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The Underlying Research of the Four Capabilities of Problem Solving

Management Matters

“War is not for waging but for winning” (Jim Storr).

Similarly, for any organization, “Markets are not for competing but for winning”. This Doctrine is about how to win the a market by “delivering more value, in less time, at less cost” by developing the management capability to improve the organization (i.e. product, structure, process & people)

Like effective military organizations, a high performance organization is based on Doctrine, more specifically, Management Doctrine.

The Management Doctrine of a high performance organization focuses on how to win in the market. Below is the most validated research that has been conducted to determine what creates high performance.

The research is based on the cumulative learnings of organizations and markets, across the globe, for the last 130 years. The core finding of the research is that high performance organizations create competitive advantage by having a faster rate of problem solving, relative to rivals. The research findings have been found in every industry and has been validated in both the public and private sectors (healthcare, software, automobiles, navy, distribution, financial, etc).

Key point: the research found that competitive advantage comes not from technology or from resources, it comes from 4 behavioral capabilities of the culture created by the management hierarchy. Specifically, the four capabilities that generate a faster rate of problem solving, relative to rivals are:

1. Design and operate work to see problems (plan vs. actual)

2. Solve those problems close in person, place & time (PDCA)

3. Capture and Share knowledge from solving those problems

4. Managers organize and coach capabilities (1-3)

The short hand is: “See Problems, Solve Problems, Share Knowledge” or “See, Solve, Share”.

Integrated Work:

  • Product

  • Structure

  • Process

  • People

Design & Operate Work to See Problems (Research)

  1. Spear, S. J. (1999). The Toyota Production System: An Example of Managing Complex Social/Technical Systems (3012272) (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Information and Learning .

  2. Spear, S. (2010). The High-Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Professional.

  3. Spear, S. J., & Bowen, H. K. (1999). Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production

  4. System.Spear, S. J. (2004). Designing Products and Processes: Aligning Hierarchical Problem Levels with Problem-solving Team Forms.

  5. Adler, P. A. (1996). Teams at NUMMI. Retrieved from

  6. Austenfeld, R. B. (2006). NUMMI-The Great Experiment.

  7. Shook, J. (2010). How to Change a Culture. MITSLOAN Management Review, 51(2), 8.

  8. Adler, P. S. (1992). The Learning Bureaucracy': New United Motor Manufacture, Inc.

  9. Tucker, A. L., & Edmondson, A. C. (2003). Why Hospitals Don't Learn from Failures: Organizational and Psychological Dynamics That Inhibit System Change. California Management Review, 45(2), 55-72. doi:10.2307/41166165

  10. Cannon, M. D., & Edmondson, A. C. (2005). Failing to Learn and Learning to Fail (Intelligently): How great organizations put failures to work to Improve and Innovate. Long Range Planning, 38(3), 299-319. doi:10.1016/j.lrp.2005.04.005

  11. Bloom, N., Van Reenen, J., & Brynjolfsson, E. (n.d.). Good Management Predicts a Firm's Success Better Than IT, R&D, or Even Employee Skills. Retrieved from

  12. Jaques, E. (1998). Requisite organization: a total system for effective managerial organization and managerial leadership for the 21st century. Cason Hall & Co Pub.

  13. Reinertsen, D. (1997). Managing the Design Factory: A Product Developer's Toolkit. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Solve Problems Close in Person, Place & Time

  1. Spear, S. J. (2002). The Essence of Just-in-Time: Imbedding diagnostic tests in work-systems to achieve operational excellence.

  2. Spear, S. J. (2002). Just-in-Time in practice at Toyota: Rules-in-Use for Building Self-Diagnostic, Adaptive Work-Systems.

  3. Tucker, A. L., Edmondson, A. C., & Spear, S. (2001). FRONT-LINE PROBLEM SOLVING: THE RESPONSES OF HOSPITAL NURSES TO WORK SYSTEM FAILURES. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2001(1), C1-C6. doi:10.5465/apbpp.2001.6133148

  4. Rother, M. (2009). Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Professional.

  5. Imai, M. (1991). Kaizen (Ky'zen): The Key to Japan's Competitive Success.

  6. II., D. K., & Smalley, A. (2011). Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

  7. Riel, J., & Martin, R. L. (2017). Creating Great Choices: A Leader's Guide to Integrative Thinking. Brighton, MA: Harvard Business Press.

  8. Womack, J. P., Jones, D. T., & Roos, D. (2007). The Machine That Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production-- Toyota's Secret Weapon in the Global Car Wars That Is Now Revolutionizing World Industry. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Capture and Share Knowledge from Solving Problems


  2. Dyer, J. H. and Nobeoka, K. (2000). Creating and Managing a High Performance Knowledge Sharing Network: The Toyota Case. John Wiley & Sons. March 2000.

  3. Suh, Y. (2016). Global Knowledge Transfer of East Asian Auto Industry: Comparative Study of Toyota and Hyundai. Discussion Paper Series.  Manufacturing Management Research Center (MMRC). October 2016.

  4. Suh, Y. (2012). Global Knowledge Transfer Network:The Case of Global Production Support System of Toyota.Discussion Paper Series.Manufacturing Management Research Center (MMRC). March 2012.

  5. Nonaka, I., Nonaka, I. O., Ikujiro, N., Takeuchi, H., Nonaka, P. O., & Both Professors of Management at the Institute of Business Research Hirotaka Takeuchi. (1995). The Knowledge-creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation. New York, NY: OUP USA.

  6. Alder, P. S., & Cole, R. E. (1993). Designed for Learning: A Tale of Two Auto Plants. MIT Sloan Management Review. Retrieved from

Managers Coach their Team (capabilities 1-3)

  1. Spear, S. J. (2004). Learning to Lead at Toyota. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

  2. How Toyota turns Workers into Problem Solvers.

  3. Spear, S. J. (2003). Building Process Improvement Capacity: Structuring Problem Solving as Skill-Building Exercises.Working Paper 02-006. February 2003.

  4. Rother, M. (2009). Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Professional.

  5. Grove, A. S. (1996). High-Output Management. New York, NY: Vintage.

  6. Lemov, D., Woolway, E., & Yezzi, K. (2012). Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

  7. Shook, J. (2008). Managing to Learn: Using the A3 Management Process to Solve Problems, Gain Agreement, Mentor and Lead. Lean Enterprise Institute.

  8. Sadun, R., Bloom, N., & Reenen, J. V. (2017). Why Do We Undervalue Competent Management. Harvard Business Review, (2017).

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