Look below the waterline to understand Lean

2014-04-05 1 comment


The artifacts and behaviors we can easily observe at Lean companies are only the tip of the iceberg. Waste reduction and other Lean practices, principles and tools like A3, kanban, andon and heijunka, are all important parts of Lean but it is only the tip of the iceberg. You need to look below the waterline.

“Toyota’s tools and techniques, the things you see, are built upon invisible routines of thinking and acting, particularly in management, that differ significantly from those found in most companies.”

Mike Rother in Toyota Kata : Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results

If you want grasp and become Lean you need to look below the waterline.


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Are you too busy to improve? – Focus on the system

Are you too busy to improve

This illustration is inspired by and in part derived from the work by Scott Simmerman, “The
Square Wheels Guy” http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/


Focus on the system -Theory X

Are people in general lazy and unwilling to improve and innovate? Do people need to be closely supervised and controlled by management?


Focus on the system -Theory Y

Are people in general willing to improve and innovate? Are people ambitious, self-motivated and can exercise self-control?

A bad system

Personally, I very much believe in latter. I think people do their best in the context that they are operating in. I subscribe to W. Edwards Deming’s ideas that it is the system, not the people working in the system that determines a systems performance.


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Nominated for the Brickell Key Award 2014!

2014 Nominees

Wow, Brickell Key Award nominee for the second time! I am really honored. A big thank you to all of you for your support and for nominating me!

Please help the committee choose me :-) and one more Brickell Key Award winner from this distinguish list of finalists

Update: The candidate support period is now over. Thank you for your support. Now it all in the hands of the Brickell Key Award committee.  Let’s hope for the best!

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Are you too busy to improve?

Are you too busy to improve


This illustration is inspired by and in part derived from the work by Scott Simmerman, “The
Square Wheels Guy” http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/

For translated versions of this image and terms of use please see this page

Are you just keeping yourself busy and not taking the time to improve how you do work?

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What is a Kata?

2014-02-13 1 comment

What is a Kata

Kata means pattern, routine, habits or way of doing things. Kata is about creating a fast “muscle memory” of how to take action instantaneously in a situation without having to go through a slower logical procedure. A Kata is something that you practice over and over striving for perfection. In the book “Managing Flow”, Ikujiro Nonaka describes Kata as a traditional Japanese code of knowledge that describes a process of synthesizing thought and behavior in skillful action; the metacognition of reflection in action. If the Kata itself is relative static, the content of the Kata, as we execute it is modified based on the situation and context in real-time as it happens. Nonaka also describes Kata as different from a routine in that it contains a continuous self-renewal process.

Metacognition of reflection in action

Kata is not to blindly copy some else method, but to improve on it in an evolutionary way. You learn and evolve a Kata through the three stages of the learning cycle Shu (learn), Ha (break) and Ri (create). In the first stage Shu, you learn by following the teacher. You imitate the teacher’s practices, values and thinking. You will only move on to the next stage when you have made the teacher’s Kata your own. In the Ha stage, you break from the teacher’s practices and make modifications based on your own creativity. In the Ri stage, you leave the teacher and you start creating your own unique Kata. As you expand your knowledge into new areas, you will loop back to the Shu stage for those areas in an ever-growing spiral of knowledge.

Muscle memory

Categories: Agile, Lean Tags: , , ,

Toyota Kata – habits for continuous improvements Lean IT Summit 2013

In October I had the great opportunity to be part of the 3rd Lean IT Summit in Paris. On the second day of the conference I talked about Toyota Kata – habits for continuous improvements.

Below you can find the recording of that talk and my slides.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle


What are the habits, or routines, you need to put in place to continuously strive for excellence? How do we create a culture of continuous improvement?

In this session you will learn about continuous improvement routines that help you close the gap between your current condition and you desired future state. You will learn how you can probe through the unknown in small deliberate steps. You will also be introduced to the leadership routines to build a continuous improvement culture. These routines are what we call Toyota Kata.

The Lean Agile roundtable at Lean IT Summit 2013

In October I had the great opportunity to be part of the 3rd Lean IT Summit in Paris. This conference was really one of the highlight of my 2013 conference season.

On the second day of the conference I had the great opportunity to be part of the Lean Agile roundtable. The participants of the panel was (from the left) Pierre Pezziardi, Steve Bell , me, Mike Orzen, Michael Ballé, Daniel T Jones, Regis Medina, Takashi Tanaka, Laurent Bossavit, and Antoine Contal (moderator). Below is the recording of the roundtable. Please enjoy.


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