Kanban + Toyota Kata = “True” Lean?

Kanban and Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata are really made for each others. Håkan Forss has already written a lot about that; even made it exciting using Lego. So, I just want to re-inforce this by adding my point of view and an illustration.

For a team to evolve towards a specific vision of excellence, it must start working towards a target condition. And it must have the ability to do that continuously in a repeatable and sustainable way. Moreover, the results (for instance new policies) must be sustained by the team “for ever” or until they become invalid.  This requires specific conditions. It requires that the team is able to:

  • Express the target condition in relation to its current condition (e.g. 10% smaller lead-times by June), which means having a good awareness about the current condition.
  • Identify what is required to reach the target condition (e.g. 50% of our demand is for “standard” work that is often blocked), which means having a good understanding about the team’s capability.
  • Maintain any new policies required for reaching and sustaining that target condition.
  • Limit its WIP so that it has time for improvement-related work.
Now, the good new is that a working Kanban system exactly meets these requirements. It helps a team to:
  • Truly be aware of its current condition, and have the capability to maintain that awareness. Due to the Kanban system’s visualization policies, feedback policies and the measure of flow and other KPIs of interest (lead-times, throughput, block-time, etc.) which really quantify the team’s current capability.
  • Maintain explicit policies that are followed by all team members, and possibly others outside of the team. Meaning that any new policy should be sustained until invalidated.
  • Limit WIP.
So, using a Kanban system put you in a perfect position to really start improving towards perfection. You thought you were done by having implemented Kanban? Think again: it only brings you half way. It brings you where the work really starts!

This drawing is actually an update from a previous drawing I did for a presentation at LKCE11.

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