Is Kaizen the Underlying Culture of Lean? 0

As much as Leader Standard Work is the organizational structure to develop and sustain a Lean Organization, Kaizen is the underlying culture. I recommend reading Chapters 1, 2 and 8 through 10 in The Toyota Way Fieldbook. I believe this will provide a bridge between Leader Standard Work and Kaizen.

In a podcast with the authors of Healthcare Kaizen: Engaging Front-Line Staff in Sustainable Continuous Improvements, I asked co-author Mark Graban…

Joe: Does the book introduce Kaizen at a pretty basic level for everybody to understand?

Mark: It really does. We say it’s change, but the word “Kaizen,” if you break it down into its two Japanese root words, “kai” means change and “zen” means good. It’s not just change. It’s making sure it’s change for the better, and that it’s really an improvement. That’s one of the core fundamental things that we wrote about. Not all changes are good. We need to make sure that we’re following a good, systematic but not overly complicated Plan-Do-Study-Adjust cycle. It comes back to the Deming cycle of not just doing things, but doing things as a test with a hypothesis and making sure, “Did we really get the results that we expected?”

There are three different levels of Kaizen if we follow the Shingo Prize Criteria.

  1. Tool-driven Kaizen: We do a Kaizen event for every improvement. You end up thinking the event solves your problems and in reality the effectiveness is pretty limited.
  2. System-driven Kaizen: Common for most people and highlighted in the book “Learning to See”. These are Kaizen events and improvement projects that are related to, values for improvement plans.
  3. Principa-driven Kaizen: This is system-driven Kaizen plus daily Kaizen. This is really where you get empowered, and engage people. This is the true meaning of Kaizen where it is done each and every day. It doesn’t have to be a big Kaizen event. It could be something as simple as; “I want to move this particular file from point A to point B.”

I have had the fortune to discuss intimately with several people that I consider “leaders” in the world of Kaizen and Kaizen events. I will quote them quite extensively through the next several daysi and encourage you to listen to the podcasts or read the transcriptions that are contained in the following pages. In the next pages, I will start with the Kaizen Culture and finish with events. I will also include material from Patrick Lencioni. His material, I believe supports Kaizen and Kaizen cultures without the connotation of “Lean” and Toyota in its verbage.

The definitive source on Kaizen is a book written by Masaaki Imai, Kaizen: The Key To Japan’s Competitive Success.

Marketing with PDCA (More Info): Targeting what your Customer Values is a moving target and the principles of Lean and PDCA facilitates the journey to Customer Value.


Developing Fast Competitive Cycles 0

The resurgence or maybe recognition of the use of the The OODA Loop as a basis for much of the current ideas surrounding Iterations, Rapid Development Cycles and Decision Making. What makes the OODA Loop such a popular subject? When we first think of the OODA Loop we think of fast competitive cycles needed by a fighter pilot to gain a differential advantage. Is that the reason?

OODA LoopA little more insight was provided several years ago in an article, The Strategy of the Fighter Pilot written by: Keith H. Hammonds for Fast Company. An excerpt from the article:

Business is a dogfight. Your job as a leader: Outmaneuver the competition, respond decisively to fast-changing conditions, and defeat your rivals. That’s why the OODA loop, the brainchild of “40 Second” Boyd, an unconventional fighter pilot, is one of today’s most important ideas in battle or in business.

Bower and Hout’s classic example — and one that Boyd also studied — was Toyota, which designed its organization to speed information, decisions, and materials through four interrelated cycles: product development, ordering, plant scheduling, and production. Self-organized, multifunctional teams at Toyota, they observed, developed products and manufacturing processes in response to demand, turning out new models in just three years compared with Detroit’s cycle of four or five.

Systems like Toyota’s worked so well, Boyd argued, because of schwerpunkt, a German term meaning organizational focus. Schwerpunkt, Boyd wrote, “represents a unifying medium that provides a directed way to tie initiative of many subordinate actions with superior intent as a basis to diminish friction and compress time.” That is, employees decide and act locally, but they are guided by a keen understanding of the bigger picture.

In effective organizations, schwerpunkt connects vibrant OODA loops that are operating concurrently at several levels. Workers close to the action stick to tactical loops, and their supervisors travel in operational loops, while leaders navigate much broader strategic and political loops. The loops inform each other: If everything is clicking, feedback from the tactical loops will guide decisions at higher loops and vice versa.

It has been noted in the latest work by such authors as Bll Dettmer, The Logical Thinking Process: A Systems Approach to Complex Problem Solving and Don Reinertsen, The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development. Even more popular use of Boyd’s OODA Loop is the Lean Startup by Eric Reis and his influential writings on the Customer Development Cycle utilizing the OODA Loop as a basis.

Dr. Terry Barnhart, the Senior Director Strategy and Continuous Improvement at Pfizer Global R&D discussed the OODA Loop in a Business901 Podcast, Applying the OODA Loop to Lean. We expand this theory into some practical applications. One of the takeaways from the conversation is using the OODA Loop outside of rapid deployment. The use of it he expresses is in the adaption of it through the uses of various time cycles.

In the most common use of the OODA Loop, adaption is rather direct. At the strategic level it involves around adjusting procedures, systems, processes and ideology. Boyd advocated an agile cellular organization with some explicit control mechanism and feedback loops but one more reliant on common frames of reference and shared ideas. He always contended that Command was about clarity of ones goals and philosophies versus the traditional form of command and control thought of it in a hierarchy structure. I enjoy the description that Frans Osinga discusses in his book Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd (Strategy and History), (highly recommend – not an easy read though) is that “Higher Command must shape the Decision Space of subordinate commanders.“ Actually, that is a pretty good description of Standard Work, is it not?

Related Posts:
Key Marketing Concepts from the Korean War
Boyd’s Law of Iteration: Speed beats Quality :

One of my favorite Leadership videos.


SDCA & PDCA Are Needed For EDCA 0

SDCA and PDCA prepare you to maximize EDCA or Design. I like to use the term EDCA learned from Graham Hill to designate the Explore aspect of Lean. I view it as more of Design Type thinking content that allows for that collaborative learning cycle with a customer.

Design and Innovation takes place outside the four walls and Lean can be the methodology of choice. It drives both the Little i and the Big I. The first and foremost reason is that it allows for the 1st step of innovation, the little i. Lean is the primary driver for the little i – PDCA. As a result, it allows for that culture to spread and create the DNA for the BIG I. Without Lean and the little i, you may never start!


From Tina Seelig’s book inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity:

Below is the fully functional Innovation Engine, showing how all the parts are braided together. Innovation EngineThe inside of the engine is intertwined with the outside; and the factors on the inside and outside mirror each other. All the parts of your Innovation Engine are inexorably connected and deeply influence one another.

  • Your attitude sparks your curiosity to acquire related knowledge.
  • Your knowledge fuels your imagination, allowing you to generate innovative ideas.
  • Your imagination catalyzes the creation of stimulating habitats, leveraging the resources in your environment.
  • These habitats, along with your attitude, influence the culture in your community.

Essentially, creativity is an endless resource, initiated by your drive to tackle challenges and to seize opportunities. Anything and everything can spark your Innovation Engine —every word, every object, every decision, and every action. Creativity can be enhanced by honing your ability to observe and learn, by connecting and combining ideas, by reframing problems, and by moving beyond the first right answers. You can boost your creative output by building habitats that foster problem solving, crafting environments that support the generation of new ideas, building teams that are optimized for innovation, and contributing to a culture that encourages experimentation.

You hold the keys to your Innovation Engine and have creative genius waiting to be unleashed. By tapping into this natural resource, you have the power to overcome challenges and generate opportunities of all dimensions. Your ideas—big and small—are the critical starting point for innovations that propel us forward. Without creativity, you are trapped in a world that is not stagnant, but one that slips backwards. As such, we are each responsible for inventing the future. Turn the key.

The little “i” provided through SDCA and PDCA defined as the Lean Culture will stimulate the knowledge, imagination, and attitude to create something from nothing. You have the skills needed. Creativity, Design and Imagination are all learned practices. Your own Innovation Engine consists of:

  • SDCA: Standard Work that creates a CAN-DO attitude and free up time to spark problem solving.
  • Applying PDCA, allowing you to “see” opportunities for improvement.
  • A Continuous Improvement Culture (Kaizen) catalyzes the creation of stimulating habitats, leveraging the resources in your environment.
  • These habitats, along with your attitude, influence the culture in your community (The Customer Experience will mimic the Employee Experience).

Now that we have prepared ourselves, we can now tackle the big “I” of Innovation.

Review this Slideshow and pay particular attention to the productive section. This is a description of breakthrough improvement or EDCA.


Evolution and the Future of PDCA 0

In the paper, Evolution of PDCA, covered the development of PDCA from the introduction to the scientific method (you could argue between Aristotle or Galileo) to the latest development covered by the paper with the addition of the Model for Improvement published and described in The Improvement Guide. This book was published in 2009. In reading the research paper, I believe somewhere along the line when the Japanese executives recast the Deming wheel at the 1950 JUSE seminar into the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle till now, we lost that all important external outlook of PDCA to one of an internally focused improvement methodology. In the book, Kaizen: The Key To Japan’s Competitive Success, Masaaki Imai shows the correlation between the Deming wheel and the PDCA cycle in Figure 5 developed at the seminar.

  1. Design – Plan: Product design corresponds to the planning phase of management
  2. Production – Do: Production corresponds to doing-making, or working on the
    product that was designed
  3. Sales – Check: Sales figures confirm whether the customer is satisfied
  4. Research – Action: In case of a complaint being filed, it has to be incorporated into the planning phase, and action taken for the next round of efforts

In the paper, Evolution of the PDCA Cycle, it goes on to state:

By the 1960’s the PDCA cycle in Japan had evolved into an improvement cycle and a
management tool. Lilrank and Kano state the 7 basic tools (check sheet, histograms,
Pareto chart, fishbone diagram, graphs, scatter diagrams, and stratification) highlight the
central principle of Japanese quality.

I believe that somewhere between these two points the Check stage of PDCA due to the introduction of the 7 Quality Tools became internally focused and developed along that path during the years of process improvement.

In the last decade we have evolved from the processed driven culture of the 90’s through Customer Centric to the new culture of User Centric.The scientific method and PDCA works. As a result it adapts and evolves with time. A measure of that is the popularity of Eric Ries and the Lean Startup with the use of Build – Measure – Learn. Also the latest evolvement of Design Thinking and more specifically the Service Design field highlighted in my post, Can Service Design increase Customer demand? has help established a basis (along with Toyota) for EDCA (Explore-Do-Check_Act).

In addition to our thinking, we must change our tool set. We need a complimentary tool set which was outlined in a previous post, Continuous Improvement Sales and Marketing Toolset. I am not saying that we throw away the 7 Quality Tools but we do not use them in the early stages of customer development. They are more useful in the Standardization process and therefore the SDCA cycle. This is a list of the 7 basic Quality Tools to be used in SDCA:

  1. Cause-and-effect diagram
  2. Check sheet
  3. Control charts
  4. Histogram
  5. Pareto chart
  6. Scatter diagram
  7. Stratification

In 1976, the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) saw the need for tools to promote innovation, communicate information and successfully plan major projects. A team researched and developed the seven new quality control tools, often called the seven management and planning (MP) tools, or simply the seven management tools. This is the set that I propose to be used in PDCA (guess which book you will receive next):

  1. Affinity diagram
  2. Relations diagram
  3. Tree diagram
  4. Matrix diagram:
  5. Matrix data analysis
  6. Arrow diagram
  7. Process decision program chart (PDPC)

Today’s world has introduced more and more uncertainty. As a result it has forced us to get closer and closer to our customers. This reduces are reaction time and allows us to make better informed decisions. This methodology has been introduced to us through the concepts of Design Thinking.

  1. Visualization
  2. Journey Mapping
  3. Value Chain Analysis
  4. Mind Mapping
  5. Brainstorming
  6. Concept Development
  7. Assumption Testing
  8. Rapid Prototyping
  9. Customer Co-Creation
  10. Learning Launch

These tools are not meant to be limiting or inclusive to the above cycles mentioned. Tools must be used as needed. However, through the process of defining your tool set it will assist you in understanding the cycles of continuous improvement. You may have already read Chapter 17 in The Toyota Way Fieldbook if not Chapters 13 thru 16 are great follow up  material.

Implementing PDCA 0

In Franklin Covey’s, The 4 Disciplines of Execution,  they use the term the “Whirlwind” in the same manner as I think about Standard Work. As they describe operating outside the whirlwind (SDCA) think of that as PDCA or EDCA depending on if you are looking for incremental or breakthrough type improvement. You have to allocate a certain amount of time to build a PDCA culture. Many consultants will tell you that this is the culture and should be instilled in way you go about your work. I agree but this will not happen without making is a habit first. One of the reasons maybe that I like the 4 Disciplines is that they are closely related to the practice of PDCA. It is PDCA without calling it PDCA. In fact, I cannot remember in any Lean Engagement that I did not cover this material.

The 4 disciplines can be summarized:

  1. (Plan) Focus on the Wildly Important (WIG): Execution starts with focus. Focus on the one or two goals that will make all the difference, instead of giving mediocre effort to dozens of goals.
  2. (Do) Act on the Lead Measures: Apply a disproportionate amount of energy to the activities that drive these lead measures. In this way, your team is creating the present while focused on the WIG.
  3. (Check) Keep a Compelling Scoreboard: If you know the score all the time, people will be engaged.
  4. (Act) Create a Cadence of Accountability: A frequent recurring cycle of accounting for past performance and planning to move the score forward. Great teams operate with a high level of accountability.

One of my takeaways from the book was this statement: “Accountability means making the personal commitments to the entire team to move the scores forward and then following through in a discipline way.’ Closely resembling a past blog post, Kaizen is Always Individual.

Dan Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is an excellent description of modern day Lean practices. Just using the example of Mastery from the book will give you an idea on how powerful of a process Lean actually is. I would encourage you to visit the Mastery chapter in Dan Pink’s Drive book for more background. He states that mastery is based on three laws:

  1. Mastery is a mindset
  2. Mastery is a Pain
  3. Mastery is an Asymptote

He also states that flow is essential to mastery: “But flow doesn’t guarantee mastery—because the two concepts operate on different horizons of time. One happens in a moment; the other unfolds over months, years, sometimes decades. You and I each might reach flow tomorrow morning—but neither one of us will achieve mastery overnight.” In Lean terminology, I can restate these same three laws this way:

  1. Lean is a culture
  2. Lean is grounded in Standard Work
  3. Lean is an Ideal

We also think of Lean in terms of creating flow. But just as flow does not guarantee mastery, flow does not allow us to become Lean. Flow happens along the way of becoming Lean. Many people think they are Lean companies once they have done 5S, Value Stream Mapping or held a few Kaizen Events. The truth is just like mastering anything, it does not happen overnight.

Why does it take so long? Why do so few achieve it? From Dan Pink again: “Mastery is a pain.” That is why it seldom is done. When implementing Lean, most people draw the wrong conclusion and assume it is Leadership. They blame leadership as being shortsighted. This view is not only wrong; it is dead wrong. Our primary problem is not leadership but a long standing culture that is engrained within our organizations. It’s the way we do things. But worse it is also the way others help us do things. The outside forces that surround us to include vendors, customers and for that matter our entire supply chain simply supports the way we have always done things. So, not only do we have to create change internally but externally as well. It is not only a pain but it has to be someone else’s pain.

What does work is the same thing for both people and organizations. It is the scientific process of trial and error. You don’t get it right at first, you have to break habits, personal habits as an individual and company cultures as an organization. Successful companies do it a little bit at a time. In Lean, we call this scientific method PDCA. We plan, do it, check the results and adjust. It is a purposeful experimentation.

In the book, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success the authors created a strategic, step-by-step guide to breaking longstanding bad habits introduce a system for adopting-and sticking to-better behaviors. I found the work paralleling Lean in many of its approaches and put Lean practices in parenthesis. Their strategy is based on four simple steps:

  1. Identify Crucial Moments (Identify Value)
  2. Create Vital Behaviors (Map Value Stream)
  3. Engage All Six Sources of Influence (Create Flow – Enable Pull)
  4. Turn Bad Days into Good Data (Seek Perfection – PDCA)


Try out your first PDCA Effort

Download a PDF of My First PDCA

Download updated version of S&M in Lean Workbook

We use PDCA to provide a flexible structure and create a team with shared responsibility and authority for a successful outcome. The plan is in creating an effective way for teams to work, create, share and capture knowledge during the sales cycle. It has been said that less than 20% of the knowledge within a company is captured. PDCA is an effective methodology that can be utilized to counteract this. It is first and foremost a learning tool that emphasizes the creation, sharing and capturing of knowledge. It is also a people process that emphasizes learning by doing and as a result focuses on making things happen.

People can be participating on one type of team, two or all three teams. Even though it is hard to imagine that there would not be both SDCA and PDCA in everyone’s job, there may not be EDCA. Or, it may only be on an infrequent basis. What I encourage though is that the time spent is clearly defined with emphasis on handling one hour of PDCA a week as there is thirty hours of SDCA. It should be a very fluid process. I am not trying to split hairs about time just trying to reinforce a point.

One of the key considerations in developing a team is to determine the objective of the cycle. Is it primarily problem resolution, creativity, or tactical execution? Team structure needs to be considered as well as the participants. You will find a variety of structures will work for you, but the typical model is one of a business team that has a team leader, and all others are on equal footing. Many times the team leader is really just a participant but has the administrative work as an added responsibility.

Think about the kind of team needed: Tactical execution(SDCA), Problem Resolution (PDCA), and Creativity (EDCA). Separate the sessions so people know which hat they are wearing when. Without this process, you may have creative teams working on tactical execution or on the other hand a problem-solving team working on a creative solution.

Once you’ve identified the team’s broadest objective—problem resolution, creativity, or tactical execution—then you set up a team structure that emphasizes the characteristic that is most important for that kind of team. For a problem-resolution team, you emphasize trust for a creativity team, autonomy, and for a tactical-execution team, clarity. Listed below is an outline identifying the team structures (adapted from Teamwork and the Rapid Development books):

Problem-resolution team:

  1. Objective: Focuses on solving a complex, poorly defined problems.
  2. Dominant Feature: Trust
  3. Sales Process Example: Sales inquiry for proposal
  4. Process emphasis: Focus on issues
  5. Lifecycle Models: Try and Fix, spiral
  6. Team Members: Intelligent, street-smart, people-sensitive, high integrity
  7. Team Models: Business team, professional athletic team, search and rescue, SWAT


A Good Feedback Cycle has the Appearance of Causing Problems 0

Review this Slideshow and pay particular attention to the re-productive section. This is a description of incremental improvement or PDCA.

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of the Check stage of PDCA or the feedback mechanism that you use in the iteration. James O. Coplein, author of the Lean Architecture: for Agile Software Development states, “A good feedback cycle has the appearance of causing problems. It will cause emergent and latent requirements to surface. That means rework: the value of prototypes is that they push this rework back into analysis, where it has more value. And most important, good end user engagement changes end user expectations. It is only by participating in a feedback loop that’s grounded in reality that customers get the opportunity they need to reflect on what they’re asking for. If your customer changes their expectations in the process, you’ve both learned something. Embracing change doesn’t just mean reacting to it: it means providing the catalysts that accelerate it.”

Jim’s book proved a complete framework for building a Lean culture without ever calling it that. In a podcast with him, we talked about the evolution and interpretation of Lean and/or Toyota Production System (TPS) and their relationship with Scrum. It is interesting how they complement each other. In one sense, it is interesting how Scrum is hardly more than a PDCA cycle. But on the other hand, it is an enhancement of the PDCA cycle in the spirit of teamwork and flow.

A Note on the Knowledge Creation PDCA Cycle:

  1. In the first stage, Plan is defined as companies connecting in a new way to bring new knowledge. This connection may have occurred through the web, conferences, experiences or research. It is the accumulation stage where the organizations share their knowledge and determine the next learning opportunity.
  2. In the 2nd stage, Do is defined as converting the new knowledge needed in processes, practice, material and culture to each organization. In this stage, the company intends to distribute and utilize knowledge between the experts in service, IT, supply, finance, etc. to assure value is delivered between companies. The goal is to create an all for one, one for all approach.
  3. In the 3rd stage, Check is the measurement of understanding. We do not only evaluate the knowledge shared but the process and workflow. Creating the flow of knowledge and optimizing the interactions typically becomes the most valued part of the interaction. Simple questions are asked such as: What are we here to do? What are we learning? Who will do what by when? How are we doing? What needs more of our attention?
  4. In the 4th stage, Act is the application of knowledge and interaction is transformed into competitive advantage. Utilization and reutilization of these components on real problems and the ability to deliver the product/service as required is answered here. This cycle may only be one step in a multiple-decision-making process or at the point of a purchase decision.

It is worth repeating: PDCA should be repeatedly implemented in spirals of increasing knowledge of the system that converge on the ultimate goal, each cycle closer than the previous. This approach is based on the belief that our knowledge and skills are limited, but improving. Especially at the start of a project, key information may not be known; the PDCA provides feedback to justify our guesses (hypotheses) and increase our knowledge.


The Fundamental Idea of Iteration (PDCA) is Learning 0

“The fundamental idea of iteration (PDCA) is learning. To eschew PDCA is not only arrogant; it is inefficient & often ineffective,” says Shoji Shiba author of Four Practical Revolutions in Management : Systems for Creating Unique Organizational Capability.

The Lean practice of PDCA is ideal for learning and creating knowledge activities. Following this process it allows individuals and teams to recognize and take advantage of opportunities, make decisions faster, and be more responsive to customers. As part of the PDCA cycle you get feedback on the action from listening to customers and the companies’ measurement systems. Having information, taking informed action and getting feedback is part of the natural PDCA cycle. And effectiveness comes from using and taking advantage of all your resources.

When we think of problem solving, we tend to think of a linear progression. PDCA is an iterative process. As we go around the PDCA circle, we improve our knowledge to a point that they we either continue or standardize the work. We can also view the PDCA cycle as a funnel where tighter iterations or the increase in knowledge and collaboration takes place. Repeated use of PDCA makes it possible to improve the quality of the communication, the methodology itself, and the results.

Once set in motion, this process should be an ongoing one, allowing constant interactions between the parties involved. In a learning arena, individuals expand their own knowledge through a “knowledge spiral” (Osterloh and Wubker. 1999). This process has the specific intention of fostering a collective vision among the participants. This vision can assist the development of new solutions for problems in specific subject areas – in this case, the ways in which we deal with the problems our customers are facing and our ability to adjust to new goals and objectives.

During the first stage (Plan) of the PDCA Cycle, the participants interact to appraise the customer needs and information on the subject is made available to all participants, who add it to their own knowledge and experience, and alter this in the light of the new information.

During the second stage (Do), the “influence stage”, participants make critical analysis of their own products/services in light of the new knowledge they have acquired; this broadens their understanding of each other’s needs and abilities. The aim of this stage is to make individuals receptive to new ideas and action. This is maybe the most difficult stage because you have to be receptive to each other’s views and be willing to accept a fresh understanding to solve problems in a new way.

The third stage (Check) is a more intimate stage. An explanation or demonstration of participants’ new level of understanding is essential, measurement. These results that are produced actually can be used and adapted.

The fourth stage (Act) is the act of either continuing down the spiral to another iteration of tighter focus and a more intense cycle deciding that more knowledge is required at this level. Or, that the countermeasures have been introduced and we can standardize for the present time. Think of the spiral as a continuous puzzle of interactions building an ever increasing knowledge of the defined problem for the cycle.

At the 2011 ASQ Lean and Six Sigma Conference, one of the featured speakers was Ari Weinzweig, CEO and co-founding partner of Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (ZCoB) has annual sales approaching $40 million. ZingTrain, a consulting and training company that shares Zingerman’s approach to business with like-minded organizations from around the world, and offers a variety of management training seminars in Ann Arbor, as well as customized workshops and presentations at client sites. I wanted to share my personal experience of Zingerman’s Deli. Besides the great food and great service and catalog littered with special gifts and even more unique food, Zingerman left a special mark on a venture into the retail business that my wife and I did for six years. It was Ari’s book,Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service, that provided our outline for the service that we would provide and train our staff. Below is a mind map of the initial outline that I constructed from the book and what I would call the Zingerman PDCA.

Zingerman Good Service A