In Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata, he describes the approach that managers and executives have towards PDCA as a management system. Quote:
“If we assume that at any time anything we have planned may not work as intended, that is, that it is always possible that the hypothesis will be false, then we keep our eyes and minds open to what we learn along the way. Conversely, if we think everything can work as planned, then we too easily turn a blind eye to reality.”
This describes the difference to how traditional management looks at any improvement program like Lean or Agile, and how Toyota views it. Traditional management tries to control our adoption of Agile or Lean and “install” the process for improvement, expecting that it will go as planned. In Toyota, they expect that there hypothesis for improvement could be wrong. This informs their attitude towards setting targets, goals or any hypothesis. It’s similar to how Ries views validated learning in “The Lean Startup”. It’s possible that your hypothesis in your business plan will be disproved, which is why we measure our progress with validated learning. This stance towards learning or knowledge is a fundamental shift. And I find I need personally to challenge myself each day to really observe. To go and see where work is done. To be a learner, not a “knower”. As Ohno said:
“We are doomed to failure without a daily destruction of our various preconceptions.”*
In one sense, this is extremely difficult, unnatural. We are taught through our professional lives to credentialize ourselves, to establish our knowledge and rightness of our plans. To assert control. And in another sense, it’s very familiar and natural to return to a childlike wonder and awe of the world around us. My son reminds me of this. He is a natural scientist and explorer, always asking why. Always testing his hypothesis, whether a spoon will fall on the floor for the thirty third time at breakfast, or how a leaf tastes. We are natural explorer’s and scientists. So, what is keeping you from a positive attitude toward learning and exploration? How can you remove those impediments? Any ideas out there?
*Quote From John Shook, P.C.