Toyota Kata Illustrates Skill and “Need for Change” Obstacles

Article Note: The following article was authored by Oscar Roche and Mike Withka, hosts of a November 8, 2019 webinar titled, “Toyota Kata pulls in training and people needs at a custom bottling operation.”

Through the continued application of the Improvement Kata, and coaching, it appears that commonalities exist in obstacles that allow for grouping of obstacles. Successful application of the Toyota Kata patterns requires practitioners to be aware of these obstacle “groups” and have access to the appropriate skills in order to eliminate obstacles, one by one, on the way to meeting the Target Condition. Using the appropriate skill will not only create an appropriate countermeasure to address the targeted obstacle but also creates the foundation for the next step in experimenting.

The first obstacle type is “process” related. Process obstacles require an improvement in machines, method, material, measurement or environment to reach established Target Conditions. Process/task improvement skills will help the learner and coach address such obstacle types.

A second obstacle type is knowledge and/or skill related. Such obstacles are described as “I don’t know/I can’t do” and require an improvement in understanding and skill that will be addressed through specific training skills.

A third obstacle type is “relationship” related. Relationship obstacles are often described as “I don’t care, or I won’t do that”. Leadership skills will help the learner and coach address such obstacle types.

It is interesting how quite often experiment cycles focused on one obstacle often start with method improvement steps addressing a physical aspect but at some point, still on the same obstacle, the next steps become people based.

This really is quite logical. Method improvement implies there is a new way thus it is highly likely there will be a training need in getting the new way truly evaluated. Further, a new way implies change and we know well that in general people resist change in the workplace. We like to stick with what we know. Moreover the new method may need to be applied across shifts or work groups so we can add to the complexity the reality of shift or workgroup rivalry! Thus leadership skills form the basis of such next steps.

Conversely, and just as logical, in addressing “I don’t care, or I won’t do that” based obstacles, an outcome might be process/method improvement which in turn leads to a training next step and change. So again we see not surprisingly a mixture of “next steps” that require differing skills.

The first scenario above, an initial next step based around “method improvement”, was well illustrated at a custom bottling operation in Reading. The learner, the first shift supervisor, worked with a cross-functional production team and was responsible for executing experiments to eliminate label defects created on bottle filling lines.

After 2 months of experimenting, the storyboard indicated that first shift label defects were approaching zero. The team’s next step was to introduce the new methods to second and third shifts. After 1 month, the label defect rate was still near zero on first shift but unchanged on second and third shift. The team then realized that they were working on the wrong obstacle. When working on the first shift, the team removed all the process related obstacles. But when transferring the process to the other shifts, the obstacle was no longer process related, it was people related. Realizing that the obstacle type had changed, the team eventually used a different set of skills to address the people obstacle.

Learn more about Toyota Kata…

  1. Short Kata Webinars, Part of the Fall Webinar Series
  2. Toyota Kata Online Event, December 18, 2018, On-line
  3. Toyota Kata Summit, February 18-19, 2019, Savannah, GA

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