OKTAV is a red thread to follow to build a culture of continuous improvement with respect for people.


Many books have been written about Lean, how all tools and methods should be used and what all the Japanese words mean. They are deep diving into advanced theories and academic definitions. OKTAV is a practical book about how we become Lean, and what steps we must take in the first phase. How to build a Lean culture and mobilize our organization to start our own Lean journey with all employees involved.

The book points to many parallels between leadership in different roles. Lean can, for example, be a guide to improvement in political work and social development as well as in an organization.

The OKTAV process

OKTAV is a process consisting of five main processes, each of which is reviewed and described in the book. Whether you have never tried Lean before, have been through several Lean initiatives, or are in the middle of a Lean transformation, please reflect over the OKTAV process and make sure you do not skip any of the important elements, before you start with detail analysis of processes.

O is about strategic management and changing leadership behavior, where Oobeya is the Japanese word referred to. This is the way of working that Takashi Tanaka, among others, has described as central to the implementation of Lean in American Toyota factories as they were established, and the book explains how in practice we use and follow a method that entails changes in behavior and strategic leadership at all levels in an organization’s management.

K is derived from the word Kata, which is based on Mike Rother's book Toyota Kata. This is the description of how to train a pattern of scientific improvement work with problem solving and experimentation. Kata is a practical approach to daily improvement-work that is related to strategic management and can be used by all employees in an organization. The K contains Kaizen continuous improvement and problem-solving as well.

T stands for teamwork and team-organizing which is one of the cornerstones of Lean. To achieve the dynamics and continuous improvement that characterizes Lean, organizing teams in an effective team structure is a prerequisite. The central pitfall here is often the conflict between a functional organization and customer focus or delivery teams. OKTAV describes how both needs are addressed effectively where the customer is put into focus, but where the development of skill and competence still is a central part in daily work, which can radically streamline the organization.

A is Arenas and scorecards that involve working in everyday life to ensure that challenges, tasks and results are visible and focused. Arenas and targets are general instruments in all stages of a Lean transformation, but there are also pitfalls here. Emphasis has been placed on how to achieve goals that provide inner motivation and focus on improving results, and how to avoid team-members falling out or giving up.

V is Value-streams and Processes and means that one has reached the part of Lean where the whole organization analyzes and improves its own ways of working. There are many good examples of this being done, and good effects that are achieved, but imagine if the whole organization worked on this, every day with continuous improvement of their tasks! The book does not address all process improvement methods we have heard about from Toyota but focuses on what we must do to see our own needs to achieve continuous learning and participation of all employees in the organization.

The pitfalls

We find that although many people work with Lean and try different models and concepts, there are many pitfalls. In Japanese, one talks about Hansei which involves thinking carefully about problems and solutions and what things really mean. In particular, it is important to think about the "respect for people-principle" and ensure that we do not compromise on this in the initiatives we implement, – that we focus on the expectations of the customer instead of our own professional preferences, that we respect the competence and experience of the employees and do not believe that as a manager we always know best, that we listen and support instead of commanding and controlling and that we keep the focus on goals being achieved instead of activities and measures that are carried out.

A real story

The book also tells a story about an organization and their journey through the OKTAV process, with their aha-experiences and problems along the way.

Although the story is not a direct narrative from reality, its content is largely based on real events, albeit from a few different organizations and projects.

Many people who read the story say that it gives a good picture of how the introduction of Lean can be done, and what typical problems one encounters along the way. The story is easy to read and fun, and even just reading only this part of the book is useful.

Good management

OKTAV describes a Lean transformation as a process, where we take step by step through the first unknown terrain.

Feedback from those who attend courses in OKTAV, or read the book, is often that this gives them a new overall understanding of Lean, where there is a cohesive red thread, rather than deep dives into elements. There are also many who are fascinated by the individual step in the process, such as how we can establish strategic management using Oobeya with simple means, how we can practice systematic scientific improvement work in everyday life, instead of random brainstorming and focus on large numbers of useless measures.

. If we want a positive development of good leadership on broad basis in a small or large organization, public or private institution, development in city and society or politics, then it is important to have a vision, have clear goals, and use ways of working in everyday life that bring us forward.

OKTAV is a red thread to follow to build a culture of continuous improvement with respect for people.