The Harada method & 4D-Lean

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Regular and loyal Effic blog readers may remind this blog that stressed the importance of Lean’s 8th type of waste, being non-utilised human skills, talent & creativity.

Or even better, this blog in which I illustrated why and how process management and self-managing (should) go hand-in-hand.

Even when you are convinced already about this growing trend of more self-management, sociocracy, holocracy, etc., you may still wonder “all very nice, but how do I start transforming my rather hierarchical organisation towards a (more) self-managing one?

Well, if you are looking for a concrete answer, this blog on the Harada method & 4D-Lean will definitely help you.

The Harada method


Many years after having introduced Lean in the Western world (based on the Toyota Production System or TPS), Mr. Norman Bodek – also known as “the Godfather of Lean” – felt that there was still an important aspect missing.

Until he met Mr. Takashi Harada and the respective Harada method. Which Mr. Bodek then considered as “the human side of Lean”. Once again, he found revolutionary inspiration in Japan.

Who is Mr. Harada?

Mr. Takashi HaradaBefore he started a consultancy business, Mr. Harada was an athletics coach. He started in the worst of 380 schools in Osaka, where most of the students had such negative beliefs and such a very poor self-image that they never believed to be able to achieve anything relevant in life.

Within 3 years, he succeeded to lift the school up to one of the best in athletics. The students moreover also became much more successful in their academic activities. The school became the best of hundreds during 6 years in a row. Twelve of his students got 13 golden medals and were considered as the best athletes in their category, not only in their district, but in Japan.

Most of his students, who seemed to be “worthless” before, got a scholarship and went to university and also became very successful in their professional life later on.

Since 2002, Mr. Harada left the education world to focus on business consultancy. Meanwhile, ninety thousand of people have been teached the Harada method in Japanese businesses.

Main principle of the Harada method

The method is actually a technique for managers to develop day-to-day management, and to grow their employees and to create a new organisational culture. This technique is based on inspiring people and supporting them in using the maximum of their creativity potential.

Summarised in one word, it is about making people self-reliant. Or better said… to help and train people to become self-reliant.

Because when people know how to take full responsibility for their own lives, they are able to sharply focus on personal success and in this way also better serve the organisation they are working for as well as the society.

So you can conclude that the Harada method is the best way to eliminate the 8th Lean waste.

Self-reliance defined

According to the Harada method, 6 characteristics describe what self-reliant people do look like:

Parachute1. Open-minded

I like to use Frank Zappa’s quote here: “A mind is like a parachute. It only (effectively) works if it is open.” Indeed, self-reliant people are open to advice and to criticism, because they know that these may help them to improve and to develop – themselves and their environment.

2. Accountable to achieve goals

Self-reliant persons take the full responsibility for their own goals and objectives. Even when these goals have been determined by the team – e.g. together with their manager, colleagues or whoever – they consider themselves as the only person accountable for their goals.

And when they cannot achieve their goal(s), they will  neither blame others, nor find excuses – e.g. “bad economic times”. They will rather investigate why they missed the goals and view it as an opportunity for improvement.

3. Belief in their ability to win

A very strong will to win is another characteristic of self-reliant people. They never give up, though have faith in the capability to achieve their goals. But most of all, they prepare themselves, among others by removing potential obstacles in their way to their goals.

4. Capable of creating new habits

Nobody will deny that habits make life more efficient. That’s why self-reliant people create and use (new) habits according to their goals, so increasing the chances to achieve their goals.

5. Reflective thinking

This means that self-reliant people regularly reflect on their actions, though also on their being and thus feelings and emotions.

The Harada method suggests the use of a daily diary, in which the person summarises the most important events, though also the most remarkable feelings and emotions of the (past) day.

It is a retrospective mean to monitor your way to your goals.

6. A balanced life

Balanced lifeSelf-reliant people master the coordination of their own life very well. When Mr. Harada started coaching students, he mainly focused on developing the student’s skills. Though he very soon realised that skills alone were not sufficient ; therefore, he also focused on the student’s self-belief and their acquisition of the right attitude.

Quite soon thereafter, he realised that the student’s physical condition and health were also important. And again, this considerably improved their performance. However, this did not make them champions yet… Only once he added the 4th aspect – namely purposefully helping others in their daily life - students started winning golden medals.

And so we can conclude that self-reliance means the capability to trust yourself so to take the right decisions for your customer, your organisation, for the society more in general, and for yourself. Self-reliant people are also characterised by integrity and trust.

The way to self-reliance

Sorry to possibly disappoint you, though it is not the purpose to explain the method in every detail in ‘just one blog’. I only started myself to have a good comprehension of the method after reading the book and after the 2 day-training as well. I can however confirm that it is very effective.

Below summary of the main forms should however already give you a first impression of the easiness, the uniqueness and the force of the Harada method.

The 5 main instruments (questionnaire & forms) that will enable you and your employees to get the most of the Harada method are :

1. Self-reliance Assessment Questionnaire

QuestionnaireAfter answering a list of 33 questions – actually giving a score from 1 to 10 for yourself on personality traits related to self-reliance -, you obtain a score that indicates how self-reliant you are. Or better said, how you judge about yourself how self-reliant you are.

You should obviously use this questionnaire only once.

2. Long-term goal form

This is the main instrument – thus the most important form – of the Harada method. It includes 4 main parts itself :

  • The goal description : a goal that will improve your life, or contribute to your life goal or dream, including the start and end date, and intermediary goals with their respective dates.
  • Your motives (drivers) : this describes “the why” – thus the reasons why this goal is important. Distinguished in 4 quadrants :
    • material or tangible, versus immaterial or intangible drivers
    • whether the drivers are important for you or for others
  • A self-analysis : by reflecting on – and listing – your
    • past personal successes and failures (or disappointments) according to the 4 categories already mentioned in the paragraph “A life Balance” here above, i.e. Mental, Skills, Health (and physical condition), Life. These successes & failures help you to identify the
    • possible barriers you may meet as well as the respective countermeasures you should take to remove these barriers to your goal.
  • The action plan : this is the basis for the next 2 main forms described here below, i.e.:
    • the 10 of the first tasks of your 64- or 36-tasks map
    • the most important routines you plan to apply, optionally completed with a quote, persons and/or other means that may support you in the execution of these tasks.

3. 64-Tasks (or 36-tasks) map

This tasks map allows you to determine what tasks will help you to achieve your goal. The choice between 64 and 36 tasks depends among others on the intensity of your goal.  For a goal you aim to achieve within 3 months, for instance, you might use the smaller (36 tasks) one, while for a goal to be achieved within 6 months, you better use the larger one.

4. Routine check list

Check listAs you already could read, self-reliant people are among others characterised by the capability to create new habits and to purposefully help others. That’s why this routine check list is essential : it helps you to determine and to monitor for yourself the execution of routines and services. Services are actions that serve to your relations or to society more in general, e.g. doing the dishes in the kitchen of the office where you work.

5. Daily diary

The daily diary has following main functions:

  • Organising the coming or new day, in which you write the 5 top tasks – either tasks in your private or your professional life – you aim to execute this day. It ideally includes one or two tasks of your (64 or 36) Tasks map. You may also add meetings or calls you planned or plan to have.
  • At the end of the day, you can evaluate your day, giving yourself a score per domain you want. These domains may be :
    • overall impression of the day
    • mental state (enthusiasm, focus, etc.)
    • body & health, e.g. food, movements (sport), energy level,…
    • work : skill improvement, personal development,…
    • relations : how your relations was with others
    • private life
    • learning
    • routines / habits
    • etc.
  • Then you may add the challenges as well as the positive things you met during the day.
  • Self-reflection on what you might have done differently (better) so to improve the way to your goal(s).
  • Possible questions and/or remarks for your coach or mentor that may have arisen.

Phases to organisational self-reliance

Self-relianceAlthough the Harada method aims at making an entire organisation self-reliant, the most effective and efficient way to achieve this, is by starting with the method at the individual level.

Indeed, cause organisations consist of individuals, improving the well-being and the performance of each employee will result in the improvement of the entire company or organisation.  That’s why many Japanese companies are team-oriented, though also focus on the development, productivity and happiness of their employees.

The well-known metaphor of the chain – i.e. the chain is as strong as its weakest link – is very relevant for your own organisation as well.

A. Individual self-reliance

It means that everyone should experience with the Harada method for themselves, i.e. applying it for a personal goal ; thus not for a professional goal. They should use the 4 first main forms described here above, while the latest one (daily diary) might be used optionally.

B. Team self-reliance

The method is actually the same as for a personal goal, though it is obviously for a common – and thus professional – goal, decided by the team. This goal should, of course, be coherent with the company vision and overall strategic (or department) objectives. Or according to a wish by the CEO, or by the respective line-of-business leader, who indicates and explains what s/he expects from the employees belonging to the team.

C. Organisational / company self-reliance

Also for this level, the principle and the tools remain the same, while the goal is obviously a goal that is applicable for the entire organisation, normally defined by the CEO and/or the executive board.

Why this phased approach?

Still too many attempts of organisations trying to become self-reliant fail, because individuals within the organisation are not self-reliant. Hence, by making sure that all people in your organisation (or team) are or become self-reliant individually, the probability of success to achieve an overall self-reliant organisation is much higher.

By first experiencing the energy they get and feel from their journey towards individual self-reliance, the employees will be even more motivated to do the same for a common goal, and thus to make their team, department, and finally the whole organisation self-reliant. Research by Johnson & Johnson showed that employees are only energized by 4 elements: what’s in for me, the team, the customer and/or society.

Company results are not in that list. So we have to approach them in another way.


Mr. Jim Lippens, who took the Harada training by Mr. Norman Bodek, and who met Mr. Takashi Harada in Japan as well later on, gave a personal touch to the vision of how to combine the Harada method with his past Lean experience.4D-Lean EN

As you may notice in his 4D-Lean model, he distinguishes following organisation types:

  • 0D : organisations that are even not concerned about their own improvement. They aim for status quo. In the disruptive age, they are deemed to disappear.
  • 1D: these companies or organisations that (mis)use Lean by purely applying the Lean tools, pulled out of the Lean context (like present in the TPS or Toyota Production System). These organisations are often led by rather egocentric leaders, looking for short term results. They are commonly not connected with their employees. Actually the worst type of Lean, where the word “Lean” is actually a pretext for cost-cutting only, so that leaders may squeeze the lemon till the last drop. Lean becomes Mean.
  • 2D : this is the real Lean, as it was modeled and derived from TPS. Leaders in a 2D-Lean do focus on continuous improvement and have respect for people. Trust is the key to enter 2D. Employee involvement, long-term vision and win-wins are typical for this type of organisations.
  • 3D : in these agile companies, employees are self-reliant and passionate about what they do. There is not only room for continuous improvement, though rather for continuous innovation. People are not only involved, though are emotionally connected with their organisation. The Harada method is the jewel to achieve this. In this phase, breakthroughs are huge.
  • 4D : these organisations are also named teal organisations, having achieved a higher level of consciousness, and where the culture is perceived as exciting. The characteristics are not only characterised by self-reliance and self-management, though also by wholeness and evolutionary purpose: the organisation’s purpose and mission is their trademark.

Please tell in below Comment box your experience, knowledge or opinion about self-reliance, self-managing organisations, Semco style, sociocracy, etc. The first one who will place a (meaningful) comment will get the book “the Harada method” for free!

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  • Jean Leon Coetzee

    This fits perfectly well into having Agile team become cross-functional, autonomous and self-managed. I see this as the missing link in organisation transformation to new ways of working. Agile has been struggling with this for far too long, with it’s over emphasis on team and neglecting the value of the individual, this could be a game changer.

    • Jean Vercruysse

      Hi Jean Leon, thanks for your Comment. Could you please communicate your e-mail address (through mine: please?