Toyota Kata: Is That Really an Obstacle?

“What obstacles do you think are preventing you from reaching the target condition?”

When the coach asks that question, she is curious about what the learner / improver believes are the unresolved issues, sources of variation, problems, etc. that are preventing the process from operating routinely the way it should (as defined by the target condition).

I often see things like “training” or worse, a statement that simply says we aren’t operating the way the target says.

Here is a test I have started applying.

Complete this sentence:

“We can’t (describe the target process) because ________.”

Following the word “because,” read the obstacle verbatim. Read exactly what it says on the obstacle parking lot. Word for word.

If that does not make a grammatically coherent statement that makes sense, then the obstacle probably needs to be more specific.



0 Replies to “Toyota Kata: Is That Really an Obstacle?”

  1. Hello Mark,
    Have to say, I am commenting on this based on first-hand experience (full disclosure: Mark has been our Kata consultant for the past couple of years).
    Ever since we printed and laminated that sentence under the term “Obstacle Parking Lot” this has clarified many questions and enabled us to focus on true obstacles. From time to time we still find items such as “no training” and “no standard work” listed on this section of the board, but this is where a bit more digging is required from the coach’s perspective.
    For example: When the learner says “I can’t get to the target condition because there is no training for the operators.” Now, this is where the coach should be asking and recognizing that training is a solution to something. What is this something? If training takes place what is the end result, in effect what is training solving? Typical answer from learner is, “they will know how to do the job, exactly where to go, when to do stuff and who else is involved”. Very soon after this conversation takes place, they both quickly arrive at the true obstacle “operator knowledge, or know how” – not training. So is the case when they list “no standard work” as an obstacle. Here again, standard work is the solution to what? What is standard work solving, what is it getting us? Well, says the learner, it’s ensuring that every operator performs a specific task the same way day in and day out. In essence is minimizing and or eliminating operator to operator task variability – true obstacle: operator to operator variability.
    Final word: this works! I would have to say that “We can’t get to the target condition because…” is a very good way to start focusing and or start the conversation on the way to the true obstacle. This has made a big difference for us. It really guides you to start being more specific and sometimes asking some clarifying questions can also aid in these efforts.

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