provocative. practical. proven.

helping you win

STRATEGY FACILITATION

I guide teams through Roger Martin's playing-to-win strategic framework.

STRATEGY FACILITATION

Download a 1-page brochure on strategy services, engagement details, and pricing information.

INNOVATION COACHING

I work with teams to transform design thinking ideas into elegant solutions.

INNOVATION COACHING

Download a 1-page brochure on innovation coaching services, engagement details, and pricing information.

LEAN TRAINING

I educate leaders on the Toyota lean thinking tenets of continuous innovation.

LEAN TRAINING

Download a 1-page brochure on lean training services, engagement details, and pricing information.

sessions

Strategy

Strategy

What is strategy? The best definition on the planet is the one given by mentor Roger Martin: strategy is an integrated cascade of five critical choices, at the heart of which are two key questions: Where will we play? and How will we win?

Strategy sessions produce the answers.

Ideation

Ideation

Winning ideas are rare. Asking people to "be creative" won't produce them. Neither will unfocused brainstorming. You need a sound method designed to let people see things in new ways, and break free from old thinking patterns.

Design thinking ideation does just that.

Experimentation

Experimentation

Even the best idea is just a guess, an hypothesis, to be quickly prototyped and tested through simple, frugal experiments that yield proof of concept and foster an ethos of lab-like curiosity.

Rapid experimentation sessions turn creativity into creation.

Lean

Lean

Lean is a method for banishing waste and radically simplifying your most valuable systems and processes. Built on tenets of the Toyota Production System, lean demands continuous innovation.

Lean sessions deliver an authentic Toyota experience.

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books

Speaking

The Heart of Strategy

The Heart of Strategy

This keynote draws on my close study of strategy under the mentorship of Roger Martin, as well as my daily facilitation work. I deliver three key insights, a clear framework for making strategic choices, and a process for developing strategy that is simple, fun, and effective.

The Laws of Subtraction

The Laws of Subtraction

This keynote draws upon my book The Laws of Subtraction. I outline six simple rules for standing out and staying relevant, built on a single yet powerful idea: When you remove just the right things in just the right way, something good happens.

The 7 Fatal Thinking Flaws

The 7 Fatal Thinking Flaws

In this provocative and interactive session based on a chapter from my book In Pursuit of Elegance, I reveal the obstacles to innovative thinking, then illustrate how to neutralize them with the powerful creative method used by the world's best innovators.

TOYOTA ON INNOVATION

TOYOTA ON INNOVATION

This talk draws from my success in applying wisdom gleaned from nearly a decade of working with Toyota, as found in my books The Elegant Solution and The Shibumi Strategy. I offer the ten key practices critical for fostering a culture of continuous innovation.

me

I coach companies on matters of strategy, innovation, and lean. I’ve been at it for over 25 years, nearly a third of which were spent as a fully-retained creative advisor to Toyota, an experience which culminated in my first book. I now have four, and I’m working on my fifth. Meantime, I write and speak widely to audiences interested in rethinking their businesses.

Winning The New Yorker cartoon caption contest is my favorite achievement.

Matthew E. May

Matthew E. May

Author
50%
Speaker
75%
Coach
100%

Longer Story

I was the only member of the Wharton Graduate School of Business’ graduating class of 1985 to decline lucrative investment banking, management consulting, and corporate strategy job offers in favor of starting my own educational consulting company.

Crazy, right?!

As a solopreneur, I worked for the next thirteen years, first in New York City and then Los Angeles, for companies looking to build effective performance improvement programs and initiatives: companies like Lehman Brothers, Pfizer, J.D. Power & Associates, Sandy Corporation, Maritz Performance Improvement, Nissan Motor Corporation, Infiniti, Harley Davidson, Mitsubishi, and Hyundai Motor America.

Then in 1998…

…I met Toyota. Specifically, the University of Toyota, one of Toyota’s seven “New Era” strategies designed to accommodate the unprecedented global growth the company was experiencing, charged with keeping sacrosanct the principles, tenets, and practices of “the Toyota way.” From an initial project involving the design and facilitation of the new organization’s first strategic offsite, my involvement grew to a full-time engagement, a journey of over eight years, during which I gained mastery of kaizen (continuous innovation) and kaikaku (radical change). During my last two years with Toyota, I led the University of Toyota’s external Lean Thinking program, which taught other organizations Toyota’s winning ways, and caught the eye of The Wall Street Journal.

My partnership lasted until 2006, when I decided to take the show on the road. I took what I had learned from my Toyota experience and published my first book, The Elegant Solution: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation. Thanks to Simon & Schuster, it was a 2006 Wall Street Journal bestseller and the recipient of the Shingo Prize for Excellence.

Cool beans!

At the heart of my worldview is the concept of elegance, which I think of as a 3-word mantra: less is best. Elegance is the special breed of simplicity that Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. referred to when he wrote, “I would not give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for simplicity on the other side complexity.” It’s the ability to achieve the maximum effect through minimum means.

And it ain’t easy.

It took me a while to “get it,” and I almost gave up. I wrote about the turning point in the Preoccupations column of the Sunday edition of The New York Times in an article entitled The Art of Adding By Taking Away

I’m still chasing elegance.

Thank you, Toyota, for rewiring my brain.

 

EDUCATION

I hold an MBA in Organizational Design and Marketing from The Wharton School (1985) and a BA from Johns Hopkins University (1981). I received my training in design thinking from The Stanford d school (2010).

Writing & Media

WRITING

I’ve published four books:

THE ELEGANT SOLUTION: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation (Free Press, ©2006). Wall Street Journal bestseller. Winner, Shingo Prize for Research.

IN PURSUIT OF ELEGANCE: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing (Crown Business  ©2009, 2010). Named to 2009 BusinessWeek Best Books in Design and Innovation list.

THE SHIBUMI STRATEGY: A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change (Jossey-Bass,  ©2011). Gold medal winner, Axiom Award for Best Business Fable.

THE LAWS OF SUBTRACTION: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything (McGraw-Hill, ©2013). 800CEORead bestseller.

I’m a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review blogs, Fast Company Design, ChangeThis.com, Strategy+Business, AMEX OPEN Forum, and University of Toronto’s The Rotman Magazine.

There are dozens of other contributions out there, and you can view my writing portfolio on the very cool site CONTENTLY.

MEDIA

In addition to my editorial contributions, my work has been featured or mentioned in Harvard Business Review, The Globe & MailThe New Yorker, Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, LDRLB, Fortune, USA Today, 99U, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Dallas News, Time, Forbes, INC magazine, Fast Company, Wharton Leadership Digest, CIO Insight, American Enterprise Institute, The Miami Herald, and The Los Angeles Times.

I have appeared on numerous radio shows, television, and online shows, including MSNBC, NPR, CNBC, and ESPN.

Speaking

SpeakerMedley

I don’t fancy myself a “motivational speaker” or “business guru,” but rather a practitioner of business strategy, innovation, and lean thinking with powerful lessons learned and war stories to tell from years in the trenches with companies ranging from small startups to companies as large and multinational as Toyota.

I try to blend my frontline experience as a creative catalyst and innovation strategist with case studies and stories I’ve researched and written about in books and articles, in order to deliver useful concepts with immediate application.

I aim to achieve four things in every address:

  1. 1. inspire new thinking
  2. 2. share a unique perspective
  3. 3. tell compelling stories
  4. 4. deliver practical takeaways

 

I am exclusively represented by Katrina Smith, President of Keynote Speakers, Inc., headquartered in San Francisco.

New Yorker Contest

NewYorkerCartoon-320x253

March 2008

"I would not give a fig for simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for simplicity on the other side of complexity."

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES JR.

From My Blog

Introducing the Play-to-Win Strategy Canvas 2.0

I started developing a visual tool for team facilitation of strategy development over two years ago, after I learned the Playing to Win framework from Roger Martin. I’ve always liked using good old paper and Post-Its, ever since I learned what was affectionately referred to as “the big paper process” when I was working with Toyota many years ago.

After dozens of iterations I’ve finally settled on a format that people find simple, fun, and effective. And for a limited time, I’m going to make it available free under a Creative Commons License, which essentially means you can use and tweak it providing you include attribution, and don’t try to monetize it in any way.

Here’s what it looks like. It captures the entire strategy formulation process, including the identification of the key strategic issue, reverse engineering, and initial test design, as detailed in Roger Martin and A.G. Lafley’s book, Playing to Win. (Disclosure: Roger Martin has seen the various iterations and advised me on changes.)

P2WCanvas700

Read More

The Whole Foods Strategy…Isn’t (Whole)

There’s an interesting strategic play being made by Whole Foods Markets, in the midst of the company’s nearly $2 billion one-day drop in market value a few weeks ago, on the announcement of a shareholder lawsuit. Whole Foods had already come under legal pressure concerning claims of overcharging, but this new lawsuit claims securities fraud.

Now, when shareholders file a lawsuit like that, it’s not a good thing. Especially not when Millennial buyers, a segment Whole Foods has failed miserably in attracting, snicker at the chain’s exorbitant prices and call the chain “Whole Paycheck.”

In the midst of all this, Whole Foods has decided to take a market segmentation strategy to reverse its downward trend, a strategy aimed squarely at Trader Joe’s, a solid Millennial brand: launch a chain of smaller, lower-priced stores that focus entirely on stock with the Whole Foods private label, 365.

Whole Foods is going to try to out-Trader Joe’s Trader Joe’s,

This should be fun to watch, strategically speaking.

Read More

Nomination Wanted: 2015 Thinkers50

Not until this year’s Thinkers50 nominations would I have ever given the possibility of being nominated a glancing thought. I consider myself to be more of a solid practitioner of others’ ideas than a high-concept thinker. My three areas of focus — strategy, innovation, and lean — are all founded on the ground-level, everyday application of Roger Martin’s Play-to-Win framework (strategy), IDEO/Stanford d school-originated design thinking (innovation), and Toyota-born systems thinking (lean).

That’s why I perked up when the guys at Thinkers50 announced some new categories, including “Ideas into Practice.” That just about sums me up in three simple words.

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