Conducting workplace experiments

NOTE from Lean Frontiers: The following guest post comes from Oscar Roche of the TWI Institute. Lean Frontiers is pleased to welcome Oscar as presenter to both the TWI Summit and Kata Summit. These two events make take place between February 17-21, 2020 in Austin, TX and together have come to be known as “Skills Week.” Learn more about Oscar and the many resources offered by his organization by visiting https://www.vwaust.com.

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By Oscar Roche, November 2019

I think there is an assumption that people are naturally competent in conducting workplace experiments. This is not criticism of individuals; it’s a reflection based on the last few years of experience and is classic. How often do we assume competence in foundational basics and that assumption is misplaced?

Furthermore, liberal use of “PDCA” (Plan-Do-Check-Act) to describe the principle of workplace experiments makes sense. But we find “PDCA” is not simply understood and applied well. People have heard of it, but we’re not so sure they’re good at it. Getting good at something takes practice based on sound understanding and coaching …

The whole point of experimenting in the workplace is to learn something in alignment with a goal that can then be used to guide our next step. That goal may well be an increase in performance to a new mark, or simply a return to standard.

The verb to learn means to acquire knowledge of, or skill in, something through study or experience. This makes a lot of sense when you consider the context of the word “learn” in the paragraph above, and then relate that to genuine continuous improvement.

An effective, efficient and fruitful way of learning through study or experience, of going beyond our knowledge threshold, is to think and act scientifically – to conduct workplace experiments with a sound PDCA base.

In PDCA there is a simple concept that must be recognized – it is a “before-do-after-after”, P-D-C-A, cycle. In other words, there is 1 before step and 2 steps after, with the doing in the middle. And they are not “evenly spaced”. The more time invested in the “before” the more efficient will be the do and the more reliable will be the 2 “after” steps.

An aspect often not done well is the consideration of measurement. “How will we measure this thing we’re going to do so we can make an objective comparison afterwards?”

Workplace experimenting is not a complex thing, but generally speaking it seems not well done. The skill can be developed in frontline people and frontline leaders through the introduction of base concepts, then practice and practice (with aligned coaching).

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RELATED WEBINAR: Join Oscar Roche for a related webinar, The Skill of Experimenting in the Improvement Kata, Dec 17, 2019 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM EST

2 Events. 1 Week. 1 City.

Join us for Skills Week
February 17-21, 2020
in Austin, TX
www.leanfrontiers.com/skillsweek

RELATED WEBINAR: Join Oscar Roche for a related webinar, The Skill of Experimenting in the Improvement Kata, Dec 17, 2019 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM EST