Seek Perfection

An Overview of The Kata Continuous Improvement, Policy Propagation and Realization Program


The Program Path has a Direction and Steps, an Indepth Video Follows

Kata Benefits

Toyota’s Continuous Improvement Program is named Kata Continuous Improvement, Policy Propagation, and Realization. Some of its advantages include:

  1. An improvement rate of 11 ideas per person per year,
  2. Every idea directed towards either a business challenge or vision,
  3. It creates a culture of winning, and
  4. Toyota will not expand into a new plant unless they have a critical mass of employees that can execute this program.

Kata Benefits

Read the characteristics of the leading Kata Continuous Improvement Program followed by a detailed introduction to the program or you can review the video. Kata Continuous Improvement Program:

  1. Certainly a Direction: Towards a business benefiting vision or challenge,
  2. Strategic for Toyota. They will not open a new plant unless this program is functional,
  3. Methodology Maturity: Outlasts CEO’s,
  4. Limits Toyota expansion if it can’t be implemented maturely,
  5. Improvement Culture:
    1. Creates a winning culture since it involes everyone,
    2. Solidifies and relies on the idea that everyone is the expert on the process they are working on, and
    3. Simulates achievable improvement steps with mentoring.
  6. A prime enabler to the Toyota Production Systems 6+ Sigma state,
  7. Idea Adoption Rate: 95%,
  8. Employee Reward: $20,
  9. Goal: Improve every process every week,
  10. Breath of solution: Every Value Stream,
  11. Solution Structure: Well defined,
  12. Metrics: Intrinsic,
  13. Effect on Employees: Empowering and creates constant improvement thinking, and
  14. Employee Growth Opportunities: Up the chain of command.

The Improvement Path

The high-level process is summarized below.

The effort starts with a thorough understanding of the Current Condition (CC). One way to think of it is that if you have the CC and the Vision, you can draw a straight-line trajectory from one to the other. But, without fully understanding the CC, you will never know the trajectory of the improvement line. The CC represents the current standard process.

Kata Continuous Improvement is a competitive advantage for Toyota. As demonstrated in the photo below the Kata Continuous Improvement, Policy Propagation, and Realization effort has a path. The path transcends Target Conditions (TC) from the Current CC to the Vision or Challenge. Between each Target Condition, there is a trajectory that is visible and one that you will have to figure out. This is how come learning is so important. The interface between the path that is seen and not seen is called the Knowledge Border. You would never have a Target Condition that you could easily determine the trajectory too.

As Target Conditions are attained you eventually accomplish either your Challenge or your movement towards a Vision.

Kata Process Improvement Path

In-depth Overview of How you Engage in a Quest for Perfection

VP brings a business perspective and Vision. The VP understands the business strategy and the importance of the team’s focus on executing to it. Above all, they understand the Leading Kata Continuous Improvement methodology and it’s value.

The Business VP either defines a Vision, which focuses his team in a direction, or defines a Challenge. The Challenge has an accomplished by date.

Challenge: For instance, He may need to accommodate 30% business growth in the next 3 years.

Alternate Challenge: Decrease the time through a Value Stream Map by 1 hour per week within one year.

This is Where Kata Continuous Improvement gets Business Input, from Business VP

The VP brings a business perspective and Vision. The VP understands the business strategy and the importance of the team’s focus on executing to it. Above all, they understand the Leading Kata Continuous Improvement methodology and it’s value.

The Business VP either defines a Vision, which focuses his team in a direction or defines a Challenge. The Challenge has an accomplishment date, for example 2 years.

Challenge: For instance, He may need to accommodate an increase of 15% business growth in the next 3 years by increasing value stream performance by 15%.

Alternate Challenge: Decrease the time through a Value Stream by 1 week within 2 years.

VP of Ops
VP of Business Ops

For example, the VP is considered a Coach to the Value Stream Manager, and the Value Stream Manager is considered a Learner relative to the VP.

Coach Leaner Relationship

Coach-Learner Relationship. The VP is the Coach and coaches the Value Stream Manager. This Coach-Learner relationship exists between everyone in this chain.

Coach and Learner come as a combination. The Coaches responsibility is to guide the Learner through the process.
Subsequently, the Learner does just that, learns. These two individuals act as a team. Every Coach has a Learner and every Learner has a Coach. This concept propagates all the way up to the VP.  There are 6 predefined questions that every Coach can start with.

Value Stream Manager

The Value Stream Manager is key in generating 11 Continuous Improvement Ideas per person per year and has responsible of:

  • Building the Current State Value Stream (CSVS),
  • Building the Future State Value Stream (FSVS), and
  • Supporting their team’s selection of Target Conditions (Explained later)

The Value Stream Manager is a new position. This person should have the time to work on at least three and maybe five different Value Streams at the same time.

Value Stream Manager
Value Stream Manager, Supported by predefined Coaching Questions

Above all, the Value Stream Manager is key in executing Kata and has responsible of:

  • Most importantly, building the Current State Value Stream (CSVS),
  • Building the Future State Value Stream (FSVS), and
  • Supporting their team’s selection of Target Conditions (Explained later)

If the VP does not have a strategy to deliver then the Value Stream Manager can develop their own requirements for the Value Stream by using the structure of the Kata Continuous Improvement program.

If the VP does not have a strategy to deliver the solution, then the Value Stream Manager can develop their own requirements for the Value Stream to meet the business requirement by using the structure of the Kata Continuous Improvement program.

Storyboard Information

To enable rapid and complete communication the Value Stream Manager will set up an especially relevant Learners Storyboard. This storyboard will include:

  • Target Condition (TC) – A TC is an interim requirement with a due date for a process improvement that moves you towards a Challenge. You iterate to your challenge or vision through Target Conditions. Each TC has a due date.
  • Challenge – Subsequently this comes from the VP and represents the end goal that the TC marches towards.
  • Current Condition (CC) – Represents detailed documentation of current performance
  • Experimenting Record – This contains documentation of experiments performed to reach the TC.
  • Obstacles Parking Lot – The move from the CC to the TC encounters obstacles. Some obstacles are predictable ahead of time and some aren’t. All of the obstacles are listed here.

The Value Stream Manager also builds the schedule.

Challenge: Improve processing velocity by 30% in 2 years.

Next Challenge: Reduce Defects by 5% in one year.

Value Stream Loop Manager

Value Stream Loop Manager

Value Stream Loop Manager

This position may or may not exist in your company. If it does not exist, there is no reason to add this position. This individual is responsible for multiple processes in the Value Stream.

The responsibilities of the Value Stream Loop Manager include reviewing the CC and analyzing how this impacts the Value Stream. This manager will publish the current condition and then distill Process requirements to help determine the TC.

The VS Loop Manager initiates the Coaching Summary Board which summarizes:

  • Learners
  • Coaches
  • TC
  • Dates

This Summary Board displays responsible individuals which facilitate successful communication. TC goals, and the experiments and expected results.

The VS Loop Manager is responsible for starting the CC/TC Form and also determining the requirements for the TC by back-and-forth dialogue with the Coach and Learners.

Challenge: For example select the top four processes to improve and push for a 10% velocity improvement in 2 months.

Next Challenge: Eliminate 30% of the inventory in 2 years.

Process Manager

Process Supervisor
Process Manager

The Process Manager is responsible for the process. The current process should be the best practice standard process. This is the process to improve and since the Process Manager is the expert on the process, that is how come the Process Manager is responsible for trying to figure out how to improve it.

The Process Manager determines the requirements, each with a due date. Also, determine what needs to change to improve and meet the challenge. The Process Managers are one step above the operators in the company hierarchy. Process Managers are very close to what needs to improve. Subsequently, their teams are a key to success.

They will manage the CC/TC Form and populate the “Process Activities Analysis” which keeps track of the CC and the TCs. Also, the documentation of the experiments is done in the “Experimenting Record”.

The Process Manager is the Coach for the operators and works very closely with them to deliver on the TC. While working with the operators, they should use any set of tools they can think of to help them “Learn” about the process.

Challenge 1: Improve process velocity by 15% in 2 months.

Next Challenge 2: Decrease unnecessary motion by 30% in one month.

Final Challenge 3: Implement a Pull system and eliminate 50% of inventory in 1 year.

The effort starts with a thorough understanding of the CC. One way to think of it is that if you have the CC and the Vision you can draw a straight-line trajectory from one to the other. But, without fully understanding the CC, you will never know the trajectory of the improvement line.

As you move towards the Vision, your first stop is a TC. The assumption is that it is not possible to move directly from the current condition to the Vision or the Challenge, so you must get there in steps.

The movement to the first TC takes you through. Some of the Obstacles are known ahead of time and some are not. For individuals new to this process, don’t set the first Target Condition too far from the Knowledge Border so they don’t take on too many unknown Obstacles. As individuals get more comfortable with this process they will also be more comfortable venturing through areas of unknown obstacles.

The first step is to get to the first TC. The next step is to get to the second TC and so on until you accomplish the Challenge.

The states described above are explained in more detail below:

Learn
As you move forward you will encounter unanticipated Obstacles. This is where the brain of all process participants is used to take what you know and what you have found out. Next you do what it takes to move past these Obstacles.  As a result of this effort setting TCs closer to the CC becomes more common.
Obstacles

The TC should be a stretch goal. It must stretch the mind. Therefore, some Obstacles may be obvious and some may not. The goal is to Learn. Unanticipated obstacles induce learning. A best practice is to pick a TC and then go for it without much deliberation. This instills learning. Minimize encountering Obstacles to start and then increase with expanded experience.

Target Condition (TC)

The TC is chosen carefully because it has an assigned due date that you must accomplish it by. The TC is also on the trajectory towards the Vision and Challenge. There may be many TCs that you moved to before you accomplish the Challenge. Thinking of a TC expands the minds of employees to think into the future of how it could be.

Verify the Current Condition (CC)

A firm grasp of what you are attempting to improve is important because it affects the trajectory and makes the first movement valuable. A CC could refer to a standard processor throughput number. Therefore, validation of the CC will keep you from trying to improve an unstable process.

Vision

This is a key component of the Kata Continuous Improvement program, out there and possibly unattainable. What would you really like to accomplish? For instance: 0 defects, a safe environment, 100% value-added work. The Vision not only lets you voice a destination but also constrains the trajectory to your destination. This is key because it focuses improvement to accomplishing predefined goals, rather than random improvements.

Coaches and Learners Relationship a Key to the Kata Continuous Improvement Program

For instance, the Coach/Learner relationship is the key that makes this whole methodology work. Above all, this methodology focuses on learning. The concept is that if you have expertise in learning you will create a competitive advantage. As learning becomes a virtue in your company, most importantly, the company will start to move forward faster.

Every manager is a coach. The Coaches responsibility is to lightly direct the Learner towards the success of moving closer to the Challenge. Usually, the Coaches have more expertise than the Learners and therefore must be on guard to not feed the Learner solutions.

Every manager can also be a Learner. This methodology should propagate completely up and down an organization. The goal is Policy Propagation which leads to action. The following section includes a starter set of questions for both the Coaches and Learners.

The graphic below highlights the Coach/Learner relationship between the different levels of individuals, therefore, leading to constant improvement.

Potential Questions for the Coach

Coaching Kata questions:
  1. Firstly, what is the Challenge?
  2. What is the Target Condition?
  3. Explain the Current Condition?
  4. What Obstacles do you think are preventing you from reaching the Target Condition?
    • Which “one” are you addressing now?
  5. What is your Step? (Experiment)
    • What do you Expect?
  6. Above all, How quickly can we go and see what we have learned from taking that step?
Reflection Questions for the Coach
  • What did you plan as your Last Step?
  • What did you Expect?
  • Explain what happened?
  • What did you learn?

As a result of implementing the Kata Continuous Improvement Program, the business will accelerate towards tangible business benefits.


This Video Overivews the Explanation of Kata Continuous Improvement Above

Kata Continuous Improvement

In Conclusion

Certainly, Kata Continuous Improvement, Policy Propagation, and Realization is a Competitive Advantage for the Toyota Production System. By continually improving by 11 Continuous Improvement ideas per person per year accelerates them into the future. They will not expand into a plant unless they have the personnel needed to implement this program. This is one of the main reasons a competitor will never catch Toyota. It does not come without cost but the cost is small relative to the advantages. A required prerequisite is that you manage your system by focusing on Value through Value Streams. If you want to get ahead of your competitors then by implementing the Kata Continuous Improvement, Policy Propagation, and Realization Program you will accelerate into the future and make time your ally.