a work redesign workshop. Since the days of working at Cummins Engine, he has coached lean leaders in both value stream transformations and the coaching skills of Toyota kata. Dan also developed a method of tying Kaizen to the American concept of self-directed teams, and worked with the Kaizen institute of America implementing continuous improvement in companies such as Robert Bosch, Ford, and numerous OEM suppliers. Please visit:


In my last meeting with Taiichi Ohno, he gave me calligraphies for "Challenge" and "Beyond the Conventional Belief" in the original Japanese. This was my last meeting with him. Living out of these terms is a way of "Awakening." I hope Dan's book will help readers find such a moment and benefit many.

-- Kiyoshi Suzaki, author of The New Shop Floor Management and Results with a Heart


Wow. In this great book you will benefit from a clear understanding of lean thinking, leadership, and states of being. It’s like hanging out after work, a nice combination of compelling stories, deep learning, Zen and the Sensei Way.

-- Kevin Coray, PhD. Extraordinary Teams Partnership


In The Sensei Way at Work, Dan shares a fresh perspective and a treasure of historical anecdotes, vivid teaching that enables the reader to grasp the value and practice of the Lean Sensei.

-- Michael Orzen, co-author of the Shingo Prize-winning book Lean IT


It has been 25 years since Lean Thinking was published, and many enterprises are struggling to create a work culture like Toyota’s. Is there a secret Toyota hasn’t shared? There isn’t one. Problem is, to the western management mind, the critical element simply isn’t recognizable. It’s executives and managers with Kaizen Mind who lead, teach and coach continuous improvement. In The Sensei Way at Work, Dan Prock provides a detailed guide to the ways of being, thinking, practices and skills that leaders must develop both in themselves and in employees that make continuous improvement a way of doing business. Creating a culture of continuous improvement can’t be delegated. It has to be led, and this book gives an engaging and enlightening description of how to and by whom.

-- David Verble, former Human Resource Development Manager, problem solving teacher, and coach at North American Toyota; Partner, the Lean Transformations Group. 


The Sensei Way At Work isn’t just another spin on "lean." It offers great insight on why something so conceptually simple is so challenging to sustain. The challenge is developing leaders with a low-ego, observant, ongoing curiosity, and who become sensei for others.

-- Robert W. "Doc" Hall, founding member of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence; judge for IndustryWeek Magazine's Best Plants Program; Chairman, Compression Institute.