Posts Tagged ‘Agile’

DevSum 12 – Toyota Kata – ett alternativ till retrospektiv?

This is my Swedish slides for my session “Toyota Kata – ett alternativ till retrospektiv?” at DevSum 12.

Agile LEGO – Toyota Kata an alternative to Retrospectives


My name is Håkan Forss and I’m a Lean/Agile Coach at Avega Group in Stockholm.

In this short story I want to introduce Toyota Kata as an alternative or as a complement to agile retrospectives.

But let me first introduce you to the team.


This is a tightly knit, cross-functional and very experienced team. They have been working with agile for a few years, mostly using Scrum.

The team consists of developers, testers, operations and business representatives.


The team has made many big process improvements over the years.

After great resistance from the office manager and human resources the team could last year be fully collocated.

They have adopted pair programming and test driven development.

But lately the team seems to have plateaued and is not improving any more.


At the end of every sprint the team does their agile retrospective

They reflect on what worked well, what did not work as well and what could improve.


They collect suggestions on improvements and add them to the already long and growing list of improvement suggestions.

They prioritize the improvement list and what improvements should be done in the next sprint.


Maybe it is time to try an alternative?


One such alternative may be Toyota Kata from the book with the same name.

The Toyota Kata book is written by Mike Rother and it describes two behavior patterns, or two Kata-s


The two Kata-s are:

  • The Improvement Kata
  • The Coaching Kata

In this story we will touch on the Improvement Kata.


The Improvement Kata guides us in a very focused way from our Current Condition towards our vision. The path goes through a number of intermediate Target Conditions in an iterative manner.


The Improvement Kata contains four steps

  1. Understand the Direction, so you know where you are going
  2. Grasp the Current Condition, to get your reference point
  3. Establish the Next Target Condition, that is your next step on the path towards the vision
  4. Plan-Do-Check-Act Toward the Target Condition


Having a clear vision, a compass heading, a true north is very important.

This is our guiding star that will make us all go in the same direction and not lose our focus.


As important as our vision, or maybe even more important is to grasp our Current Condition.

And I mean REALLY grasp our Current Condition.


To really understand you need to go to the place where the real work is really done. You need to talk to the people really doing the work.

You need to measure and collect data to grasp you Current Condition.


When we understand where we are and we have our long term vision it is time for the team coach and leader to set a challenging but not too challenging Target Condition.


A Target Condition describes the state of the process when the target is achieved. It does NOT describe the steps needed to get there.


When the Target Condition is set it is the teams turn to come up with experiments, Plan-Do-Check-Act cycles, that will take the process towards the Target Condition.


The team tries different experiments using Plan-Do-Check-Act cycles until they have reached or are close to reaching the Target Condition.

Then the Improvement Kata starts over and a new Target Condition gets set that is a little bit closer to the long term vision.

Now that the team has tried this for a few months, how are they doing?



With Toyota Kata the team can now be more focused on continuously improving their process. They practice the Improvement Kata every day and gets better and better at hands on problem solving. We have created a true learning organization.

Toyota Kata rocks!!


This story was presented as an ignite talk at Agila Sverige 2012 the 23rdof April.

The Toyota Kata and related material is developed by Mike Rother and his team. You can find more information here

A special thank you  goes to Andrea Chiou Adaptive Collaboration for help with my poor spelling.

Shrink the change

Why don’t you try some other dish this time

says my wife to me when we are at the restaurant.

No, I like this one

I say.

And why change when I have found something I like?

This is me. I’m very reluctant when it comes to trying out new food or using a new store of any kind. This is also true for technology and development tools. When I find something that I like I tend to stick with it. At the other hand I usually don’t have any problem to adapt to new environments and circumstances. So when I do take the leap and try I seldom regret it and often it turns out to be a new favorite of mine.

Just as it is sometimes hard for me to try a new dish at the restaurant, helping organizations to change is often not easy. When you introduce new ideas and behaviors most people tend to resist just as I do with new food.

For a few years now I have been acting as an Lean and Agile change agent. I have done this both as an employee and as a consultant. I have had my share of successes and failures. When I look back and see what have worked and what has not I have come to the conclusion that it comes down to the size of the proposed change.

The bigger the immediate proposed change the stronger the resistance.

The way I have consistently succeeded in helping organizations change has been by shrinking the change. I break down the change in small, small, non threatening steps.

Well begun is half done.

This is one of my favorite Aristotle quotes. This is also related to shrinking the change. The more time people spend analyzing before they begin doing the greater the resistance becomes. I therefore suggest people to set up the change as a time limited experiment. When the short time limited experiment is over the change will be evaluated. If the change was not to satisfaction the change can easily be reverted, as it was a small change. This shrinks the change even further as people don’t have to analyze everything before they commit. They can try before they buy.

You can find much of this thinking in the great book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. You will find that shrinking the change is a core part of the Kaizen mindset in Lean. My favorite Lean book on this topic is Mike Rothers book Toyota Kata. The Kanban Method is also all about small evolutionary changes. I guess that is one of the reasons I find it a very useful method of changing and improving knowledge work processes.

I try to incorporate the thinking from the Switch Frame, the two katas from Toyota Kata and The Kanban Method when I act as a change agent. Here is my recipe for successful change when change is hard:

  • Shrink the change
  • Introduce changes as small time boxed experiments
  • Start by doing

Lets change the world one small step at the time!


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