We are all being pushed into the zone beyond our knowledge base right now – having to rapidly adapt and adjust to different ways of working together.
This morning Craig Stritar forwarded a cool little video to me from Simon Sinek’s YouTube channel. In it Steve Shedletzky, a member of Simon’s team, introduces their weekly huddle – a way that this team, which has been working remotely for years, maintains their connection to one another.
One of the keys here is that this meeting is not a conversation about the business at hand. There are other meetings for that. This one is intended to strengthen the social bonds of the group.
They dedicate 75 minutes a week to this task. The video is a condensed version to give us a taste of their structure.
And it is structure that makes it work. It is structure that makes sure no individual dominates the conversation, and structure that keeps it from becoming the kind of wide-ranging conversation that happens over beer and pizza.
It is structure that gives them the freedom to hear and be heard.
Key points from this great TED talk by Joi Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab.
You can’t plan the path, you can only set the direction. He talks about the “compass” guiding a project that followed a route which was totally unpredictable. There was no way to plan out the path to success from the beginning.
Instead, at each step, they asked “Where are we now?”
“What do we need to do next?”
“What’s in the way of doing that?”
“How do we deal with that?”
I’m paraphrasing here, of course, but the key is that once again we have an instance the Improvement Kata pattern in the wild.
I just got the book, and am reading it now. I think there is going to be a lot of good material to discuss here.
But this post is about a marketing email with an excerpt really resonated with me, and I want to discuss that. I wrote to Dan Heath, and got his permission to use pieces of the excerpt here. (Thank you, Dan)
Management By Measurement = “Ghost Victories”
I have talked about what I call “management by measurement” in the past. In that post I told a true story of a company that placed very heavy emphasis on reducing inventory levels without digging into how that performance was achieved. The net result was a an embarrassed CEO during a quarterly analyst’s call. Not good.
Dan Heath talks about the same thing in Upstream. He calls it “ghost victories.”
[when] there is a separation between (a) the way we’re measuring success and (b) the actual results we want to see in the world, we run the risk of a “ghost victory”: a superficial success that cloaks failure.
The most destructive form of ghost victory is when your measures become the mission. Because, in those situations, it’s possible to ace your measures while undermining your mission.
He goes on to describe a case in the U.K. where the Department of Health established penalties for wait times longer than four hours in the Emergency Departments. And it worked. Wait times were reduced – at least on paper. Then the facts began to emerge:
In some hospitals, patients had been left in ambulances parked outside the hospital—up until the point when the staffers believed they could be seen within the prescribed four-hour window. Then they wheeled the patients inside.
If making the numbers (or the sky) look good is all that matters, the numbers will look good. As my friend Skip puts it so well, this can be done in one of three ways:
Distort the numbers.
Distort the process.
Change the process (to deliver better results).
The third option is a lot harder than the other two. But it is the only one that works in the long haul.
All of this ties very well to Billy Taylor’s keynote at KataCon6 where he talked about the difference between “Key Activities” and “Key Indicators.” It is only when we can get down to the observable actions and understand the cause-and-effect relationship between those actions and the needle we are trying to move that we will have any effect.
To avoid the “Ghost Victory” trap, Dan recommends “pre-gaming” your metrics and thinking of all of the ways it would be possible to hit the numbers while simultaneously damaging the organization. In other words, get ahead of the problem and solve it before it happens.
He proposes three tests which force us to apply different assumptions to our thinking.
The lazy bureaucrat test
Imagine the easiest possible way to hit the numbers – with the least amount of change to the status quo. The story I cited above about inventory levels is a great example.
I can make my defect rates improve by altering the definition of “defect.”
There are lots of accounting games that can be played.
This is one to borrow from Skip’s list – How can the underlying numbers be distorted to make this one look good when it really isn’t?
The “rising tides” test
What external factors would have a significant impact on this metric? For example, I was working at a large company where a significant part of their product cost was a commodity raw material. As the market price went down, “costs” went down, and bonuses all around. But when the market price went up, “costs” went up and careers were threatened and bad reviews issued.
Those shifts in commodity prices had nothing to do with how those managers were doing their jobs, the tide rose and fell, and their fortunes with it.
The question in my mind is “What things would make this number look good, or bad, without any effort or change in the process we are trying to measure?”
The defiling-the-mission test
Hmmm. This is a tough one. (not really)
And it is a really common problem in our world of quarterly and annual expectations. In what ways could meeting these numbers in the short term ultimately hurt our reputation, our business, in the long term?
For example, I can think of an ongoing story of a product development project that hit its cost and schedule milestones (what was being measured). But they did so at the cost of destroying their reputation with customers, their Federal regulators and the public (and, to a large extent, their employees). They now have a new CEO, but the deeper problem has origins in the late 1990s.
How long will it take them to recover? That story is still playing out.
In another case I was in a meeting with a team that was discussing a customer complaint. The ultimate cause was a decision to substitute a cheaper material to reduce production costs. But this is a premium brand. There was a great question asked there: “Which of our values did we violate here?” – so the introspection was awesome.
Next step? Ask that question before the decision is made: “Is this decision consistent with our values?” If that makes you uncomfortable, then time to look in the mirror.
Then there is this little incident from 2010:
The metric was cost and schedule. Which makes sense. But the behavior that was driven was cutting corners on safety.
Getting Ahead of Problems
The book’s subtitle says it is about getting ahead of problems. I am looking forward to reading it and writing something more comprehensive.
Another concept Billy brought out in his presentation was the difference between what he calls “Key Actions” (KA) and “Key Indicators” (KI) – often called Key Performance Indicators (KPI).
He actually introduced me (and a couple of other attendees) to the concept the previous evening. (Did I mention that a lot of the rich discussion took place in the lobby bar?)
We use the concept in Toyota Kata, we call them the “process metric” and the “performance metric” but I think Billy’s explanation offers more clarity than I have been able to pull off in the past.
He also ties it back into “what we must practice” to get the outcome we want.
In short, I look at the outcomes (the performance) I want, then ask “What actions, if they were carried out consistently, would give me this performance?” Those are the things that must be tracked, improved, and practiced.
Continuing on the health care theme, a key performance indicator is “hospital acquired infections” – getting sick in the hospital. Everyone agrees that this metric should be as low as possible, ideally zero.
But just tracking the “hospital acquired infections” isn’t going to nudge the needle much. There may be periods when there are improvements if there is emphasis, but year on year these things tend to be frustratingly steady over the long run.
If I ask “What behaviors, what actions, should we take to diminish opportunities for these infections?” then one thing pops right up on top: Anyone interacting with a patient must wash (or sanitize) their hands before doing so. Every. Single. Time. That action alone would have a dramatic and measurable impact.
It is so important that some systems have automated tracking to ensure compliance with this simple rule. (It is amazing to me that, in general, some of the worst offenders are physicians, but that is a rant for another day.)
Key Action: Wash your hands. Key Indicator: Hospital Acquired Infections.
OK – what about industry?
“Our machine downtime is too high. We need to improve our availability.” Key Indicator, but not directly actionable. What actions, if we take them consistently, do we believe are critical to reliable equipment?
Now we can track those. What are the critical-to-reliability things that must be checked every shift? Are they checked? How do you know? Do you track misses?
How about your preventative maintenance schedule?
Is the machine in configuration? Or are there improvised repairs in place? Why?
These are behaviors, actions, that relate directly to the availability of the equipment.
Together, they form a hypothesis: “If we carry out these actions (and know we did), then we predict this KPI will improve.” For this to work, though, we have to test whether or not the actions were carried out AND test whether or not the KPI needle moves over time.
One thing I would add: Focus on what people should do. Not so much on things they should not do. It is a lot easier to get a new habit into place than it is to stamp out an existing one. Working to replace an undesired action with a desired action is a lot easier as well.
The things that keep people from carrying out the Key Actions are obstacles. Now we can engage the Improvement Kata process and get to work.
TWI comes into play as well. “Are we carrying out the actions as we should?” It is all to easy to tell someone to do something and assume they know how, or assume that the way they do it is the way you have in mind. Trust, then verify.
Continuing my breakdown of Billy Taylor’s opening keynote at KataCon…
Key Bullet Points
People follow what you do before they follow what you say.
If you (as a leader) think you are above the process…
Deliberate practice on your practice of leadership. Focus on one thing.
Break down your leadership style [into elements]. Practice deliberately on one thing you want to reinforce or improve.
That second bullet is a real challenge for those of us who are in leadership positions (or even positions of influence). “If you think you are above the process…” – do you follow the standards and expectations you ask of others?
I think a good test would be “If a production worker corrected you, how would you respond?” If your internal emotional response (that initial feeling you have, not how you show yourself) is anything other than “Thank you for reminding me” then you are exempting yourself from the rules.
The other take-away:
Throughout his presentation, Billy was tying together the idea of “deliberate practice” and “developing leadership skills.” Leadership is a process, and processes can be broken down into their constituent elements and practiced.
This ties back perfectly to a broad spectrum of leadership development models. In the end, what we can control are:
What we say.
How we say it.
Who we say it to.
The structure of the environment that either inhibits or encourages the behaviors we want.
All of these things can be developed through experimentation, and then practiced. This is what Toyota Kata is about.
The first official day of KataCon kicked off with a keynote on deliberate practice by Billy Taylor. I first met Billy back in 2012 when I was doing some work with Goodyear. When I saw him at last year’s KataCon it was like running into an old friend, but that is who Billy Taylor is – even if you just met him.
Billy Taylor on Deliberate Practice
Pull quotes and thoughts
The Concept of Deliberate Practice
Toyota Kata has two sides, like a coin. On one side is scientific thinking. On the flip side is deliberate practice.
Traditional practice is often just mindless repetition. Deliberate practice has focused attention on perhaps one aspect of the routine.
A couple of things come to mind for me here. First is that too many coaches go through mindless repetition of the Coaching Kata. They just ask the next question on the card, and never practice using the questions to nudge the learner’s thinking to the next level.
This means they never practice in a way that pushes them as coaches. More about that below.
The other is that we, all too often, take a learner through the entire process much too fast. We do this in classes to give them a taste of the whole process. But in real life, perhaps it would be best to anchor each Starter Kata step and ensure there is at least understanding before moving to the next.
When 2nd coaching it is equally important to focus both the coach AND the learner on improving a single aspect of the board.
As I am writing this, I am reflecting more, and parsing more. This slide offers a ton of insight for me:
There is so much here on a lot of levels.
This is how I interpret the graphs: On the left we have “Just Practice.” Maybe I am learning to play a song on the guitar. As I practice I learn to play it better and better. Then I hit a plateau because I am comfortably good and not challenging myself anymore. I am just playing. And that feels awesome, because I validate to myself that I am pretty good.
At a higher level, this is the “lean plateau” that so many companies hit. They get really good at running kaizen events, or black belt projects, or whatever they do. They hit a pretty good level of performance, but things erode. They reach a plateau when the implementers are spending all of their time re-implementing what has eroded. They shift into mindlessly repeating the familiar rather than challenge themselves. What are we missing? Why is the skill concentrated into the same half dozen individuals who have been doing this since 1999?
The graph on the right represents something that is the same, but different. Take a look – each little squiggle repeats the graph on the left, only smaller. Each time a plateau is hit, the learner challenges herself to practice a new aspect. Things get a little worse for a bit, then as the new aspect is mastered, the process is repeated.
I see the job of the coach as two fold:
To challenge the learner in small steps, always looking for the obstacle to the next level of performance.
To offer up specific things to practice.
Billy’s presentation covered a lot of overlapping territory – enough for at least two more posts – stay tuned.
In his level-set / coaching demonstration, Steven Kane talked extensively about obscuring the jargon of Toyota Kata to defuse pushback.
Tracy Defoe had a separate brief presentation titled “Kata in Secret” – and this has been a topic of discussion in the weekly Cascadia Kata Coaches call that Tracy hosts.
The two cases were a little different. In Steven’s case, he was (I think) talking about an organized effort. Lots of companies trying something new need to alter the jargon a bit. On a broader scale, there are quite a few companies where Japanese jargon will create an immediate wall of resistance, so why create the problem? Just change the words.
And I’ve certainly encountered cases where there was resistance to the very idea of any structure at all. Dealing with that took regressing away from the Coaching Kata and back to the more informal conversation that the Coaching Kata is teaching us to have.
Tracy’s cases are a little different. She is collecting stories from often solo practitioners who are practicing Toyota Kata under the radar because they are perceiving career risks if they are overt. In one cases a leader was explicitly told not to use Toyota Kata because it ran counter to the corporate lean program. She did anyway.
While I find these stories interesting, I am not surprised by them. I have seen, and even advocated, this for a long time. I call it “camouflage.” My principle is this:
Do the right thing, but make it look like what they expect to see.
In other words, there is no point getting dogmatic about something unless doing so advances your cause in come way. In still other words, don’t let “being right” get in the way of what you are trying to get done.
For example – one company I have worked with for a long time got hard pushback from their corporate continuous improvement mafia office. “We don’t have obstacle parking lots. We have kaizen newspapers.” OK, fine. They labeled the obstacle sheet “kaizen newspaper” and just call it “improvement coaching” and everybody is happy.
The key is this: Don’t dilute what you are trying to do. If you start moving away from developing a pattern of scientific thinking in the people you are helping, then you are letting the tools take precedence.
This is the first in series of posts I am drafting about what I saw, heard, learned at KataCon6 in Austin.
I was originally writing this up in huge chunks, maybe two posts. But when I bounced the “Part 1” draft off Craig Stritar, I got some good advice – there are a lot of topics here, and it might be more useful to break these up into smaller pieces, so that is what I am doing.
My intent is to generate discussion – so I would like to explicitly invite comments, questions and especially take-aways from others. In other words – let’s continue the great conversations that were taking place in Austin.
Day -1 and Day 0
Lean Frontiers traditionally runs the TWI Summit and KataCon back-to-back in the same week, alternating which comes first. This year the TWI Summit was Monday and Tuesday, and KataCon was officially Thursday and Friday.
Both conferences, though, have semi-formal activities and get-togethers prior to the first official day. Since there are things going on Wednesday, some people begin to arrive Tuesday evening. And because I was already on site from the TWI Summit, Tuesday evening is really when things got started for me.
Something I have observed in the past is that each KataCon seems to take on an informal theme of its own – a common thread or feeling that is established more by the participants than the presenters. Where the first KataCon was the excited buzz of a community coming together for the first time, this one seemed to me to be like a reunion. To be clear – it was a welcoming reunion. Unlike other conferences I have attended, there is nothing “clique-ish” about this one.
With that reunion theme, I want to give a shout out to Beth Carrington. She is a vital member in the fabric of this community and this is the first KataCon she has missed. I think I can speak for all of the regulars when I say “we missed you.” Those who do not know you still felt your presence and influence through your impact on the rest of us.
The other thing (for me) that was cool was just how much of the conversation took place after hours in the hotel lobby bar. There were long-time regulars catching up, and there were first-timers and newbies getting rich tutorials and insights from the veterans. That is why I titled this section starting with day “-1.” Those conversations were happening on Tuesday afternoon and evening as people started to arrive.
This is a community of sharing. Many of us are consultants and nominally competitors in an increasingly crowded market. Yet nothing was held back. We build on each other’s stuff, and pretty much everyone shares what they are thinking with everyone else. That’s pretty cool in my estimation.
The Kata Geek Meetup
The Kata Geek Meetup started at the first KataCon. At the time it was an informal mailing list invitation to attend a get-together before the conference started. Everyone got a “Kata Geek” button to wear with the idea that the other conference participants could identify those with a bit more experience under their belt if they wanted to ask questions, etc. The event wasn’t publicized on the conference agenda.
Over the years this has morphed into a mini-preconference that is open to all who can attend. People share brief presentations – maybe something they want to try out for an audience, maybe a rhetorical question, maybe a “what we are learning.” The pacing is much more flexible than the actual conference, and there is time for lively discussion and Q&A. Sometimes tough, challenging questions get asked – though always in the spirit of curiosity rather than trying to one-up anyone.
As I get into the actual content, I want to clarify my purpose in writing what I do. When I listen to presentations, I am more likely to take down notes of what thoughts or insights I take away than the actual content. These things are often a fusion of key points the presenter is making, or the way they are saying something, and my own paradigms and listening framework. That is what I am writing about here. I am not making any attempt to “cover” the presentations as a reporter or reviewer would or be complete in mentioning everything that was said.
PLEASE contribute in comments if something I didn’t mention resonated with you, or something written here sparked another thought for you.
Dorsey Sherman made a simple point: All coaching is not the same. It depends on your intention (as a coach).
Thinking about it a bit, the classic TWI Job Relations is coaching – usually (in its original form) to fix or change behavior in some way. TWI Job Instruction is coaching – in this case to teach / coach for skill. At a deeper level, the classes themselves are designed to give novice coaches a structure they can practice.
The Improvement Kata framework itself is a pretty universal structure that I can pour a lot of different intentions into and test ideas that I think will move me in a particular direction. I think all coaching is a process of exploring and experimentation simply for the fact that we are dealing with other people. We may begin with assumptions about what they think, know, feel but if we don’t take deliberate steps to test those assumptions we are just guessing in the dark.
Hugh is a friend from neighboring beautiful British Columbia. I recall telling an audience in British Columbia that Canada represents that nice couple living quietly in an apartment over a rowdy biker bar. 😉
A couple of take-aways I noted down as Hugh was speaking:
The storyboard represents a picture of the learner’s mindset – it is like an MRI.
Correction: Hugh informs me (see his comment below) that the MRI analogy came from Panos Eftsa.
I loved that analogy. When I look at the storyboard I am really seeing how organized the learner’s thinking is, how detailed, and whether or not they are connecting the dots of cause and effect from the levels of their target conditions to their metrics down to their experiments and predictions.
I thought of an image like this:
Hugh was asking the audience about his situation of a client company that started up 13 storyboards at once. Some of the thoughts that came out:
Um… OK, you have already done that. *smile*
Establish a specific area of work for each board, each coach. Don’t try to bring them along all at once.
Work through each phase of the Coaching Kata, anchor success and mastery one-by-one rather than trying to batch everything through at once.
What was good about his client’s approach, though, is they are establishing a routine of people talking about why the work is the way it is – and that is awesome.
Toyota Kata Level-Set
At this point I am letting go of trying to write in the sequence of the agenda. There are topics I want to go deeper into, others I may combine.
The Toyota Kata Summit attracts people across a wide spectrum of knowledge and experience with “Toyota Kata” itself. Balancing the conference can present a real challenge. There are people who have been practicing this in the trenches for a decade and are pushing the boundaries. There are people who might have read the book and are curious about learning more.
One of the countermeasures is a “level set” presentation at the beginning of the formal conference. This is a brief overview of the fundamental principles of Toyota Kata and I think it is a good grounding for the veterans as well – it is always good to pull us back to the basics now and again.
Traditionally Mike Rother has done the “level set” presentation. This year, though, was a change and Oscar Roche stepped up. Oscar’s title slide drove home a critical point that we often miss:
“Kata is the a thing that helps you develop the a way”
His next slide answers the implied question:
My thoughts – and a digression
A lot of practitioners get hung up on the idea that the way they know best is the best way, sometimes to the point of believing it is the only way. This is true for Toyota Kata practitioners, general “lean” practitioners, Six Sigmites, Theory of Constraints, TQM, you name it.
Sometimes I hear people make sweeping statements that dismiss an entire community, perhaps focusing in on one thing they perceive as flawed. “Lean addresses waste but not quality (or not variation).” “TOC doesn’t address flow.” “Six Sigma is only about big projects.” “Toyota Kata is only about the storyboard.” All of these statements are demonstrably false, but it is hard to have an open minded discussion that begins with an absolute.
All (credible) continuous improvement has a foundation of scientific thinking. Any approach you take has some basic “first moves” to get you started thinking that way. Toyota Kata is more explicit about that than most, but the underlying principles are the same across the board.
Oscar’s opening slide emphasized this point: Toyota Kata is a way, not the way. We can all learn to adapt vs. continuing to hammer on a nail that has hit a knot and is bending over.
A teacher provides insight.
A coach pulls insight from the learner.
You may go back and forth between these two roles. Be crystal clear which role you are in at the moment.
I’ll probably write more about this in the future in a separate post. What I liked about this thought is that it is appropriate for the coach to provide direction or insight at times. My own presentation at KataCon kind of hinted at this – someone has to bring in the paradigm of what “really good” looks like.
Nevertheless, it is critical for the coach to drop into the “teacher” role only when necessary (which I think is a lot less often than we like to think it is), and then get back into true “coach” mode as quickly as possible. Why? Because unless I am in “curious” mode with my learner, I really have no way to know if my brilliant insights got any traction. 😉
Paraphrasing from Steven’s presentation, the question “What did you learn?” is there to see if there has been a moment of discovery.
The Power of Nothing
The most powerful follow-on question to “What did you learn?” is silence. If initial response is fluffy or vague, or you think there is more, just wait. Don’t try to say anything. The learner will instinctively fill in the awkward silence.
Target Condition vs. a Result
This came up a lot during the conference. Billy Taylor talked about the difference between “Key Activities” (KA) vs. “Key Indicators” (KI or KPI). What are the things that people have to do that will give us the result we are striving for? Leaders, all too often, push only on the outcome, and don’t ask whether the key activities are actually being carried out – or worse, don’t think about what activities are required (or the time and resources that will be required). I’m going dedicate a post on that topic.
And finally (and I am making this one bold so I remember it!) –
Don’t rob the leaner of their opportunity to make discoveries.
How often do we do that?
Michael had a brief presentation on “What we are learning” focused specifically into the health care field. His thoughts on medical students actually apply universally with anyone who perceives themselves as successful.
We need to de-stigmatize struggle. Productive struggle is part of deep learning. Medical students should not feel shame when they struggle to learn a new skill.
Why do they? Michael pointed out that the people who manage to get admitted to medical school are high-achievers. Things may well have come easily for them in high school and their undergraduate studies. Now they are in a group with other high-achievers, they don’t stand out from the crowd, and the concepts can be difficult to master.
We see the same things in other environments – a lot of people in senior positions of authority got there the same way. Many are ultra-competitive. Now we are asking them to master a skill that runs entirely counter to their paradigm of intuitive decision making. Note that that intuitive decision making has worked well for them in the past. But maybe they are at the limit of what they can do themselves, and have to find ways to engage others. I don’t know… there could be lots of scenarios that put them into completely unfamiliar territory.
Our challenge is how we de-stigmatize struggle.
Michael’s other key point touched one of the Wicked Problems in health care. I’m going to go into some more depth when I get to Tyson Ortiz’s presentation, but want to acknowledge the Great Question posed here:
“99% of activity needed to maintain wellness never involves a health system. Can we increase the striving capabilities and mental resilience of our patients, families, & communities so they can own their health journey?”
Amy tied our practice to the concept of “mindfulness.” One of her key points was learning to see that the pattern we are trying to teach may well be there in some form other than the explicit Improvement Kata.
She wrapped up with some guided practice of “being mindful” for the audience – which she said stretched her a bit as she had never done it with a group that large.
As a change agent, a mindfulness approach is critical. We have to learn to find everything about the way things are being done that we can leverage and extend. This means paying attention vs. the mindless approach of dismissing them out of hand with a single statement. Making people feel wrong may get attention focused on you, but it rarely helps make progress.
The afternoon was “Experientials” – four hour breakout sessions that went deep into a particular topic. As Craig Stritar and I were hosting one, I didn’t attend any of the others. Always a downside of being up-front – I see more of my own stuff than the awesome things others bring.
As I mentioned above, I am going to be digging into some of the topics in more depth, and I want to keep those individual posts focused vs. trying to cover a rich diversity of discussions all at once. Hmmm… one-by-one vs. batching. That might be a concept. 😉
Tyson zeroed right in on one of the biggest problems with “training” – getting people to adopt the new process or method after we have taught it to them.
Compounding this was that, in his example, the training was TWI Job Instruction – how to train. Tyson took a quick show-of-hands poll and informally confirmed his hypothesis that most people who take the TWI Job Instruction 10 hour course are already engaged in training and teaching.
This means that they have to do more than learn a new habit – one which will feel awkward to them at first. They also have to unlearn their current way of doing things – a way that is likely comfortable and familiar to them. To paraphrase from a slide of mine that seems to keep coming up: This. Is. Hard.
Taking what he has learned from Toyota Kata, Tyson saw the 4 Step Method for what it is: A routine for practice, not the end-all. For that to work, there must be actual practice using the routine. The 10 hour class is telling them about it* – and telling alone is not enough!
What Tyson did was add structured follow-on practice with real work, but not real training where the participants can practice, make mistakes, and learn in a safe environment. Then they move to live environments, but are still being coached. Then they are graduated and put on their own.
Another key is that passing each stage is based on performance, not a time line. It is up to the coach, since the coach is the teacher, and “If the student hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught.”
*Yes, the class includes demonstrating the four steps – but each participant typically only gets one repetition, hardly enough for us to know that they know.
Roger actually built on the theme that Tyson was developing – the process of getting Job Instruction incorporated into the daily routine of the organization.
We often call this “managing change” or more cynically “overcoming resistance” but I think both Roger and Tyson are operating at a much more fundamental and human level. It’s called paying attention to what is causing stress and fear and make sure you deal with it effectively and with empathy.
And it is empathy where Roger begins.
He used the Stanford design school model to experiment his way toward a solution that used the framework of Job Instruction in a way that worked for the particular situation. And isn’t that the whole idea?
As I was listening, I scribbled a note in the margin: “this is Menlo’s model” – the design process that Menlo Innovations. It isn’t really – this model uses different words. But the structure, intent, purpose is the same and is followed by all robust design and product development processes.
Roger was operating in an environment that was unfriendly to paper, had lots of high-variety and low-volume tasks that people had to get right.
Once he understood that he had motivated people in a tough situation, they began working together to develop simple solutions that worked – starting with simple sketches and hand-written notes on laminated cards.
Iterating through, always asking “What small step can we take?” toward the goal, always asking “How can we test that assumption or idea?” they converged on a solution that worked really well.
Not surprisingly, it was very visual and simple, and captured “Key Points” from the Job Breakdown.
There was a lot more good stuff at the TWI Summit. I’ll cover my own keynote separately. And I missed the 3 hour “Experiential” sessions because I was presenting one. And for the afternoon of Day 2 I was attending Oscar Roche’s version of a Toyota Kata class that follows the 5 x 2 hour structure of the classic TWI JI, JR, JM classes.
Thus, the next big thing for me to report on will be KataCon – which will be my next post.
Last week (February 17-20) I attended (and presented at) the TWI and Toyota Kata summits put on by my friends at Lean Frontiers. As always, I took a few notes and I would like to share some of those notes and thoughts with you here.
To be clear, what follows are my impressions and thoughts that were sparked by some of the presentations. I am not trying to be a reporter here, just catch my own reflections.
Martha Purrier, a Director of Nursing at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, talked about “auditing standard work,” though in reality I think her process was more about auditing the outcomes of standard work. More about that in a bit.
My interpretation of the problem: Traditional “audits” are infrequent, and tend to be time consuming for those doing them because there is an attempt to make them comprehensive.
Infrequent checks are not particularly effective at preventing drift from the standard. Instead they tend to find large gaps that need to be corrected. This can easily turn into a game of “gotcha” rather than a process of building habits. What we want to do is build habits.
Habits are built in small steps, each reinforced until it is anchored.
Make it Easy: Short and Simple Checklists
Martha’s organization created short checklists of critical “Key Points” (from TWI Job Instruction) that were critical to the standard they wanted to maintain.
As you can see, this is a quick and simple check to see if the contents and organization of a supply cart meets the standard.
But what really caught my attention was how they are triggering the audits.
The Key: Reliable Prompt for Action
This is a pretty typical work task board. There is a row for each person or team. In this case the columns look like they represent days, but they could just as easily represent blocks of time during the day, depending on how granular you want your tracking to be. At some point these start to become a heijunka box, which serves the same purpose.
You can see the yellow bordered audit cards on there. Martha said that when a task is complete, it is moved to a “Done” column that is out of frame to the right.
Here is what is awesome about this: It gives you the ability to “pull” checks according to need.
Do you have a new process that you want multiple people to check during the course of the week? Then put the check card for that task in multiple rows at staggered times.
Do you want to go broad over a group of related checks? Then put different checks on the board.
Who should do the checks? Whoever you assign it to. Totally flexible. Do you want to trigger a self-audit? Then assign the card to the person who does the task being checked, with the expectation that they self-correct.
Do you want to bring a new supervisor up to speed quickly? Assign multiple audits to her, then assign follow-up audits to someone else.
Making it Better: Follow-up Breakdowns
If we don’t want audits to simply become lists of stuff to fix, there has to be some process of following up on why something needed correction.
Martha’s organization introduced a simple check-form that lists “Barriers to Standard Work – (check all that apply)” and provides space to list countermeasures taken.
The lists includes the usual suspects such as:
Can’t find it
No longer relevant
Not enough detail
but also some that are often unspoken even though they happen in real life:
Lack of enthusiasm to continue or improve
Relaxed after training – drift
If a large part of the organization is pushing back on something (mutiny), then the leadership needs to dig in deep and understand why. To continue in our TWI theme, this is a great time to dig into your Job Relations process.
Standard Work vs. “Standards”
In my past post, Troubleshooting by Defining Standards, I made a distinction between defining the outcome you are trying to achieve and, among other things, the way the work must be done to accomplish that outcome.
When I think of “standard work” I am generally looking for a specification of the steps that must be performed, the order for those steps, usually the timing (when, how long) as well as the result. In other words, the standard for the work, not just the outcome or result.
To verify or audit “standard work” I have to watch the work as it is actually being performed, not simply check whether the machine was cleaned to spec.
Now, to be clear, I LOVE this simple audit process. It is an awesome way to quickly follow-up and make sure that something was done, and that the patient or customer-facing results are what we intend. It is flexible in that it can quickly and fluidly be adjusted to what we must pay attention to today.
I realize I am quibbling over words here. And every organization is free to have its own meanings for jargon terms. But when I hear the team “standard work” I am looking for the actual work flow as well as the result. YMMV.
This post got long enough that I am going to let it stand on its own. More to follow.