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Is Kata a Methodology or a way of Thinking

Oscar Roche believes the long term success of any business lies in the development of people capability. It is this belief, combined with extensive
operations management experience, that permits him to add value to any organization he works with. Oscar is is the Director of Training Within Industry Institute in Australia and my guest in tomorrows podcast. Oscar Roche

One of my favorite questions at the end of the podcast, is what did I miss? I asked that of Oscar and was not disappointed with his answer.

Joe:   Is there something maybe you’d like to add that I didn’t ask you?

Oscar: We’ve got to be careful, we’ve got to be careful that we don’t make the same mistakes with Kata and TWI and those other things that are around and just then become a brand if you like and a tool, and understand that what they are — and one of the things I’ve spoken to Mike Rother in emails is one of the things I remember him saying to me was that Toyota Kata is not a methodology. It’s a pattern of thinking; it’s a way of thinking. One of the fears I have and what I’m seeing now in the development of Kata is it’s being marketed and sold as a methodology and one of my understandings from Mike a couple of years ago was that it was not his intent. His intent is to get people to the point where it’s a habitual way of thinking through whenever you have a problem. What’s my target condition? Where am I now? What’s in my way? What have I got to do to remove it? PDCA.

JI and JR are the same. We have these pocket cards for JR. I’m not expecting someone who’s very practiced in JR to be picking up a pocket card every five minutes. What I want them to do is become very practiced in the habit so that they daily they are practicing those four foundations without even realizing they’re doing it. And then when JR needs to be applied, innately they think, “Oh hang on, what’s my objective here? What do I know about this? What are the facts? What are my options? I could do this, this or this. Yes, that doesn’t contradict company practices and policies. Okay, now I’m going to go out and do it.”

So we’re not expecting through any of these that people have pocket cards and tools for the rest of their life. What we’re expecting in these fundamentals become innate, and I think we’ve got to be careful we don’t lose sight of that and we don’t brand these things and they join the list of all the other Lean tools that are out there.

So which is it, a way of thinking or a methodology?

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Is there a connection between Kata and TWI?

I asked Pat Boutier, co-author of The 7 Kata: Toyota Kata, TWI, and Lean Training, that question and below was his reply.  The book received the Shingo Award for Research and Professional Publications from the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence. It discusses the blend of Training within Industry (TWI) with Kata in a very unique way.

Related Podcast and Transcription: The Why and How of the 7 KAta

Joe: Pat, what is that connection between Training Within Industry and the Toyota Kata?

Pat: Well Training Within Industry, the history of that was a program that came to fruition in World War II actually by government consultants to make the industry in the United States extremely productive to meet the war effort. There are articles and papers that talk about it being the largest experiment in the world ever for consulting programs and the most effective one. Most people, when they hear about TWI know about Job Instruction; how to teach people a job so that they learn it and can do it, and that was extremely effective in World War II and many companies talk about how they became very productive and shortening the learning curve. They also then of course used the Job Relations for teaching new people and evolve in the industry how to deal with people issues, how to handle a problem involving people, and then use the job methods to learn how to improve the existing manpower machines and materials available, rather than trying to come up with something that would be extremely costly or not.

All those three major programs were created following the Charles Allen 4-Step Learning Process, and it was very, very effective. All the companies or I shouldn’t say all, but a tremendous amount of companies in the United States used it and it was brought over to the UK and many other countries during the war and after the war. Now it fell out of favor in the United States after the war and there’s a lot of discussions about why and the one that seems to have the most tractions, basically, United States have this huge engine of productivity and could make products that the rest of the world needed. So it didn’t matter how well or how much it was, plus they had a growing workforce because all the military people were coming back into the workforce, so it just absorbed it and it produced like crazy, and in a sense they didn’t really care anymore about the particulars. They could sell everything they could produce, and so they did.

Japan was wondering how the hell America was so successful, and their industry was devastated with the end of the war. MacArthur and other people brought Deming, and a whole bunch of other people, including people that were very much the beginners of TWI in the United States over to Japan, then trained in Job Instruction, Job Relations and Job Methods. There’s a lot of history that goes through it and describes that and talks about different people who, people in the Lean philosophy and Lean organizations will recognize, but the importance was they took it to heart, and they took it as how to make better habits. I think that’s where the connection with the Kata comes in, is we have never thought of TWI as Kata’s. We kind of thought of them as habits but we haven’t really talked about it that way. When Mike Rother shows that really the basics of Lean in Toyota is about habits and repeating them and then that’s how people actually learn, it made sense to us that that’s really what TWI was, is giving people new habits that are in a sense simplistic, in that it’s easy to follow the basic pattern. From that you’re able to easily enlarge it and make it strong and learn from it and adapt it to new things. That’s where Conrad and I saw the connection for us is that the Improvement Kata, the Coaching Kata and what we call a Problem Solving Kata from Toyota Kata, are just like the Kata’s in TWI. They’re all habits. They’re all prescribed or proscribed habits that follow this pattern and repeat this pattern, so you’re doing it by habit, and you can adapt it and make things different, and make a difference.

Related Podcast and Transcription: The Why and How of the 7 KAta

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Lean, Middle Managers, Toyota Kata

My blog through the years has discussed the interaction Middle Management needs to have in a Lean Transformation. I have always thought the key to a Lean Journey or Transformation resided in Middle Management, Can Lean be driven by Middle Management?  It was also discussed in this blog, If less than 1% of companies are successful with Lean. I have always thought this component was more important than Leadership in the success. In these discussions, I have seldom found many sympathetic supporters and have just accepted it was one of those odd things I believed in.

Mike Rother is an undisputable leader and expert on the subject of Toyota Kata. His work in Toyota Kata is documented in his book Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results. In my recent foray into Toyota Kata, I ran across this video that actually lends a little credence to my thoughts of Lean and Middle Managers. in it he basically makes the argument that the Lean community should view middle managers as its customers. In it he says middle managers may have more influence on an organization’s performance than any other group.

 What are you thoughts?

How does your thinking align?

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Interfacing Agile with Conventional Projects

Excerpt from a recent Podcast with Jon M. Quigley PMP CTFL a principal and founding member of Value Transformation, a product development training and cost improvement organization established in 2009. He has nearly twenty five years of product development experience, ranging from embedded hardware and software through verification and project management.

From the podcast:

Joe:  Well you’ve actually used Agile in verification and interface it with conventional projects, how did you do that?

Jon Q:   Well what we did is in that instance that was a regulatory project. The talent on deck was fairly seasoned. In this case, we put the specs out, as in we knew what the specs were for the scope of the project, and then assigned — I actually had the team pick based on their talent area the pieces of the specifications that belonged where. There were a hundred different requirements and documents; it was more than 3,000 different test cases. For example, you have a guy testing on a truck, you have a lady testing on the hardware and the loop rig, those kind of things.

They would divide the specs up according to what was best for what spot and here’s the concept of self-directed work team; I did not dictate that. I was more like a scrum master. Okay, here’s what’s on deck. Here are the most important parts, the highest priority things we need to verify. Let’s divide this up and let’s start working it. And we actually had a burned-down chart of the number of test cases per each spec. It didn’t quite work out like a burned-down chart in that it was not over two or four weeks, it was more like a six-week period based on the amount of time we thought it would take to do the entire system.

They got divided up, they ran the test cases, we convened every morning and talked about the three things: what did you do yesterday, what are you going to do today, and what’s in the way? I tracked down, they tracked what they did for test cases, and we plotted that on our burned-down chart, that’s like a burned-up chart I think in that the slope was positive and not negative, instead of ours it was number of test cases conducted.

But they were all kind of elements, stolen if you would from Agile. And this part, this part of the project interfaced with a conventional, more staged gate, definitely a Waterfall kind of project. And every day or two, I would give them, the chief project manager the result of the test cases. As in, here’s our planned course, our ramped up test case per day executed, here’s what we actually did, and here’s what we found in terms of problems and that’s not necessarily an Agile thing, that’s just a test thing.

Related Podcast or Transcription: Discussing Project Methods

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Can Things Be This simple – 4 Steps

4 Step ProcessIf we go back the Charles Allen, 4-Step Process, through Shewart’s PDCA Cycle (later referred to as the Deming Cycle), we discovered a simple process for learning. In the middle of this Training within Industry, TWI, was founded.   This is not rocket science. It is not new. It is simply a proven method that works. In an upcoming podcast with Oscar Roche,  Director of Training within Industry Institute in Australia our conversation continued at the end of the podcast.

Joe:   All right, I’ll cut it there. Thank you very much! You nailed it. I couldn’t have had a better podcast about Job Relations.

Oscar:  That’s good. I believe in it very strongly and the more I practice it and the more I try and help other practice it, the more I believe in it. You know you just see the change in like people who do it well, you can see the change.

Joe:   When you were talking about get the objective, I laughed because I have that pinned up next to me. I remind myself to do that before I schedule a meeting; get the objective.

Oscar:  Yes and again none of this stuff is rocket science. It’s not new, and it’s not rocket science. I think in some ways – I probably should have said this, in some ways that’s its own worst enemy, because people look at it and I’ve had situations where particularly HR people look at it and say, “Hang on, just four foundations and a four-step method on a pocket card. It can’t be that simple…” Well, hang on, maybe it is. Don’t complicate something that doesn’t need complicating.

Joe:   I agree with you. I think the simplicity of it and the breadth of it is so interesting because like I mentioned; “It’s exactly the same way as gamification. We’re looking at how to gamify this and gamify this in sales and marketing. And as I was saying about SaaS companies with onboarding programs. Let’s just get to the basics. Let’s look at TWI and let’s just look at the basics. My most successful programs have really been the ones that have concentrated on these basic processes.”

Oscar:    That’s right.

Joe:   I’m really intrigued by it.

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How to Apply the 7 Kata

The book, The 7 Kata: Toyota Kata, TWI, and Lean Training, was published in 2012 and authored by Pat Boutier and Conrad Soltero. Pat BoutierIt received the Shingo Award for Research and Professional Publications from the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence. It discusses the blend of Training within Industry (TWI) with Kata in a very unique way. The book does not require you to be an expert in both fields, but I would suggest a little background in one of the mentioned areas.

Pat, originally a Design Engineer, moved into Manufacture Engineering and eventually, an Engineering Manager and Production Manager. He was also a Group General Manager for Tandy Electronics in the Fort Worth area running three different plants making computers and owned his own company for 12 years designing manufacturing vision systems. For the past 10 years, he has worked with TMAC, helping companies get better.

Last week was the first part of this 2-part series: What is the 7 Kata?

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Can Arguments Help in Collaboration?

Joe:   Can argument mapping help in collaboration?

Timo:   Yes, a lot of us are working — as teacher’s we are working with groups of students, and they built together some argument around an issue. Argument mapping does when you present it with a beamer on a screen or something like that, it makes it possible to have a discussion on issues that can be very precise, and that generates something from a shared thinking process. For instance when you’re working with people who have to defend a PhD and they present their Ph.D. or parts of their Ph.D. to the head of dissertation on a map on a screen and people can be very precise in asking questions connected to some claims people make. The fault is it enables having an argument that before all the people involved, it allows to focus on specific issues and you can be very clear about what you are talking and what not because everybody sees the issue involved before their eyes; so it facilitates a process of shared thinking.

Joe:   One of the things you talk about in Rationale is Essay Planning and being able to build an essay, and that’s like somewhat of a step-off than an argument. What’s the connection there?

Timo:   In an essay, you try to give a contention, a position to defend the position by giving reasons and objections, etcetera and you write it in a form that you hope that the readers of your essay will comprehend what you are saying or what your logical structure is in your argument and have fun reading. Every teacher of writing will explain to you that you should think first before you start writing. What you’re doing in an argument map is making visual your thinking in an argument map, and when you’ve done that, you can export your arguments map into prose by using the essay function within Rationale. And then you have the hardcore of your essay is available within Word or whatever editor you use, and you can build your essay around the argument map you have been exporting. So what you’re doing is, first you think about a subject and you come to a position, you build an argument around it and you think, well this is okay, this is really a good argument for a position you want to defend or to do research in and only then you export it as a text file to your editor, and then you have to edit, the bone structure of your essay is ready, and then you can fill it in, flash it out with all kind of details, background information, things that are fun to read. But the hardcore of your essay, you’ll be making first.

These comments were from a podcast that I had with Timo ter Berg is the CEO of Critical Thinking. They help people visualize and organize their thoughts combining innovative graphic display tools with the latest research on how to make complex thinking more organized and accessible. They host several products called Rationale and bCisive which can be found at http://www.reasoninglab.com.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Organizing Complexity

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