The New Johari Window—a tool for understanding what we know and practice, and what we don’t!

Post date: July 03, 2018 by Grace Bourke

When I first saw the New Johari Window (shown above) I thought, “Oh, that’s busy. I wonder what it all means?” Learning what it meant made a big difference in my work.

The source of the New Johari Window is CEDAC: A Tool for Continuous Improvement,[1] where Ryuji Fukuda shares it as a tool for identifying causes of process failures. His examples include missed communication, lack of skills, and lack of awareness of what each person knows. The original Johari Window is a visual model of interpersonal communication that can be used for improving communication, created by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingram.[2] The key message is that we all have blind spots and gaps in our knowledge.

  Known to self Not known to self
Known to others  What we both know What you know that I don't know
Not known to others What I know that you don't know What we both don't know

With the insight that there is a difference between what we know and what we do, Fukuda applied this model to process improvement and developed the New Johari Window. Let’s walk through the key areas using Fukuda’s number system with Rona Consulting Group’s color-coding:

Zone 1: (orange) One of us knows something that the other person needs to know but doesn’t. This could be a missed handoff, an assumption that someone had the needed information, or a new perspective.

Zone 2: (yellow) One or both of us don’t practice the standard work. It could be that we don’t know it, it doesn’t work, or there is another barrier. We remind each other.

Zone 3: (green) We both know and practice. This is where we all understand the standard work, we practice it, and we consistently get the intended results.

Zone 4: (red) We both don’t know the standard. This is when a process is unstable or an innovation is desired and we’re going to move beyond what we currently know.

This concept of there being a difference between what we know and what we practice was impactful for me when we were implementing standard work for a new software application. We realized that we had a high error rate and were struggling with the new process. Applying the general principles of the New Johari Window, we decided to use a buddy system—each person observing and being observed to ensure all the steps were followed. When we coached each other in the practice of the new process (Zone 2 – yellow), we improved performance, customer satisfaction, and employee morale. Even with our time away from the work doing the observing, the team had record high production for the quarter.

Fukuda gave an example of an engineer knowing something that another team didn’t know. We had a similar example where we applied window analysis to understand a problem with performance of an instrument. A customer found that an upgraded machine they had received was not working properly. But when the Quality Department got the machine back in house for testing, it worked fine. Using the New Johari Window, we put the client at the top and the Quality Department on the left side. Talking through and then directly observing, we learned that the Quality Department had a standard of aligning the instrument after it was shipped; but customers didn’t have this standard. This put us in Zone 1 (upper right) with a solution of training the customer (or, from the customer’s perspective, “you train me”). This solution worked great! After testing it a couple of times we moved to Zone 2 (yellow); it became a known standard that was routinely practiced – moving us to Zone 3 (green).

Applying the principles and the analysis of the New Johari Window helped us understand what each person knew and practiced so we could improve our processes, deliver better quality, and improve the work experience. A key concept to keep in mind when applying window analysis is respect for people. The term I learned is “soft on people, hard on the process.” Window analysis is not an audit of people doing their work to the standard, it’s an analysis of what is or isn’t working within a process so that it can be resolved. The resolution might include training and coaching, which is how people can build their capabilities.

Thinking about your work situation, where is there an opportunity to apply the principles of the New Johari Window to improve the work? Is there a missed handoff between teams? Is the incoming material not meeting quality? Is there a customer complaint? Maybe applying window analysis could help.

[1] Fukuda, Ryuji. CEDAC: a tool for continuous improvement (Portland OR: Productivity Press, 1989).

[2] Luft, J.; Ingham, H. "The Johari window, a graphic model of interpersonal awareness." Proceedings of the western training laboratory in group development (Los Angeles: UCLA, 1955).