Introduction to Toyota Kata

I recently did an “Introduction to Toyota Kata” session for Kata School Cascadia. The intent is to give an overview of my interpretation of the background, and how Toyota Kata fits into, and augments, your Continuous Improvement effort.

Here is a direct URL in case you can’t see the embed on your phone or pad: https://videopress.com/v/4vWvDZRe

In this presentation I go over what I mean when I say “culture” and then briefly discuss a “continuous improvement culture.” Then introduce the “why” of Toyota Kata as a way to start to nudge the culture in the direction we want it to go.

Finally I overview the structure of the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata, then answer a couple of questions.

What Conversations Does Your VSM Drive?

Continuing on the theme of value stream mapping (and process mapping in general) – in the last post, Where is your value stream map? I outlined the typical scenario – the map is built by the Continuous Improvement Team, and they are the ones primarily engaged in the conversations about how to close the gap between the current state and the future state.

The challenge here is that ultimately it is the line leadership, not the Continuous Improvement Team, that drives whether or not this effort is long-term successful.

Getting a continuous improvement culture into place means changing the day-to-day patterns of interaction between people and groups of people. We can put in all of the lean tools we want, but if those conversations don’t follow, the system quickly reverts to the previous baseline.

What is interesting (to me, but I admit I’m a geek about this stuff) is that this is a meta level thing. While we are working on improving the performance of the value stream, we really have to be working on the performance of the process of leadership in the organization.

The value stream map can help with this, but we have to be deliberate about it, and realize that it will be an incremental and iterative process, just as we find in trying to improve how any process functions.

Start With Where You Want To Go

For line leadership, before we even start drawing process boxes, the first step is deciding why you are even doing this. What problem are you trying to solve? What aspect of your current performance needs to change… dramatically?

Is your system unresponsive to customers? Do customers expect deliveries inside your nominal lead times? Does that disrupt your system? What lead time capability would let you routinely handle these issues so they weren’t even issues anymore, just normal operations? That objective is going to bias your current state VSM toward understanding what is driving your lead times, where, when, and for how long, work is idle vs. actually being processed, etc.

Or maybe you need to increase your capacity while holding your costs (vs. just duplicating the existing processes). Now you are going to be focusing on the things that constrain your throughput, activities that consume time within cycles of output and the like.

Establishing that focus is a leadership / management task. It doesn’t work to just say “We need to improve” or even worse “We need to get lean.”

Sometimes these things are obvious frustrations to management, but often they are overwhelmed with general performance issues, or trying to define problems in terms of financials. That is an opportunity to focus back on the kind of performance that would address the financials.

The cool thing here is that you really can’t get this wrong. If you set a goal of radically improving your performance on any single aspect of your operation, you will end up improving pretty much everything in the process of reaching that goal. But it is critically important to have a goal to strive for, otherwise people are just trying to “improve” without any objective.

Then map your current state. The challenge gives you context. The current state map gives you a picture of how and why the system performs as it does.

Just so we don’t get sucked down the whirlpool of focusing too much on the business process in this discussion, the reason why you are getting this clarity is to get (and keep) the leaders engaged. If the objective is something abstract like “get lean” it is easy for them to think they can just get updates while they deal with the “real issues.” We want to attach this to a real issue that they are already working on.

Thus there is no “lean plan.” So many companies make “lean” somehow separate from other business objectives. I never could understand that. Maybe they are trying to separate “gains” that are a result of the “lean program” from those created by other initiatives. It doesn’t work that way. There is only one operating system in play, and that is what drives your day-to-day performance. If you don’t like the performance, you have to change the operating system. That is a management function, and it can’t be delegated.

The photo above is a current state map from a process that took several weeks to ship a part that the customer had ordered. Since it was a make-to-order shop, this was, shall we say, challenging for the customer relationship people.

As the team built the map it began to sink in that the time actually making the part was less than 30 minutes, and the value add was about six of those minutes. Their performance metric was “Past Due Hours” which was an abstraction of the programmed jobs that were behind the promised ship date.

Because the customers were always asking the business team members, “Where’s my stuff?” those customer reps were, in turn, always on the shop floor trying to get their orders expedited. They were competing with one another for a place in the production queue.

There is an icon in the middle of the map. Here is a close up:

This is Jim. He was an hourly associate whose nominal job was to pull the paperwork, match it up with raw material, and stage the work package into the production queue.

But this role made him the gatekeeper. So the customer service people (you can see their names in the lower left corner) would be pressuring Jim to jump their hot orders (and they were all hot by the time it got to the point where there was paperwork release – another story) into the queue so they could tell their customers that their orders were “in production.”

This put Jim in the position of having to make the priority decisions that the leadership wouldn’t make. Ultimately it was Jim who decided which customers would be disappointed that day. That made his day way more stressful than his pay grade. Respect for people? Hardly.

It also resulted in a staged order queue (materials and paperwork on carts) that snaked through the shop until it finally (days later) got to the actual production cell which, once they started, could actually knock things out pretty fast.

None of this addressed the past due issue. In fact, this made it worse.*

The key question for this team was “Who needs to have what conversation about work priorities so it isn’t all on an hourly associate to decide which of our customers will be disappointed?”

Who Needs To Fix This?

We want to solve problems at the lowest possible level, but no lower. In this working example, asking the shop floor workforce to fix this problem would be futile. Yes, they can propose a different structure, but they do not control how orders are released, they do not control how capacity is managed, they do not control the account managers who are fighting for a spot in the queue. They had been complaining about this bind for a long time. It wasn’t until the people running the business saw how the overall system worked that they understood that this is a systemic issue, and “the system” belongs to line management.

The facilitation question that got their attention was “Do you want Jim to be the one who decides who gets production priority?” Of course the answer was “No.” And that wasn’t about Jim, rather it was the realization that this WAS the existing process, and that wasn’t how they wanted things to operate. As my friend Brian says, “You may not like your normal, but you have to deal with it.”

That is generally the case at the value stream level. Value stream problems are usually at the interfaces between processes. The shop floor can’t, for example, transition from a push scheduling system to pull on their own. If they try, they create conflicts with the existing scheduling system and this usually tanks their metrics – even if performance is actually getting better.

These are all management discussions.

Key Point: The value stream level is a systems view. While you absolutely want input from the people who are engaged in the work every day, working on the system itself is not something that can be delegated by line leadership. They are the ones who are responsible for the overall system, and they are the ones who need to be responsible for changing it.

The Future State Map is a Hypothesis

Once you understand the current condition, the next step is to answer the question, “How does the process need to operate in order to meet our goal?”

The purpose of mapping a future state is to design process flow that you believe will meet your challenge if you can get the system to work that way.

It isn’t about seeing what you could do by removing waste. It isn’t “what could we improve,” it is “what must we change to reach our objective?” Again, this is a management function. It’s called “leadership.”

Which brings me to the title of this post.

Who Is Talking About This Stuff?

If the Continuous Improvement Team simply facilitated the process for line leadership (the actual stakeholders) to grasp the current condition and establish a target (future state) condition, what is crucial is who takes ownership of closing the gap. If the C.I. team are the ones discussing the problems they are often in a position of having to sell and justify every step of the effort to get to the future state.

Likewise, I have seen a lot of cases where the people primarily participating in building the value stream map were working level team members. Yes, it is absolutely necessary to have their insights into how things really are for people trying to get stuff done. Yes, it is critically helpful for them to understand the bigger picture context of what they do. However, all too often, I see senior leaders disengaged under the umbrella that they are “empowering” their workers.

Just to be clear: We absolutely want to create conversations about improvement at the level of the organization where value and the customer’s experience is actually created. The point here is that those conversations cannot be the exclusive domain of the working levels. It is critical for line leadership to be, well, leading. They can’t just delegate this to the continuous improvement specialists. Nor can they simply leave it to the working levels to sort it out – not if they expect it to work for any length of time.

Who reports on progress?

When an executive wants to know the progress toward an improvement goal, who do they call? Do they call the continuous improvement team to report? Or do they call the actual stakeholder who is responsible?

This is an easy trap to fall into. The C.I. Manager wants to show they are making a difference. The senior manager knows the C.I. Manager probably has better information. But that isn’t the conversation we want to create. The conversation needs to be between the line leaders. Yes, the C.I. team can (and probably should) help structure that conversation, but if they inject themselves into the middle (or allow senior management to put them there) the vital vertical connections are weakened – if they ever existed.

Thus, it is critical for the Continuous Improvement team to have a crystal clear picture of who should be having these conversations, and be actively working to nudge things in that direction. This is the process the C.I. team should actually be working to improve.

What should people talk about?

Ah, here’s the rub. For some reason managers today have a reluctance (or even disdain) to talk about operations, preferring to keep conversations in financial terms of cost, earned hours, yield and the like. These are all outcomes, but they are outcomes of process, and it is only by changing the process that those outcomes can sustainably change.

That conversation about progress I talked about above? That can’t be solely about the performance. It has to be about what is changing in the way the work is being done, and more importantly, what is being learned.

What the future state value stream map does (or should be used to do) is translate those business objectives into operational requirements for the process.

What Is Your Target Condition?

How we start to see the organic intersection between Toyota Kata and the value stream map.

The future state map defines a management goal. It also highlights the problems that must be solved to get there. (Those are the “kaizen bursts” that Learning to See has you put on the future state map.)

Those problems, or obstacles in Toyota Kata terms, at the value stream level become challenges (again in Toyota Kata terms) for the respective process owners.

Now the conversations move to the right level. Rather than asking for the status of action items for the “lead time reduction initiative,” the line leaders are discussing progress toward getting the changeover in stamping down to 17 minutes, and the cycle times in the weld cell under the takt time.

In my working example above, the first target condition was to have Jim simply pull the next order from a FIFO queue in a series of slots on the wall. The customer service reps had to meet every morning and could reshuffle the orders in those slots all they wanted, but Jim’s job was just to take the next one. That pushed the initial conversation to the one they had been avoiding: The customer service team talking among themselves, rather than making Jim the arbitrator.

There was a lot of other work as well. They established a rigid FIFO with a fixed WIP level of staged orders. Instead of pushing days of work into that queue, there was a buffer of about an hour (to absorb variation in processing times between various jobs).

At the same time, the team running machines now understood the rate of processing that was required to keep up with the volume of work. That had been totally hidden by the queues before. All they knew is that they were behind. Now the conversation shifted to “Are we going fast enough?” It shifted from discussions about backlog (which really are not productive) to discussions about rate of processing which is the only thing that affects the backlog.

Getting all of this dialed in and stable took a few weeks of daily conversations between the Operations Director and the various managers and supervisors whose work impacted the flow. It involved walking the floor, putting in visual indicators that clearly defined what should be happening – the target condition – and they discussed reasons things looked different: The actual condition now, and what obstacles were being surfaced as they worked to reduce the WIP buffers.

The net result?

Learning is Critical

The current performance is an outcome of the current system. People do their best within the system they have to work within, and we have to assume the system reflects management’s understanding of how things should operate to get the best results.

Even if someone knows a better way, that knowledge is wasted unless it is applied to the overall system of operating – the way we do things.

Epilog

You would never say “The freezer is cold enough, we can unplug it now.” You have to keep putting energy into the system just to keep the temperature where it is. Tightly performing production systems are no different. Over the course of the next year or so past due hours slowly crept back up for unknown reasons. Why? Because they didn’t talk about it every day.


*When a shop is behind, the management reflexes are (1) increasing batch sizes and (2) expediting. There really aren’t any better ways to make the throughout and response times worse.

Where is your value stream map?

Thanks to everyone who left comments on the last post, Learning to See in 2023. You are making me think.

Although Learning to See (the book) describes building your value stream map on A3 / 11×17 paper, most of the maps I have seen have been large affairs on a wall.

I like this approach because it shifts people into the position of standing side-by-side talking about what is in front of them, which fosters collaboration.

The question in the title, though, is more about whose wall is it? Who sees this every day, who is standing and talking about the current state, the future state, and steps to close the gap between them?

I usually see these in the Continuous Improvement team’s workspace. That was certainly the case for the one in the photo. Sometimes they would bring management into that room to discuss progress, but all too often that became a report-out to the managers.

And right there we have an interesting situation: The Continuous Improvement Director and his team have a much deeper understanding of what was going on than the people in charge.

This was partly because it was the Continuous Improvement team members who made these maps in the first place. And they were the ones tracking the metrics, including quality, productivity. They were the ones identifying the problems, and they were the ones working to solve the problems.

And they were the ones complaining when things eroded because management “wasn’t supporting the changes.”

What’s the problem here? What were they actually expecting the line leaders to do?

As a Continuous Improvement team (and if you are reading this, that is likely you), your ultimate goal is to enable the line leaders by engaging through them rather than engaging for them.

You likely have to get there step-by-step, with successive target conditions, but it is the level of engagement of those leaders, and their growing competency in doing so that you and your C.I. team should be tracking on your walls.

Think about what that would look like.

Learning to See in 2023

Pat’s comments on my last post reminded me of another post I had written a decade (!!!) ago titled Learning to See in 2013*. I think it is time for reflection and an update. That being said, I think the 2013 post has actually aged pretty well. I don’t see anything in it I would retract, just some things to further clarify or amplify.

Of course that implies that we (our community) is still largely stuck in the same groove we were a decade ago. *sigh*

Let’s ask some questions:

Who is “Learning to See?”

The first time I made a real value stream map was in 1999. A plant manager asked me to build a map of the flows in his factory. I spent three or four days talking to his area managers to get their understanding, observing flows on the shop floor, getting actual cycles, comparing what I observed with what those managers thought was going on.

With all of that information, I mapped out the factory’s flows. It took four 11×17 (A3 size) sheets taped together to depict what happened as raw steel came in one end of the building and was cut, bent, welded, painted, and assembled with purchased components into the final product.

I learned a lot, not only about mapping a process, but about the way this factory functioned, and had pretty compelling evidence that the bottleneck was not what the common knowledge said it was.

I dutifully presented my findings to the plant manager and his continuous improvement manager. And things pretty much ended there.

Years later, another plant manager asked me to come out to their site and map their value streams. This time I was pretty insistent that though I was happy to come out and facilitate the process, it really had to be the site leaders that were doing the observations and building the map. What they wanted, though, was for me to report my findings to them once I was done. I still scratch my head about that one as the General Manager was an ex-Toyota guy who knew better.

Which brings us to:

Who is mapping the process?

A production team reviews their understanding on a value stream map

Regardless of what structure you use to map your process (VSM, Swim Lanes, SIPOC, to name a few), the learning comes from the experience of building the map and then having to explain it to someone else.

That second bit is important: If you can’t explain it to someone else, you probably don’t understand it as well as you thought.

So, if you are a consultant or internal change agent, and you build the map and then try to explain it to management, guess who learned the most? (Hint: It wasn’t your audience.) The key point here is if your objective is for the line leaders to gain insight into what is actually happening, you are unlikely to accomplish that objective by explaining it to them. They will never gain as much insight as you did.

In the photo above, it is the operational leaders who are explaining what they are learning to me. I’m just asking questions until I understand. They ended up going back out to the shop floor more than a couple of times as the picture came into focus.

Why are you mapping the process in the first place?

I asked this question in the 2013 post: “Why are you doing this at all?” with a context of having some kind of strategic intent, a challenge, in mind.

If there isn’t a concrete challenge or objective in place, this quickly turns into a “What could we improve?” exercise followed by a calculation about whether it is even worth going through that effort or might be cheaper to just outsource the entire thing to a “low wage country.”

But there is another, more tactical, reason to ask this question.

If your step was “Make a value stream map,” then “What do you expect as a result of taking that step?”

I have heard responses such as “I expect the leaders to see what they need to fix.” That, actually, is a testable outcome if you do so with intent. But if you are frustrated that, time after time, a current state process gets mapped and then nothing else happens, then it might be time to ask “What am I learning?”

This kind of brings us back to the importance of that overall strategic intent, because that is what drives the necessity to then build a possible future state map that, if we can operate that way, will deliver the results we need. From that we can establish challenges for individual local leaders and work with them (coach them) toward reaching those challenges.

Again – this is all a lot of work. And it is hard. Thus it is equally important to understand that the higher level goal here is to build capability and competence within your organization. If you forget that part, then it is all to easy to just outsource the mapping (see the beginning of this post) or, worse, outsource your entire value-add chain.


*The title of that post, and this one, is based on a groundbreaking book by Mike Rother and John Shook, Learning to See. Published in 1999, it introduced the term “value stream map” into the vernacular. And it was the first significant publication of the then newly-formed Lean Enterprise Institute. I think Learning to See actually had the impact of establishing a genre – practical application workbooks that sent beyond just discussing benchmark examples and general principles.

Signs of a Failing Lean “Implementation”

Let me profile a company – I have an actual company in mind, but this one is only a concrete example.

This company has been engaged with continuous improvement since at least 1998. Yet, just a few weeks ago, they posted an opening for a Continuous Improvement Director. And this isn’t the first time. I have seen this position posted by this company every couple of years.

The posting explicitly calls out this C.I. director’s responsibility to “champion” their “[Corporate Name] Business System.” That at least implies that the [Corporate Name] Business System is something aspirational that must be internally championed by others rather than the way they simply do business every day. Indeed, they feel the need to hire someone from outside the company to champion their [Corporate Name] Business System to their own leaders. This is pretty strong evidence that the actual Business System within the company is something radically different than [Corporate Name] Business System.

This is not a sign of success over the past quarter century. Quite the opposite. We have a company with people on the payroll who were not even born when the C.I. effort was initiated. If senior leaders have come up through the company ranks, they have been exposed to the tenants of the [Corporate Name] Business System their entire careers.

Yet it is still necessary for a dedicated person to advocate for it.

If this company might be you… here are some questions to think about:

How much actual cultural change has taken hold in the day-to-day operations since you have been engaging in kaizen activities?

Is the daily activity of your line leaders – the team leaders, supervisors, first line managers – reflective of something other than your [Corporate Name] Business System? If so, why? What forces are at work to push those activities in a different direction than the one you say you want? For example, are there metrics or line management expectations that run counter to moving continuously toward 1:1 production at takt? What policies or expectations are in place that systematically undo the results of a kaizen event?

How much daily kaizen is done by your line leaders? Your supervisors? Do your first-line leaders coach your supervisors on improvement? Are they qualified to do so? If yes, do those improvement activities tier up through line management toward the higher-level goals of the company?

Do your manufacturing supervisors have the basic industrial engineering skills? Can they fluently talk about takt time, cycle time, flow, work balance, etc? Are those skills represented in the way they run their day-to-day operations?

If the answers to these questions are largely in the negative — if you have been at this for two decades+ and they are still in the negative, then I think I can safely say that this isn’t just some kind of fluke. What you have been doing is not working. If you are looking to do more of what you have been doing, maybe consider trying something else.

That being said, don’t give up. It isn’t that this stuff doesn’t work, it is that your approach to embed it into the organization has, up to this point, been ineffective.

Consider an approach where the primary focus is on the patterns of day-to-day interactions between people, working toward having them engage in effective problem solving and learning on a daily basis. If improvement only happens as an event, then it is, by definition, not “continuous.”

I believe that structuring those day-to-day interactions is the purpose of all of the so-called “lean tools” (and all of the other “tools” called out by other packages such as TQM, xSigma, TOC, etc). But unless those tools are deployed with that purpose in mind, it is all too easy to put in the mechanics without creating any shift in the culture.

And it is the culture that actually matters.

So ultimately my question is this: Do you have the continuous culture that you want today? If your [Corporate Name] Business System is actually in place, congratulations. But if that culture is still aspirational, and if you are trying to, yet again, hire someone from outside to champion that culture, what is everyone in charge doing?

Another Tale from the Past

This all happened nearly three decades ago. Since then the company has been through a series of mergers and acquisitions. Thus, the only thing I can be certain of is that things are different today – at least I hope so.

It was Tuesday afternoon of a traditional five-day kaizen event. Monday morning had been spent training the team on the basics of “JIT” including some fundamental principles and a 1:1 flow simulation just to demonstrate some of the possibilities.

Beginning mid-afternoon on Monday and continuing into Tuesday morning was “walk the process” – mainly looking at material flow, where things bunched up, and things that wasted people’s time (there was no shortage of that). By Tuesday afternoon the team was being guided through the process of developing a “vision” – a fairly idealized version of what would be possible with some changes.

The team I was assisting with was focused on flow through an annealing oven. This was near the end of the process, and was perceived as a bottleneck. It was designed as a long tunnel, individual plates of material could be placed on a conveyer at one end, and would come out the other having spent enough time in the oven for the process to work. It was ideal for 1:1 flow, and that is what we were advocating.

The current process, however, was to accumulate material in front of the oven until it was a pretty significant pile. Then stacks of material would be put on the conveyer – which now had to be slowed down because there was so much solid mass to heat up.

Math was on our side. It was easy to demonstrate that the oven actually had plenty of capacity, and could easily meet the need by operating it as it was designed. The problem-behind-the-problem was that nobody was assigned to load the oven, and it was kind of like that sink of dishes an apartment with four roommates.

Still, the team, composed primarily of front-line workers and a supervisor, was warming up to the idea that it was actually easier to load one piece at a time.

Part of the ritual was for the team to present their concept to the assembled management team for a green light. They did a pretty good job.

After that presentation, though, John came in. (I’m calling him John at least.)

John was dressed in his black slacks, white shirt and tie. He was the manager of “Industrial Engineering” and was adamant that this scheme would tank the metrics of the company. The oven was the bottleneck, you see. Unless it was heavily batch loaded, then it would throttle the output of the plant.

I stood up to engage him – and keep him from derailing the rest of the team, and slowly moved the conversation out of the room. I was dressed in heavy work clothes, metatarsal protective boots, carrying a hard hat under my arm, heavy gloves inside it. I didn’t work there.

John showed me his pages of printouts to prove that the current output of the oven was inadequate, to make the case that anything that slowed it down would be disastrous. Those printouts, of course, only showed output.

My response: “John, I have been here for two days. I walk past that oven every time I go into and leave the plant. I have, not once, seen anyone working there. The reason the oven is a bottleneck is because nobody loads it.”

This was not a function of machine capacity. I had that math too – and at the time was surprised that he didn’t. I was still new at this. Today I would not be surprised if management didn’t know theoretical or expected capacity. But the bottom line was simple: There isn’t going to be any output if there is no input.

I got the impression he couldn’t respond because he rarely, if ever, ventured into the actual plant. It was some distance from the office building, and it was loud, unheated in the winter (and COLD), hot in the summer. Simply put, he wasn’t dressed to go out there.

There were a lot of headwinds here, but nearly all of them came from the head office. Their top level metrics conspired against them – they measured success as the amount of material the pushed through the START of their value stream. The individual operations were isolated from one another physically, in both space and time with weeks and months of WIP separating them. The workers contract had heavy piece rate incentives. (I wasn’t smart enough at the time to ask if there was a differential piece rate for hitting a higher goal – vestige, of Frederick Taylor – but it would not have surprised me.) Needless to say, the concept of making operations dependent on one another with flow was a tough sell.

Even worse – and this just occurred to me – because there was no fixed crew for loading the annealing oven, the people being tasked to load it would be taken away from their piece-rate tasks, and actually reduce their pay to feed what management believed was the constraint to output.

Interestingly, though, we were back on the site a couple of months later. As I was walking through the shop, one of the workers pointed and shouted my name. He didn’t look happy, so I was thinking, “Oh, oh, I’m going to get an earful. “

And an earful I got. But it wasn’t about the concept. It was about management apparently not doing anything with the proposed changes. And I knew this guy – he was on the first team because he was a pretty influential informal leader among his peers. His opinion was important. He was willing to give all of this a try, but was frustrated that management seemed to be leaving them out to dry.

I’ve seen this before. The pushback from the shop floor has often been less of “we don’t believe this will work” and more of “We don’t believe management will support us as we try to make it work.”

I was pretty new at all of this. We were partnered with consultants that we paid for with the idea of eventually learning to lead these events on our own. What I was supposed to be learning was how to find opportunities, plan, and facilitate kaizen events.

But even then, I was starting to question whether kaizen events alone, no matter how many or how quickly they were run, would actually create long-term significant change. We need to work on the culture, and the things that drive the culture.

As an aside – I have been in a lot of industrial facilities. This is the only one where I actually felt in danger. I kept my head on a swivel at all times. Perhaps another symptom of management pretty much staying in their offices.

The CEO’s New Strategy

by Hank C. Andersen

Not many years ago there was a CEO so exceedingly fond of finding the right strategy that he spent all of his money on consultants to tell him what the strategy should be.

One day there came two consultants and they said they could craft the most magnificent strategy imagianable. Not only would it solve all of the problems, and produce great prosperity and profitability, but it had an added feature: It would make no sense to anyone not qualified to be in his job.

“This would be just the strategy for me,” thought the CEO. “If I adopted it, then I would be able to discover which managers in my company are unfit for their posts. I could tell the ones I can trust from those who must be fired. Yes, I must have this strategy,” and he paid the consultants a large sum of money to start work at once.

The consultants set up their laptops and pretended to produce all sorts of presentations, though the presentations were actually jargon, buzzwords and gibberish. They demanded all sorts of information about customers, sales, products, and market sectors while they worked their PowerPoint far into the night.

“I would like to know how these consultants are getting on with the strategy,” the CEO thought, but he felt uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit for their position would not be able to understand it. It couldn’t be that he doubted himself, yet he thought he would rather send someone else to see how things are going.

The whole staff knew about the strategy’s peculiar power, and all were impatient to find out how stupid everyone else was.

“I’ll send the President of my largest division to the consultants,” the CEO decided. “He’ll be the best one to tell me how the strategy works, for his division is always highly profitable, and no one does the job better.”

So the Division President went to the room where the two consultants sat working away at their Buzz Words PowerPoint presentations.

“Heaven help me,” he thought, as he studied the screen, “but this makes no sense at all. If we follow this strategy we shall surely send our customers to our competitors.” But he did not say so.

Both of the consultants begged him to be so kind as to come near to approve the details of the strategy, the nuances of the implementation plans. They pointed to boxes, arrows, circles, and buzzwords, but as hard as the poor Division President looked, he could not understand anything because there was nothing that could be understood.

“Can it be that I am a fool? I could have never guessed it, but not a soul must know. If I question the strategy, I will reveal myself to be unfit, and surely be fired,” he thought.

“Don’t hesitate to tell us what you think of it,” said the consultants.

“Oh it is amazing, I can clearly see how this will streamline our operations and increase our profit margins. I will be sure to tell the CEO that this strategy must be adopted, without question, across the company.” And so he did.

The consultants at once asked for more money and more data so they could add to the details, and continued to pump out more and more slides of management buzzwords.

The CEO asked his Chief Operating Officer to see how the work progressed, and how soon it would be ready. The same thing happened to him as had happened to the Division President. He looked and looked, but as there was nothing that made sense, he could not understand it.

“Isn’t this a magnificent strategy?” the consultants asked him as they displayed and described their back-up slides.

“I know I am not stupid,” the COO thought, “so it must be that I am not qualified for my job, for this strategy makes no sense to me.”

“That’s strange, I know I have been a successful business leader. I must not let anyone find out.” So the COO praised the strategy that he could not understand. He declared it to be almost ready for deployment across the entire company. To the CEO he said, “It is magnificent, and anyone who questions or challenges it must be fired immediately.”

All the company was talking of this splendid strategy, and the CEO wanted to see it for himself while it was still on the consultants’ laptops. Attended by the Board of Directors, among whom were his two old trusted officials, the ones who had seen the consultants, he set out to find the consultants hard at work on their PowerPoint slides.

“It is amazing,” said the COO and Division President. “Just look, sir, what brilliance! What design!” They pointed to boxes and arrows each supposing the others understood what it all meant.

“What is this?” thought the CEO. “I can’t understand any of this. This is terrible.”

“Am I a fool? What if the Board of Directors finds out that I cannot understand this?”

“Oh – it is brilliant,” he said, “It has my complete approval.”

The entire Board and Staff stared and stared. Nobody could understand more than anyone else, but they all joined the CEO in exclaiming, “Oh it is brilliant!” and they advised the CEO to deploy the strategy across the company in a great kickoff and rollout process.

The CEO gave each of the consultants a company pin to wear, and paid their final fees plus a bonus.

Before the kickoff, the consultants sat up all night and drank two pots of coffee to show how busy they were finishing the CEO’s new strategy. They printed handouts and workbooks, posters and training materials. And at least they said, “Now the strategy is ready for the kickoff.”

Then the CEO came with all his staff, the Division Presidents, and the Board of Directors to see the consultants’ presentation.

The consultants went through each slide, pointing out how the new strategy revolved around empowering the organization to achieve market positioning by creating synergy through focus on cultivating agile B2B relationships with key customers utilizing the talent pool. This would be done by incorporating A.I. to embrace the vital few in order to maximize the effectiveness of the e-commerce solutions. Further, costs would be reduced and product quality enhanced through embracing a holistic approach, continuously monitoring performance, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement in order to optimize production processes through operational efficiency measures, streamlining supply chain management, and technology integration. And on and on they want, explaining nothing at all as though it had profound meaning.

During the break, the CEO asked his staff what they thought. “It is a find strategy,” they all agreed. “It is lightweight, robust, and will give us great focused solutions.”

“This strategy is brilliant,” they all agreed, as they flipped through the colored brochures describing everything.

And with that, they agreed they must post the entire presentation on the corporate interwebz for everyone to see.

And so they did. And the Middle Managers all agreed this this, indeed, was a remarkable strategy. When one of them dared to question it, he was fired immediately, for he obviously was incompetent.

In the coming weeks, the CEO presided over all-hands meetings at each site in the company. Then, at one of the meetings, a forklift driver said, “But this makes no sense at all, It is just a bunch of management gibberish.”

“Have you ever heard such an ignorant comment?” said the worker’s manager. But the others started to whisper to one another… “But the strategy makes no sense.”

As the word spread by social media, email, and even phone calls, soon everyone in the company was saying, “The strategy makes no sense.”

The CEO shivered, for he suspected they were right, but he thought, “We must deploy this strategy,” and had his staff report weekly on implementation progress on a strategy that was nothing at all.

Toyota Kata: Coaching vs a Report Out

Andrea brought up an interesting point in our weekly open Toyota Kata discussion. She noted that as the coaching conversation became more and more fluid, it tended to become more like a report-out from the learner than coaching them. That got me thinking about a couple of things.

Updating the Toyota Kata Storyboard

Reverse Coaching

Something I think I have talked about in the past is the technique of using the Improvement Kata structure to report out. In other words, report out progress (like in a meeting, for example) as though you were answering a version of the Coaching Questions even though they aren’t being asked.

  • Review what we are are trying to accomplish.
  • Where we are now.
  • The last step taken, what happened, what has been learned.
  • The next step being taken, what we expect (or expect to learn)

It would be really simple, for example, to format PowerPoint slides in this sequence. I discussed this a little bit way back in 2008, before Toyota Kata was published.

My hypothesis here is that people would like hearing a report in that format, and the boss might well start asking others to do the same thing.

Maintaining the Coaching Structure

Of course I don’t think this is what Andrea was talking about. It was the opposite. The learner is so familiar with the structure, and well prepared, so the coaching questions seem moot.

So what is a coach to do?

Here is my question:

Are You Challenging Your Learner?

When you are getting a report-out with little room for coaching this is actually a good thing. It means that your learner has developed and what may have been challenging in the past is now more or less routine.

Keep in mind that your learner has two thresholds of knowledge. One is around the actual process or task they are taking on. That is what is actually being discussed in the coaching conversation.

The other threshold of knowledge is around learning to tackle tough challenges with the scientific thought structure.

With beginner learners, both of these knowledge thresholds are pretty apparent. As a coach you are working to develop their thinking patterns, to make that scientific thought structure habitual. You do that by giving them challenges that take them a bit beyond their threshold of knowledge, and then coach them to apply scientific thought to take on that challenge.

As they get better, they will apply scientific thought to any problem they take on. Congratulations, Coach, it worked. You can tell this is happening when the conversation starts to sound like a report-out. What once was a tough problem is now handled routinely.

OK, Coach, Time to step up your game.

What challenge can you issue that would have your learner struggle a bit with grasping the current condition? Establishing a target condition? Figuring out what the obstacles are and isolating them? Developing good experiments?

In other words, how to you push your learner a bit beyond their threshold of knowledge of tackling challenges scientifically? Then you are back into the learning zone and both of you are operating at the next level.

TWI: Is it Time to Rethink Job Relations?

My intent with this post is to spark a conversation about whether it is time to adjust what we teach people to say when they are teaching TWI Job Relations. It is based on, and expanded from, a talk I gave at the 2023 TWI Summit.

Background

TWI stands for Training Within Industry, a program developed during WWII by the U.S. War Manpower Commission. During the war there was huge growth and turnover within the industrial base as production shifted from civilian products (locomotives, for example) to wartime production (tanks). Many of the (mostly male) workers were drafted or enlisted. People with no industrial experience were joining the workforce. Technicians, often very technically skilled, but inexperienced in leading people, were put into supervisory positions.

The Commission deployed a series of training programs to teach industrial supervisors:

  • Job Instruction, teaching the skill of breaking down a job and teaching it to others.
  • Job Methods, teaching the skill of analyzing work with an eye to improve efficiency.
  • And, Job Relations, what we are discussing here, the skill of handling people problems.

The program produced detailed manuals for certified instructors, and was rigorous in insisting that instructors not deviate from the words in the manual (unless the manual called out using their own words to tell a story, for example).

Today there are a lot of people, both internal trainers and quite a few outside training companies and consultants, using this material to teach.

In many cases the material these current-day trainers use deviates very little from the source material.

In addition, there are companies that are “training the trainer” to deliver the course precisely – which is good – and coaching them not to deviate from the words in the manual.

When we have people follow a script, they are playing a role that is defined by the voice in the script. Yes, they bring their own style, but the scripted dialog sets the tone of the message.

I believe it is time to take a look at that source material through the lens of 21st century values and ask whether or not we should revise the words and content in that script rather than blindly following something written in 1944 as though it is somehow sacrosanct. If the words do not match the story we want to tell, and the values we want to communicate, then perhaps we should update the script.

The challenge, of course, is that nobody owns this material. The original 1944 manuals are all in the public domain. Thus there is no central owner or go-to “keeper of the configuration.” Anyone can take the source material, and with some practice and feedback, do a credible job delivering it. But it remains that most of the versions in use out there don’t deviate much from the original material.

Thus, my message is not about anyone in particular. It is about the 1944 material. What follows is a review I would write if it were just being published, separating from the legacy and taking an objective look at the document and training material as it stands on its own.

If you are considering using it yourself, or are considering hiring someone to bring this material to your company, then hopefully this will make you a better customer by arming you with some questions to ask.

Determine Objective: What Kind of Relations Do We Want?

The TWI Job Relations course emphasizes the importance of supervisors having “good relations” with their people, and giving supervisors the basic skills they need to develop and maintain those relations is clearly the objective of the course. In principle, I agree with this objective 100%. The relationships between a supervisor and the team are critical to the success of the organization.

How do we define “Good” in “Good Relations?”

If “good relations” is the overall objective, then we should look at what is meant by the word “good.” I think the answer depends on the person’s mental model and biases about the role of authority. There are a couple of distinct paradigms I want to discuss. There may be more, but I think most are variations of these two. And, to be clear, this is actually a continuum rather than a bipolar model. I am just showing the endpoints.

Thus, rather than thinking about whether a particular turn of phrase in the script represents one end or the other, perhaps ask, “Which direction is it nudging things?” In other words, which end of the continuum is it biased toward – and is that the direction you want to emphasize in your own organization?

Traditional Transactional Relationships

In a lot (probably most) organizations the relationship between the supervisor or boss and their subordinates is largely transactional.

They ask people to give their time and participation in exchange for tangible benefits (like pay) and intangible rewards (like approval).

Transactional Relationships within a work group

This model embeds some tacit assumptions including:

  • If everyone does their job, we get the result we want.
  • The supervisor is largely responsible to define the jobs.
  • The supervisor is responsible ensure that everyone is doing those jobs.

The Job Relations material is pretty explicit when it describes the purpose of the class:

Management wants output and quality.

Output and quality always require the loyalty and cooperation of the people in addition to what machines can accomplish.

Can we do something which will improve loyalty and cooperation? That is the purpose of these meetings.

– From Job Relations Session 1

Loyalty and cooperation are certainly things we would like to get from people, but I also think it is also a pretty low bar. And loyalty is a two-way street, at least outside of a dysfunctional relationship where it is expected but not given outside of the bounds of a transaction.

A Mechanistic Model of the Universe

This transactional view is representative of a 17th century mindset that, unfortunately, prevails today in many domains, especially in business and industry.

Largely defined in the work of RenĂ© Descartes (1596-1650) and really solidified in the work of Isaac Newton (1642-1727) this model depicts a universe that operates like clockwork. It is mechanistic. It is deterministic – if we know the starting positions and characteristics of the pieces, we can predict what will happen. This is a reductionist view – we can understand the whole by decomposing it and understanding the parts. If we optimize the parts, we will optimize the whole.

From the 1944 perspective, the world of physics had been grappling with the idea that none of this is actually true for the previous 30 years or so. In the world of everyday experience, the mechanistic view still made common sense to people. It still does today. But on the level of human relationships, we now understand things much better.

The Mechanistic View in Industry

What do I observe that might lead me to conclude that the mechanistic view prevails in a business or factory?

Relationships Are Transactional

There are discussions around the relationship as an exchange between the business and the employee.

Motivation is Regarded as Extrinsic

Workers in the Ford Model-T Factory

“They are only here for the paycheck” and even the attitude that the purpose of treating people well is to motivate them to perform – as part of the transaction. The general belief here is that if it were not for the external rewards, people would not bring what is required to the job.

Issues, “problems,” are framed as restoring or renegotiating the transactional relationship, or at best, heading off things that might disrupt it.

The Goal or Objective is for everyone to “do their part” for the performance of production – to meet the needs of the organization which is thought of as separate from the employees.

Therefore, leaders intercede when something threatens production. Their goal, their objective, is to head off threats to the status-quo or to restore the status quo.

Now, to be clear, there are elements of these things in even the most enlightened organizations. But there are key differences in the underlying paradigm and, more critically, the words that are used when discussing problems.

The Holistic, Teamwork View

The reductionist, mechanistic model is appealing because it creates an illusion of direct cause-and-effect between a change in one component and the overall outcome. It is also appealing because it gives the illusion that we can deal with each component, including each person, separately, and shape their behavior by altering the terms of the transaction.

We have learned a lot since the early 1940s.

The Holistic, Systemic View

In this paradigm the emphasis is on teamwork rather than “do your job.”

“Teamwork” is interesting. People tell me they want “teamwork” within their organizations as though teamwork is a tangible thing. It isn’t. Teamwork is an emergent property of specific habitual patterns of interaction between people. When those interconnections are strong, there is teamwork. When those interconnections are weak, then people tend to retreat into their own individual silos.

The supervisor’s role in this model is much less directive. Their objectives are around maintaining clarity so that the entire team is aware of how they are doing vs. their objective; to work to build trust with and between the members of the team; and work to grow people’s skills, both technical and social.

The objective is centered around strengthening the team.

What kind of things do I observe when this model prevails?

Relationships are Social

This doesn’t mean that everyone is friends or socializes outside of work (though that can happen). It doesn’t even mean they all like each other. Rather, there is a bond of trust and respect between the members of the team. This isn’t just about the interactions between individuals and the supervisor, but interactions between everyone.

Sidebar: It your organization refers to employees in terms such as “team member” but still engages in traditional transactional relations focused on compliance and control, the values in your language do not reflect the values people actually experience, and you are only fooling yourself.

Motivation is Considered to be Intrinsic

Human motivation is probably the thing we have learned the most about since the 1940s. There is a robust body of research that suggests that transactional, extrinsic, motivators alone actually reduce teamwork, reduce the level of commitment, and impede creative problem solving because they introduce a fear of loss into the transaction. Organizations that have strong teamwork also understand this.

They work hard to build a workplace that creates a sense of autonomy, competence, and most critically, relatedness – the sense of satisfaction from relationships and being a part of something bigger than ones’ self.

And crucially, these organizations tend to consider all employees, regardless of level, to be vested members of a single entity rather than transactional employees. Note that I say “employees” here but I am not implying any particular legal relationship. I have seen phenomenal teamwork and intrinsic motivation within groups of independent contractors, or hybrid groups with both independent contractors and formal employees. I have even seen it with team members who were technically employees of a temp agency.

This feeling of being vested in the teamwork and the outcome arises from the relations between the team members, not any particular legal structure.

Assumption: Good Teamwork Produces Better Results

In the strongest teamwork cultures, the lowest level of accountability for results is the team. Admittedly this is exceptional, but it demonstrates a basic underlying assumption: The way to get the best performance is to focus on strengthening teamwork rather than reacting directly to things that disrupt production.

Now… reality is more subtle than this, of course. But that really means that the leadership, especially the first line leadership, must be steeped a mindset of learning and growth rather than one of simply gaining compliance.

A Thought Experiment – Which Team Do You Want?

Consider this hypothetical. We have two groups that are identical.

  • The same people.
  • The same process.
  • The same equipment.
  • The same environment.

The supervisor for Team 1 has a focus on things that disrupt production.

The supervisor for Team A has a focus on things that strengthen teamwork.

Which of those teams will be more productive? Team 1? or Team A?

I asked this question to an audience of about 60 people (as I gave this talk) at the 2023 TWI Summit. Nobody raised their hands for Team 1. About two thirds raised their hands for Team A. Strong teamwork produces better results.

Two Teams Thought Experiment

Getting the Facts: What Does TWI Job Relations Actually Say?

Which brings us back to our original question: How do we define “good” in “Good Relations?”

The 1944 Job Relations trainer’s manual is silent on any direct definition of “Good Relations.” Therefore we have to look at what the material defines as the objective of the supervisor.

In the introductory material on day one, we see this definition of “Good Supervision” at the bottom of Page 18 in the 1944 Job Relations manual:

Good supervision means that the supervisor gets the
people in his department to do what he wants done,
when it should be done, and the way he wants it done,
because they want to do it.

Are you comfortable with this definition of “good supervision?”

All I can do here is relate my own reaction. Yours may be different. But to me, this is the very definition of compliance. Most updates to the material change the pronouns from “he” to something more inclusive, but the rest of the words remain, and are often quoted outside of the actual class.

Is this the objective? Is this the relationship we want our supervisors to have with their people? Only you know what your objective is.

Page 18 of the Job Relations Manual: Is this what we want?

Here is a little test you can do. Take this definition of “good supervision” and frame it in the first person. Imagine that a supervisor was saying these words to the people who report to him. “My job is to get you to do what I want done, when it should be done, and the way I want it done, because you want to do it.”

Now ask yourself: Would that statement reflect respect for the people it was spoken to? Would it fly when spoken to members, especially the youngest members, of a 21st century workforce? Does that statement meet the objective of good relations between a supervisor and his direct reports?

If teaching your supervisors how to constructively gain compliance from their people is your goal, you can stop reading. This post is not targeted at you.

But if you are after a different objective, then perhaps we should rethink the words we use when instructing. And, more importantly, we should rethink the words we teach others to use when teaching them to deliver this training material.

The Job Relations Model

If we were to hypothetically change the definition of “Good Supervision” to something a little more aligned with 21st Century values (or keep it if your values are aligned with it… why are you still reading this?) and look at the rest of the material, we see that we may have now created some discontinuities that need to be addressed.

The TWI Job Relations Model

The question remains: Does the model we use to teach these concepts support our objective?

In the 1944 course, the instructor constructs this diagram step by step with the objective of emphasizing that success of supervisors depends on the “loyalty and cooperation” of the people working for them.

The first step of building the diagram is to emphasize that “A supervisor gets results through people.” by making the valid point that it is the people actually running the machines and assembling the product (or in more modern language, performing the value-adding operations) that actually get the results.

Did that supervisor himself make wire? No, he supervised a department in which many people worked together to turn out the wire.

Now this is really just a quibble on my part, but is there a better way to say that the supervisors’ job is to enable their people to get good results rather than “the supervisor gets results…” which, in my mind, lays claim to them?

Gets Results Through People – Does it reinforce the idea of hierarchy and authority?

I’m just throwing that out there, but overall, the tone seems to me to be more about authority than teamwork.

If I look holistically, I think the supervisor is more about enabling the team to get results by working on removing barriers to teamwork and getting the job done in the most effective and efficient way possible.

As the vertical two-ended arrow labeled “Job Relations” is drawn, the training script directs the instructor to say:

“Job Relations are the everyday relations between you [the supervisor] and the people you supervise.

The kind of relations you have affects the kind of results you get.

Relations with some are good, with others are poor, but there are always relationships.

Poor relationships cause poor results ; good relationships
cause good results.

When a supervisor wants to meet any of these responsibilities effectively, he must have good relations with his people.

And all of this is totally true. What is not here is emphasis on the relations between the people. In fact, the word “trust” appears nowhere in the baseline material. “Teamwork” is mentioned only as “Lack of teamwork” in the list of possible problems a supervisor might encounter. It certainly isn’t a point of emphasis as a core objective.

So to someone who already has a mechanistic mindset, it is easy, in my mind, for that person to interpret this material as reinforcing a model where the supervisor uses his authority to oversee each member of the group individually with the overall objective of each one doing his job so that their piece of the process functions correctly.

The Foundations for Good Relations

TWI Job Relations – Foundations for Good Relations Pocket Card

The 10 hour course spends 10 minutes going over the “Foundations for Good Relations.”

They are:

  • Let each worker know how he is doing.
  • Give credit where credit is due.
  • Tell people in advance about changes that will affect them.
  • Make the best use of each person’s ability.

and at the bottom of the pocket card: People must be treated as individuals.

What is really interesting to me here is that, according to the 1945 Training Within Industry Report that outlines the development of these courses, an earlier version of these foundations was (Bold emphasis added by me):

  • Be sure that each person understands what his job is.
  • Be sure each person understands the working conditions.
  • Be sure each person understands what affects his earnings.
  • Be sure that the people on the team work together.

So earlier, pilot, version of the material from early 1942 (at the latest) included an explicit reference to teamwork as a foundation for good relations, but this was changed by the time the final 1944 version was finalized. And it is the 1944 version that everyone who teaches TWI Job Relations bases their materials on.

Although the foundations are pretty solid, I personally find the phrasing a bit paternalistic – which, again, reflects the values of the times. Thus I think we should review the foundations and choose our words carefully when teaching these critical concepts.

The other question I have is this: Since these foundations are a critical underpinning for the entire program, why do we only spend 10 minutes telling them about the foundations? From TWI Job Instruction we know that “telling alone is not enough” for something that is critically important.

Again, according to the official history of the program, earlier pilot versions spent more time on the foundations, but that time was given up in order to spend more time on what is now the main emphasis of the course: “How to handle a problem.”

How to Handle a Problem

TWI Job Relations – How to handle a problem

The course defines a problem as: “Anything the supervisor has to take action on.” and right away we set the tone for the remaining 8 hours and 55 minutes of the course – Problems.

What is awesome about TWI Job Relations is the Four Step Method for “handling problems.” What I wish were different is that it is framed to be about handling problems that cannot be ignored rather than a more general purpose process for developing people and teamwork. The process itself needs no changes. Only the title and context of teaching.

I think this point is driven home by the way the 10 hours course spends people’s time.

What Does TWI Job Relations Emphasize?

Timeline of TWI Job Relations 10 Hour Course

A simple look at the overall timeline of the course is telling. It spends slightly over 10% of the time talking about the foundations (in green above), the importance of good relations. And it spends just under 75% of the time practicing how to handle compliance issues (in red above). With the exception of “The Jim Problem” the case studies are around people having poor attitudes, not showing up for work, etc. And the case studies tend to set the tone for the “problems” that the participants bring to the class.

In the examples, the instructor emphasizes listening to people, though there isn’t any real practice around good listening skills. Again, earlier pilot versions of the course emphasized this more, but not the final version that everyone uses today.

OK, I could dig in more, but I’m not going to. Hopefully if you are considering using this material, you will read it for yourself, or listen to the words actually used, and ask yourself if these points of emphasis are what you want to teach your supervisors. Time for the next step.

Weigh and Decide

First, let me address some obvious (to me) potential objections to what I am saying so far. Then let’s look at alternatives, and finally, let’s ask which alternatives is most likely to meet our objective.

But Mark…Supervisors have to learn to deal with these real-world issues.

Yes they do. My questions are:

  • Are the case studies reflective of issues that 21st century supervisors have to deal with?
  • Are we giving our supervisors 21st century skills to deal with these their issues?
  • Are we emphasizing teamwork or compliance?

I don’t disagree at all that our objective includes teaching supervisors how to effectively handle problems. I question whether the tone and phrasing we are using is the most effective way to do so.

But Mark… I (we) absolutely emphasize building good teams when teaching Job Relations.

If so, that is awesome. My questions are:

  • Are you following the Job Relations course script, or are you deviating from the script to emphasize these things?
  • Are you having to emphasize these things in follow-up after the formal class?
  • If you are deviating from the script, then my message is not directed to you, BUT…

Do we teach new instructors to follow the script exactly?

If so, then my questions are:

  • Do those newly certified Job Relations instructors already work in a place with a solid teamwork-based mindset (or a place striving toward one)?
  • Do the words we teach them to say reinforce that teamwork mindset?
  • What happens when the norms and customs of the organization are focused on compliance and production numbers only?
  • Do those same words reinforce the mindset of compliance and production?

Are We Meeting Our Objective?

That depends very much on what your objective is.

If your objective is to prevent (or recover from) disruptions to production by teaching your supervisors to get people to do what he wants done, when it should be done, and the way he wants it done, because they want to do it, then everything is fine. The 1944 TWI Job Relations material is focused on this objective and does a great job.

If, on the other hand, the objective is to teach supervisors the skills they need to build a culture of teamwork, as well as to build a cadre of instructors who emphasize the things that contribute to that culture, then maybe, just maybe, we should take a look at the words we use.

And the words we teach others to use. And what we have them practice. And where they spend their time.

Job Relations is great. And when it is taught and coached through a lens of teamwork culture, it can have a profound positive impact on the organization.

But out of the box, I believe it is too deeply tied to the values and paradigms of its times.

I think we can do a better job preparing our supervisors for the next 80 years.

Conclusion

This is long enough, and I am not going to delve into any specific suggestions here. As I said at the beginning, this is public domain material, nobody owns it or manages the configuration. Anyone who wants to is able to take this as a baseline and update it to match your own values.

If you do, I would hope that you would consider re-contributing your updates to the public domain, so that our community can benefit as a whole.

A First-Timer’s Guide to KataCon

The 2023 Toyota Kata Summit, aka “KataCon9” is coming up fast – officially 14 and 15 March, with a extra breakout sessions on “Day 0” on Monday March 13th. Also the evening of the 13th is the Kata Geek Meetup, a less formal series of short presentations and discussion.

A Breakout Session at the TWI Summit

Last year (2022) was “Old friends meeting for the first time” as 2021 had been virtual and the online community really came together during 2020 and 2021. And that community remains. I’m not sure what this year’s vibe will be – every one is different.

One thing that is a little different this year is that the TWI Summit is running in parallel in the same venue. This means if you are registered for either you can go back and forth to see the people and presentations that interest you. There is a lot of overlap between the two communities in any case.

And – yes, I will be there. I will be presenting at the TWI conference, and am the closing joint speaker for the two combined audiences. My messaging is nearly always about leadership and the culture we are trying to create within our organizations, and my goal is always to leave you thinking a bit. (Hence the name of this blog *smile*) I am also doing a breakout workshop about how Toyota Kata and TWI integrate into a single system. (Hint – it isn’t about tools.)

The conference is a really cool mix of regulars (for example, I have been to all of them) and people with all levels of experience with Toyota Kata from the curious to the thought leaders.

While the formal part of the conference is always awesome, I want to share some tips about how to get even more out of your experience there.

Simply put, a lot of the opportunity for learning happens in the times before, and especially after, the formal program. Monday evening and Tuesday evening, especially, present huge opportunities.

The Kata Community is one of the most open and sharing communities of practice out there. Even though lots of the “regulars” are consultants, for example, the vast majority of us share information, tips, learning with one another – not just at the conference. This happens year-round.

And you have the same opportunity. Talk to people. Ask questions, Ask questions about who you should ask. Seek out expert experienced opinions. Got a specific issue or question about application? Ask. Get a conversation going. I am far from the only one who has spent hours going into depth with people in the evenings. For me, it is fun, it makes me think, I learn, and the exchange is refreshing.

From a purely value perspective – you can get a conversation from world-class practitioners and consultants for the price of a beer, if that. You’d likely pay a lot more if you engaged them as a client. *smile* The key is – spend time with people.

Likewise, one of the mantras of our community is “Have a coach, be a coach.” This is a great opportunity to connect with someone who wants to practice their coaching skills – or if that’s you, to find a more-than-willing learner. If you want to “be a coach” I suggest you also connect with someone to coach you as you coach – a 2nd coach.

But to get the most out of KataCon you, first, have to actually attend.