When Can I see?

One of the issues Mike Rother says he has had with the coaching questions in Toyota Kata is question #5 “When can we go see what you have learned?”

In the west, inevitably it seems, once the word “When” is uttered, everyone in the conversation leaps to hear “When will you be done?” no matter how the question is actually framed.

As I am understanding it right now, the actual intent is for the coach to establish two things:

  1. The PDCA cycle needs to be turned rapidly. “When…”? is meant to establish a time fame that might be measured in hours, or even minutes, rather than days or weeks. The more quickly the PDCA cycle is turned, the more thoroughly the problem is understood and the more robust the countermeasure.
  2. “What we have learned…” means “What surprises did you encounter?” “What went differently than you expected?” “What didn’t work the way you thought it would?” this part of the question is intended to drive home the point that it is these things, not the success, that drive deeper understanding plus give clues about the next problem that must be addressed.

Based on Rother’s experience with this question, I am tinkering with how to re-frame it so I can use it more effectively. Ultimately the behavior I want is an invitation to jointly observe how the proposed countermeasure has changed the process. We want to understand the actual effect vs the intended effect.

That, of course, requires that the intended effect is understood and explicitly stated before trying. That does NOT mean that every little step is documented on paper such as an A3. That is far too cumbersome at this level of granularity. We want this process to cycle faster than the time required to write this stuff down. It does mean that I would have evidence that it has been thought through rather than just blindly trying something.

6 Replies to “When Can I see?”

  1. John Miller’s book: QBQ (The Question Behind the Question)http://tinyurl.com/284khxb, may offer a good approach to asking the “right” questions, particularly within a Lean transformation. In our western American culture, beginning question with “when” puts people on the offense or defense, depending on the circumstances. I’ve used the QBQ approach to maneuver around those sticky situations so hat people can focus on proactive questions to elicit proactive responses, which is the goal of a good Lean Sensei. Just my two cents worth, hope it helps!

  2. Here’s an interesting view of PDCA.

    We just finished a Kaizen event on a process line. We made some changes. Two things that were supposed to happen were.

    1. The supervisor and team leader were supposed to clean off and label the shelves so we can create line stock for parts. Instead of having the stock room kit the parts for each job.

    2. The planner was supposed to move enough parts out of the stockroom to fill the shelves. Enough parts for one week of work in progress, 700 of each part. And enough parts for the next week of work, 700 of each part. When the “next week” shelf is empty the planner will again fill it.

    So I went out to the line, one week after the Kaizen event, to see how things were going. The supervisor said the parts had not arrived yet so she had not set up the shelves yet. The Planner said there were no empty shelves with labels so he had not delivered the parts yet.

    I guess sometimes the C comes before the D.

    I think I need a vacation………

  3. Mark:

    I do not wish to respond to your questions. Because I would only end up complaining about my company.

    The Lean manufacturing improvement process is an interesting thing. We speak about it here and on other forums. We hear success stories. And it sound like a really good thing.

    But when I practice it in Gemba it does not work very good. I’m thinking this happens because of three factors. 1. We don’t discover one or two large changes that will greatly improve the value stream. Small changes are not very exciting. 2. The plant workers are not able to think outside the box far enough to discover those one or two large changes that will greatly improve the value stream. 3. We never get to the root cause of our problems. We are constantly fixing and re-fixing broken methods and procedures.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Lean Manufacturing is the best way to improve our processes. But I see this big gap between the theory of Lean and the practical application of it in Gemba. There ought to be some sort of a test that can be given to a company to find out if Lean will work at that company. If a company does not have a firm PDCA culture already in place, then the application of Lean principles can not help them.

    1. Jim –
      Consider this counterpoint as a “what if…?”
      “Applying lean principles” and “putting a PDCA culture into place” are synonyms.

      Actually I am just recently grasping the gravity of this statement.

      You took actions (plan, do) and checked, and discovered that the results were different than you anticipated. What is your personal PDCA here?
      So, actually, I am not asking you to complain about your company at all. Rather, I am asking what you learned about your process and approach from that experience. And, to reiterate, I am learning to ask the same questions of myself when my actual results are different than what I anticipated… but that is a key learning moment. Therefore, it is critical to seize upon it. Few of us out there have coaches in place asking these questions of us as we do, so we are supporting one another by asking each other.

  4. Mark:

    Thank you so much for that response.
    My our personal PDCA. After checking how the last Kaizen went, I thought I would make some Adjustments to the event. When I make out the action plan I need to do it with everyone present. I need to add a “date of expected completion” to the action list. And I need to speak to each person, again in the meeting, and ask them what they think might keep them from accomplishing their task.

    As we sat in the meeting with the owner and plant manager, some team members stayed pretty quiet. Their name went onto the action item list, but they stay quiet. I really need to become a better coach. And at the meeting make sure everyone understands what we need them to do and why. In the future I need to set up a follow-up meeting date where we will Check on our progress.

    Sometimes I feel like I’m lucky to get agreement on a plan of action. So I stop there. I need to go further and make sure everyone knows that it will take their action to make things happen. I guess as Lean manager I am just like a football coach. I have been instructed on the Lean tools and principles. But I still need to learn how to coach better. Motivating people is not easy.

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