In Clarity First, Karen provides methods and insights for achieving clarity to unleash potential, innovate at higher levels, and solve the problems that matter to deliver outstanding business results. Eliminating ambiguity is the first step for leaders and organizations to achieve strategic goals. Learn how to gain the clarity needed to make better decisions, lead more effectively, and boost organizational performance.


  • How many of us have felt the tension of the boss asking, “So are we all on the same page?” Just once I wanted to ask, “Which page, boss?” The whiteboard, the e- mail summary, the yellow pad? That kind of ambiguity ruled my early work life and led to my deep professional disillusionment. I later learned, and Karen Martin shows us in Clarity First, it doesn’t have to be that way! For me, joy and clarity are inexorably linked as clarity leads not only to getting things done but getting the right things done right, and thus a chance to “work with pride,” as W. Edwards Deming suggested was all that anyone wants from their work life. Karen Martin provides us, with Clarity First, the path to this kind of joy.

    Richard Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations and author of Joy, Inc.

  • In a crowded and distracted world, leaders must develop clarity in order to rise above the competition, create better relationships, and grow their business. In this insightful book, Karen Martin gives us a clear vision for clarity.

    Sally Hogshead, New York Times bestselling author of Fascinate and How the World Sees You

  • Imagine the insanity of driving your car through a torrential downpour without windshield wipers. Far too often business leaders drive their company in this very way. In Clarity First, Karen Martin gives us a true gift: the organizational equivalent of high performance wiper blades to cut through ambiguity and achieve diamond-like clarity.

    Matthew E. May, author of Winning the Brain Game and The Laws of Subtraction

  • Karen focuses on, dissects, and gives excellent advice on how to address one of the most important weak points of conventional management: the lack of clarity. The need to operate with clarity permeates every aspect of what leaders and organizations do on a daily basis and is vital to be a high performer.

    Jeffrey Liker, bestselling author of The Toyota Way

  • In an effective organization, everybody should know at any given time what is the most important work they can do to contribute to its success, and how well they’re doing at it. However, in many organizations we find a miasma of overwork, poor strategy and communication, ill- defined or inadequate processes, and frustrated employees. In this outstanding book, Karen Martin tackles the biggest dysfunction addressing organizations today—a lack of clarity— and shows how to implement change at every level, supported by her extensive experience and her magisterial command of Lean thinking. This book is essential reading for leaders and managers everywhere.

    Jez Humble, coauthor of The DevOps Handbook, Lean Enterprise, and Continuous Delivery

  • Karen Martin does a masterful job of proving to readers why clarity is the key to outstanding performance, and showing what smart organizations can do to attain and sustain it. She maps a clear path to defining what winning is and how to get there. The chaos- cutting solutions and powerful clarity- enabling practices she shares are keenly relatable and immediately implementable. I was absolutely absorbed by each word, each page, each illuminating example and instructive concept.

    Billy R. Taylor, Director of North America Commercial and Off Highway Manufacturing at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company

  • Karen Martin writes, “Clarity exhibits many qualities, the most important of which are coherence, precision, and elegance.” All are present in her latest book, Clarity First. Karen’s take on this timely and timeless topic is accessible, experience- based, relevant, and actionable. It should be required reading for leaders at all levels of an organization.

    Julie Winkle Giulioni, coauthor of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go

  • Clarity First is a mantra for success—both now and in a future that increasingly rewards clarity and punishes certainty.

    Bob Johansen, PhD, Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for the Future and author of The New Leadership Literacies and Leaders Make the Future

  • Leading in the age of accelerated innovation, complexity, and speed relies on clarity. Clarity of thought, communication, and purpose enables leaders to achieve their desired outcomes, help others exceed their expectations, and create higher performance organizations at scale. In this book, Karen highlights how clarity enables individuals and organizations to experiment, take necessary risks, and improve decision making to discover the breakthrough innovations of ongoing and future success. Clarity First will equip you with concrete capabilities and skills to deal with the uncertainty and ambiguity inherent in innovation — and win.

    Barry O’Reilly, founder and CEO of ExecCamp and coauthor of Lean Enterprise

  • Clarity First provides a much-needed conduit between an organization’s purpose and performance, linking people development and the alignment of their goals across all levels, and helping create an environment where all employees understand their daily work and why they do it. This excellent book paves the path for long-term success and sustainability within any industry.

    Tracey Richardson, founder of Teaching Lean Inc. and coauthor of The Toyota Engagement Equation

  • At the heart of all good decisions and actions lies one of two factors: luck or clarity. We can hope that our employees, colleagues, or managers get lucky, or we can provide them with the information they need to be successful. Clarity is never easy to achieve. Indeed, every company I’ve worked with has had a crisis of clarity. In Clarity First, Karen Martin lays a course to provide a foundation of clarity for your company to build success in from the beginning.

    Jim Benson, author of Personal Kanban

  • Clarity is an essential but far too often overlooked foundation in the quest for success—both for organizations and individuals. Guided by this comprehensive and inspiring book, you will not fail.

    Joakim Ahlström, author of How to Succeed with Continuous Improvement

  • While most of Clarity First focuses on organizational clarity, the chapter that describes how to apply the concepts to the individual— from both personal and professional perspectives—is particularly powerful. As Karen puts it, “Organizational clarity begins with you.” There are books that deal with self- help, and there are books that describe how to improve organizations, but it is, unfortunately, rare to find a book that truly forces the reader to confront the impact he or she directly has on the organization. Reflecting on this can lead to dramatic personal, and then organizational, clarity and improvement.

    Kevin Meyer, cofounder of Gemba Academy and author of The Simple Leader

  • In this terrific book, Karen Martin not only makes the compelling argument that clarity is needed—indeed, key—for success but also offers many practical tips to learn to gain greater clarity in one’s thinking and communicating. In this, clarity is a skill that can be practiced every day to better frame issues for oneself and to engage others and lead one’s business to superior performance. A mustread for any serious manager.

    Michael Ballé, coauthor of The Lean Strategy and The Gold Mine trilogy

  • Nobody ever said, “I don’t need more clarity in my company!” The reality is clarity can be elusive. But Karen Martin makes this essential outcome accessible, actionable, and possible. My favorite part is it’s possible in a totally human way. Brilliant!

    Shawn Murphy, CEO of Switch & Shift and author of The Optimistic Workplace

  • I coincidently finished reading Clarity First the day before going to Toyota Kyushu in South Japan. Although not by design, the timing was perfect and made all the examples described in the book even more vivid and validated during the plant visitation. Examples of the opposite are more abundant and not particular to any country or industry, but consequences are never positive. May this book be a guide for leaders who courageously seek achieving Clarity First.

    Sammy Obara, CEO of

  • So often my work as a CEO is stymied because of confusion, chaos, and miscommunication. Too often these symptoms are not caused by external factors but because of a lack of clarity inside my own organization. In this book, Karen Martin provides a concise road map for how to improve clarity. I’m putting it into practice, and it is working! I know other leaders will benefit from more clarity, too.

    Daniel Wolcott, president and CEO of Adventist Health Lodi Memorial

  • In Clarity First, Karen Martin takes a direct and often tough approach to pierce the clouds of ambiguity in our working world. By citing specific examples in recent business headlines, Karen illuminates the problem of what a lack of clarity can do to financially devastate and damage a company and its reputation. But more than a thorough examination of why a lack of clarity can cause so many serious problems, Karen provides a lucid path to clarity for any organization or individual to follow. Clarity First is a great guide to successfully navigating the challenging waters of today’s uncertain business world.

    Jerry M. Wright, former Chairman of the Board of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence

  • Clarity First is one of those rare books that captures timeless wisdom and makes it accessible to us all. If there is a single allimportant element that is lacking in our organizations, as well as in our personal lives, it is clarity. This book effectively explores why clarity is essential to success, what we can do achieve it, and what steps we need to take to extend it throughout any organization. Bravo, Karen!

    Mike Orzen, coauthor of Lean IT

  • It is quite clear that Karen Martin understands what DePree meant when he said, “the first job of a leader is to define reality.” To paraphrase Lewis Carroll, “If you don’t know where you are going, any path will do.” Karen Martin gets it! She understands, because of many decades of working with top companies, that everyone must be on the same page and be clear on the mission.

    Roger Greaves, former Chairman and founding CEO of Health Net, Inc.

  • Every organization needs a Karen Martin! With deft precision, Karen draws a straight line between clarity, or a lack thereof, to organizational performance. Organizational clarity is a competitive advantage. A must- read packed with invaluable insights and easyto-deploy solutions!

    Virginia Cattaneo, SVP Client Services at a Fortune 500 investment management organization

  • Karen Martin’s Clarity First successfully drives home a point we all need to hear! The clearer we get—in our processes, our org charts, our metrics, and our minds—the better our organizations will run. Let me be clear: we can all benefit from Karen’s in-depth look at what keeps us from getting clear and what we need to do to turn that around. Clarity is a gift, and Karen gives it to us with a wonderful intellectual and emotional generosity.

    Ari Weinzweig, cofounding partner of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses and author of the Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading series

  • Karen Martin identifies a string of problems affecting organizations today: They do not see reality. They accept superficial understanding. They jump to conclusions. They do not investigate further. They tolerate inefficiency and mediocrity. Ultimately, they do not seek clarity. These organizations are at risk for survival. But Karen provides easily understood and necessary remedies, as well as sources and references for further reading, which will help any leader build a truly outstanding organization. Clarity First is an eye-opening and highly worthwhile practical guide for daily work.

    Chote Sophonpanich, Chairman of Green Spot Co. Ltd.

Lack of clarity collectively costs companies, educational institutions, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations billions of dollars per year, says business performance improvement expert Karen Martin in her new book CLARITY FIRST: How Smart Leaders and Organizations Achieve Outstanding Performance.

Karen has seen first-hand how a pervasive lack of clarity strangles business performance.  Drawing on her work with thousands of leaders, she has identified specific areas of focus that dramatically improve organizational performance – what she calls the five Ps:

  • Purpose – Identify and communicate the organization’s true purpose
  • Priorities – Set achievable priorities
  • Process – Design, execute, and manage processes with greater skill to deliver more customer value
  • Performance – Perform at outstanding levels
  • Problem-solving – Build organization-wide problem-solving capabilities

Realizing the myriad benefits that come with organizational clarity requires that leaders be 100 percent clear on the most important, foundational question:  What is their organization’s purpose? Organizations that take the time to ensure team members have a strong connection to purpose, create enthusiastic brand ambassadors who are deeply committed to helping the organization succeed.

To facilitate clarity, leaders must pursue it in their personal interactions and encourage it in their teams.  “Practice and promote clarity every day so that it becomes an ingrained habit,” says Karen.  “Whether you lead a functional area, a project team, an improvement team, or lead the organization as a whole, you can improve your personal embrace of clarity and encourage it operationally and in those people within your realm of influence.”

In today’s rapidly changing business environments clarity has never been more important and yet more overlooked.  Business conditions may be volatile, uncertain, and complex, but leaders can confront those realities more effectively when their strategy is focused on Clarity First.