Steps 1, 2, and 3 are the Planning Phase of the Improvement Kata. Step 4 is the Executing Phase, the “How We Get There”. We now have our “learning zone.” This is the area of uncertainty between where we are now and where we’re trying to get to, and we’re seeking the most direct path through it. The way through will not be a straight line, but we will adjust frequently and quickly as we go through rapid learning cycles.
In Step 4, we “iterate” toward the Target Condition, executing experiments using a step-by-step process to work on Obstacles one at a time. Using the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA), rapid, frequent (daily) experiments are conducted to test hypotheses and discover new information that will move us from where we are toward where we want to be next, the Target Condition. Though not every experiment will produce straightforward, linear “progress,” each will move out our Threshold of Knowledge.
Selecting an Obstacle for PDCA
Armed with the “Obstacles Parking Lot,” one Obstacle that seems to be preventing the process from operating in the way specified by the Target Condition is selected for experimentation. A couple of important things to note about Obstacles:
- Not all Obstacles will have been identified in the previous steps. New Obstacles may become apparent, and the Obstacles Parking Lot should be updated to reflect them.
- Always work on ONE Obstacle at a time. Introducing multiple variables complicates and slows the experimentation process making it difficult to achieve the rapid learning that advances the process quickly.
- Not every Obstacle needs your attention. Be sure to select Obstacles based on what needs to be improved, those that are actually hindering the process from working as specified by the Target Condition.
Collecting and Analyzing Data Scientifically
As discussed in the Kata Methodology section, every experiment creates learning, including and especially the “failed” ones that disprove our hypothesis about what we expect to happen. While experiments will happen rapidly, this is because they will be small and clearly defined, not rushed. As always, safety first! In each PDCA cycle, the “Check” phase is crucial for learning. This is where discovery happens. Keeping an open mind to new mental models creates opportunities for adaptation and innovation.
- Identify the Process that is being tested. Remember, it is a process that is changed that impacts the outcome and result.
- Learner & Coach
- The Learner owns the board and the Coach guides the Learner through the scientific method. The coach does not provide the solution.
- Date, Step & Metric
- Identify the experiment, metric, and date that we can go to see what we have learned.
- What do you expect?
- Document what you expect from completing the experiment.
- Coaching Style
- Perform a coaching cycle and then conduct the experiment.
- Experiment (PDCA) Cycles
- Record the activity and results of each experiment, the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycles.
- What Happened
- Record what happened during the experiment in detail. Update your current condition elements.
- What We Learned
- Document what you learned from doing the experiment. Are there any new obstacles that preventing you from reaching your target condition?
What to Do Next
Create or download the PDCA worksheet. Begin your experiment!