Marketing with Lean

7-Part Video Series on the Toyota Kata

I wanted to have one collection point for the the 7-part series with Brandon Brown where we discussed the the Toyota Kata. Toyota Kata is documented in Mike Rother’s book Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results. Brandon Brown

The series consists of these 7 videos:

  1. What is Toyota Kata
  2. Using Kata for Alignment
  3. Establishing Target Conditions
  4. Picking the Obstacle to Overcome
  5. Overcoming the Unmovable Obstacle
  6. The Coaching Kata
  7. Putting the Kata to Action

Brandon Brown delivers tangible and sustainable continuous improvement results as a Toyota Kata Coach and Lean Instructor/Facilitator as an Associate for the W3 Group. Since 2006, Brandon has been a Professor of Operations Management at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville teaching courses in the Industrial Engineering department such as Lean Production and Leadership Principles and Practices for the Master of Science in Operations Management degree program. Brandon is a Southeast Region Board Member for the of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence. He is also a Certified John Maxwell Coach, Teacher, and Speaker.

An excerpt from the series:

Joe:   We came here to talk about today was Toyota Kata. You have a lot of experience in that, your W3 Group does, but let’s just start at the basics. Let’s start out with what is Kata?

Brandon: A Kata if I could discuss briefly, just the basis of it, it’s really a routine or I’ve heard it translated as a way of doing, a way of practicing in order to gain skill or to develop a skill. Many times it’s used in the Martial Arts setting; many people will be familiar if they are Martial Arts — or they’ve taken Taekwondo as a kid, you learn forms for blocking and kicking, and you practice them to both learn the proper form but also to teach your muscle memory and to get your brain to thinking in a pattern of learning that particular skill. We do it also in music.

My son is learning to play the violin and music teachers use it and I don’t think they even realize that it’s a Kata. The first thing he taught my son in violin is how to hold the instrument properly, how to hold the bow and have him play all four strings with the proper bow angle to learn that. He then progressed one level up and he taught him how to play the first clause notes by pressing his fingers on to the strings. And eventually, he’s to the point of learning the next step of how to play a song. Now the teacher doesn’t teach him the whole song; just like in Martial Arts, they don’t teach you all 26 Kata’s that are involved with Karate. The teacher in Music focuses on just the first bar and maybe it’s the first 10 notes, and he wants him to repeat that over and over so his brain is learning and his muscles are developing to the point where it’s starting to become a habit, or a skill that seems natural.

A Kata is a way of practicing, a way of doing a particular routine, and we really use it in many areas. But one thing that’s really interesting from some of the research that Mike Rother has done when he wrote the book Toyota Kata is that what we’re learning from Neuroscience is that even we as adults, we want to learn or we seek to learn in a particular repetitive pattern. Our brains are tremendously adaptive organs that really as we learn a new skill, as we crack a Kata over and over again, we get new neural pathways that actually start to allow us to form a meta-habit so to speak; almost slip in to the routine once we’ve mastered the particular skill into a meta-cognition.

Those terms are used around Neuroscience and I can give you an example of how we as adults have turned something into a meta-habit and we function under meta-cognition. At 14, or 16, 17 year old, all of us learn to drive a car usually at that age and you’re really excited; the first form of independence, of going out into the world. But when you’ve first been in the car, if you can think back to that time, it’s pretty intimidating to a 14 to 16 year old. You got the brake pedal, the steering pedal, the turn signal, the steering wheel, how you adjust the mirrors, the seat and everything. And we as adults, 15 to 20 years later, we kind of slip-in to a meta-cognition. We drive and don’t even think about how to operate the car. We react to the stoplights and the traffic, all while carrying on a conversation with someone next to us. We slip into that meta-cognition because we’ve mastered that particular skill. So that, in a nutshell, is a Kata in the way that it has developed how our brain learns a skill in repeated patterns.

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Are You Successful at Implementing Lean?

Last week I started a 7-part video series with Brandon Brown a Toyota Kata Coach and Lean Instructor/Facilitator as an Associate for the W3 Group. The first part of the videos series started with What is Toyota Kata?. After the podcast, Brandon told me what he was told when he mentioned Toyota Kata at the Toyota Texas Manufacture Plant in San Antonio.

Brandon said,

Someone told me in a Toyota Texas Manufacture Plant in San Antonio, where they make the Tacoma and the Tundra both, we asked them about Toyota Kata and they said, “Well we’ve read the book, we understand what the thinking behind that is but this is just the air we breathe, It’s just our culture…” They don’t call it Kata; they have a daily routine of focusing on continuous improvement and striving toward a target condition. An interesting fact is Kanban, Jidoka, Poka Yoke, all of those tools were solutions Toyota came up with to solve a specific problem they were facing, and they sometimes question us as to why would you take a tool that address our problem and try to blindly apply it toward your problem? You need to come up with a solution that addresses your problem, and Kata does that. Kata gives us the method for being able to think scientifically and come up without one tool. If we need to bring in a Lean tool, we bring it in. We bring it in out of the toolbox. But we focus on being able to think scientifically and PDCA towards a solution and come up with new and innovative solutions.

I think that is an interesting reply. I have always thought that Lean or Kata was  not a magic potion or a prescription. Lean sets the ideal, however, you must understand your organization, the culture that exists and the culture that your customers expect and are willing to derive value from. You have to make the process your own. You have to rid yourself of Lean or other business processes. Successful companies that start down a Lean path are not Lean anymore, only the unsuccessful ones are. If you are successful at implementing Lean, it is simply not Lean. It becomes yours.

What are your thoughts? Is Lean a model that you should follow? Or is it something that you should adapt?

Marketing with PDCA (More Info): Targeting what your Customer Values at each stage of the cycle will increase your ability to deliver quicker, more accurately and with better value than your competitor. It is a moving target and the principles of Lean and PDCA facilitates the journey to Customer Value.

Lean Frontier Webinars include What Sales Teaches the Lean Enterprise

Lean Frontiers offers FREE quarterly webinars aimed at enterprise-wide engagement. Leadership, Accounting, Sales, HR, Logistics, IT, R&D. Imagine if each of these business functions worked in unison in supporting lean as a business model. This March they are running a series of 30-minute webinars to include:

You can register for one or all Lean Frontier Webinars through this link.

Why Accounting and Operations Must Become Allies for a Successful Lean Journey: Facilitated by Jerry Solomon, Author/Practitioner
Tue, Mar 10, 11:00 AM – 11:30 PM EDT

Kata Skill Camp: Lean Accounting Webinar: Facilitated by Beth Carrington, Master Kata Coach
Tue, Mar 10, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT

Closing the Leadership Gap: Strategies for Developing Highly Engaged Lean Leaders: Facilitated by Sam MacPherson, former Elite US Army Special Forces (The Green Berets) 
Thu, Mar 12, 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM EDT

TWI & Lean: The Foundation for Standard Work, Respect for People, and Continuous Improvement: Facilitated by Patrick Graupp, Author and TWI Master Trainer
Thu, Mar 12, 4:00 PM – 4:30 PM EDT

LOGISTICS / SUPPLY CHAIN: Lean Supply Chain: Leading the Charge: Facilitated by Brad Bossence, Regional VP LeanCor
Mon, Mar 16, 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM EDT

ACCOUNTING: No Processes To Over Engineered Processes – Why We Need To Use Lean
Facilitated by Gary Case, Pink Elephant and co-author of ITIL® V3’s Continual Service Improvement
Mon, Mar 16, 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM EDT

I am honored to be included in this group. My presentation will be on the final day and the outline is included below.

SALES & MARKETING: What Sales Teaches the Lean Enterprise
Facilitated by Joe Dager, Author and President Business901
Tue, Mar 17, 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM EDT

Lean Enterprises look towards developing sales processes based on traditional thinking of efficiency and waste. Thoughts were centered on problem-solving and A3-type thinking. Recently with new age thinking of the Lean StartupTM, we have tried to enter the sales arena with Lean 3P or Lean Product Development and Lean Startup methodologies. All of these in a quest to standardize and develop a “sales process.”

“Sales and Marketing have never been against systemizing the process.

They have been against being systemized by the process.” – Peter Scholtes

We complicate the process by budgeting and funding the top of every sales funnel. Exploring and discovering new customers and new market share. Applying Lean to sales is about using SDCA, PDCA and EDCA (Explore-Do-Check-Act) through-out the sales/marketing cycle. However, it differs when viewed from the perspective of sales or from the Gemba. It is not laden in the process thinking of pushing knowledge towards the Gemba but extracting learning opportunities and creating sales opportunities along the Funnel of OpportunityTM.

Lean Sales and Marketing concepts differ from traditional approaches found in other parts of the Lean Enterprise. Its primary focus is not the discovery of waste but of process improvement with a very specific strategic intent; delivery of superior value for the execution of an organization’s value proposition. This means that the focus of the analysis must be on those segments and processes within value streams that have the most substantial impact on the most important value drivers of the organization.


  • Why Learning beats Knowing
  • How to start with Lean in Sales and Marketing
  • Standard Work in Sales and Marketing

You can register for one or all Lean Frontier Webinars through this link.

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Interview Questions on Lean Marketing 0

I answered these questions a while back for José Miguel Vives Martínez on for his blog, ALTACUNCTA.  I thought I would share the English version.

Where did you learn about Lean for the first time?

I have always been an avid reader and on a journey of personal continuous improvement. I learned about Lean during the time I was president of a company that manufactured construction equipment. After reading Lean Thinking by Womack and Jones, I realized that my mentor had been practicing these very same principles. He did not call it Lean, nor was it Lean – but in essence it was without many of the tools. I was extremely fortunate because the culture was already established. I did not know how difficult it was to create the atmosphere (Culture) till after I left.

Which are their key points of Lean Marketing?

Lean marketing is about installing a continuous improvement methodology to your sales and marketing process. It‘s about constantly improving every step up the way. In the smaller scheme of things it is about improving a launch, an advertising campaign and even a sales call. However, in the bigger scheme of things it is about building a structure that creates a learning organization based on an ever?increasing knowledge of what the customer values.

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.

What is the roll of the technologies in Lean Marketing?

The new wave of marketing has seen an entirely new set of tools being used with the components of social media leading the way. No longer do we trust print media, radio, television and other forms of traditional media. The tools have all become a commodity. Why? What has happened is that we have innovated many of the same push marketing practices into today‘s nomenclature. Not really changing much except for the tools. Lean Sales and Marketing is not dependent or divorced from the tools. The feedback mechanisms and social media practices of today is what has finally allowed Lean to be applied to the Sales and Marketing arena.

Which are the benefits for a company adopting Lean Marketing?

Why won’t Lean commit to the Demand Chain the way it committed to the Supply chain? I have been addressed this issue in blog posts (Can Service Design increase Customer demand? and Is Lean and Six Sigma a waste of time?) and in many discussion groups and have found it baffling to me that most Lean practitioners resist this thought and either ignore it or try to tie sales and marketing to internal improvements. You would think most practitioners would be eager to apply their skills and Lean to the demand side. Unleashing the power of continuous improvement to the field of sales and marketing should not frighten anyone, it should inspire them. Addressing the demand side of the equation is the single most important improvement effort and game changer that can take place at a company today.

How Lean Marketing is received by the companies and which are the main barriers in order to be adopted and how we can to overcome it?

It stems back from the fundamental way that continuous improvement and quality has been developed. It has developed from the field of engineering which is laden with logical, step by step thinking processes. We find a problem define the solution and so on. It has worked very well on the supply chain side but the demand side is anything but logical and seldom follows any pattern. Value Stream Mapping on the demand side may identify numerous waste opportunities but which one would you remove? Why should 50% of your marketing fail? is not folklore, rather for most a true statement. It just does not match up to the logical thinker. Getting out of the office and interacting in the way your customer uses the product is foreign to most companies but is the predominate thought in Lean Sales and Marketing.

Why do you believe that Lean can be the future of marketing?

The ever increasing platforms of co?producing, open?innovation, co?creation is moving innovation from an exclusive internal platform to a more external platform. True innovation is not happening inside the 4 walls of an organization but out in the customers’ playground. As Voice of Customer tools get more sophisticated, we are not reacting and thinking of the next step needed to delight our customers, we are allowing them to show us the way. Organizations may lead in “design” but in use it is the customer and in use is where the value is derived. Marketing is no longer just about getting the message out. It is about bringing the message in. The Lean model builds a bridge for better communication and collaboration between your organization and the customer.

If you want to share any specific thoughts, you can do it right here completely free. Final thoughts, etc.

Many would argue the Lean is about incremental improvement. It does not allow for breakthrough thinking. I agree that SDCA and PDCA and even the continuous mindset may not deliver breakthrough thinking. However, like most things you start one step at a time. The culture of Innovation starts with culture of continuous improvement. To start with breakthrough thinking is very difficult and typically not successful. You cannot just turn it on. So starting with PDCA and a continuous improvement is the only successful way, to create this “i (little i) culture.

Ramping it up and truly doing breakthrough thinking, the big ‘I” is when you must engage and understand your customer/market extremely well. 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. This is a link to my blog post on the tools of SDCA, PDCA, EDCA:

Why Lean? 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 the 1st step for innovation. Lean is the primary driver for the little i DNA. 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!

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Using the Lean Startup Method for Product Branding 0

Author Laura Busche joined me for a conversation about startup branding. Her book is based on the Lean StartupTM  principles and is titled; Lean Branding (Lean (O’Reilly)). It is part Laura Buscheof the Lean Startup series of books by O’Reilly.

Lean Branding is a practical toolkit that helps you build your own robust, dynamic brands that generate conversion. You’ll find over 100 DIY branding tactics and inspiring case studies, and step-by-step instructions for building and measuring 25 essential brand strategy ingredients, from logo design to demo-day pitches, using The Lean Startup methodology’s Build-Measure-Learn loop.

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One Bit of Advice from Lean Branding Author 0

Tomorrow will be a special edition of the Business901 Podcast. Lean Branding (Lean (O’Reilly)) author Laura Busche joined me for a great conversation about startup branding. Her book is based on the Lean Startup Principles.  

An excerpt from the Podcast:

Joe: If you could give one bit of advice to someone about branding, what would it be? Lean Branding

Laura: A couple of bits of advice that are in the book, a couple of quotes that I’d like to highlight and that reflect this very solid advice that I would like to give to entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs that are trying to build their brands are, on one side we have this bit of advice, “People relate to people and if your brand feels like people, they’ll relate to you too.” The point behind that is that brands need to be humane and they need to react to people’s aspirations and they also need to build personalities that allow them to relate back to these people. So that’s sort of not very intuitive but once you start getting a hold of how other brands have done it which is something that the book does, you understand how important it is to be humane as a brand.

The second bit of advice which is also a quote from the book is that, “Successful brands have a compelling answer whenever consumers ask, what’s in it for me?” So the “What’s in it for me…” question is something that you need to address. It’s simple, if you want to write it down in front of you, if you want to write it on your walls, if you want to print it somewhere, that’s something you should do because this is the essential question behind your relationship with your buyers. It’s, “What’s in it for me…” and it’s something that the book highlights a lot. Whenever you’ve reached resonance which is what we call in branding, when your message is really being listened to by your consumer and understood, whenever that happens, it’s because you’ve provided a very good answer for their what’s in it for me question.

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