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“Best Continuous Improvement Methodology”

Proof: CIIPY of 4 (Continuous Improvement Ideas per Person per Year)

Kata – Designed by Toyota. A Key to Their Success.


Also Leveraged for Policy Propagation and Realization


Utilize your All Your Company’s Minds: “Improve every process, every day”



  • 1.5 million Continuous Improvement ideas per year. A 95% implementation rate. This averages out, to one Continuous Improvement idea per quarter per person.
  • Toyota is not just a manufacturing juggernaut but also runs their business with excellence. They understand the value of relying on everyone in their company driving them to their visions.
  • Their Continuous Improvement program has structure and metrics.
  • Continuous Improvement ideas are directed.
  • Makes Time a Competitive Advantage.

Benefits Include:

  • Quantifiable movement towards a Challenge or Vision
  • Expands thinking from implementation focus to “what could we do instead?”
  • Stimulates employee ingenuity
  • Increases employee engagement
  • Encompasses the whole company
  • Provides a structure of continually improving
  • Lasts through CEO tenures
  • Employee growth opportunities up and down the chain of command
  • Continual pushing improvement velocity
  • Communication leads to goal alignment
  • A smoother move to Lean Production


VP brings a business perspective and Vision. The VP understands the business strategy and the importance of the team’s focus on executing to it.

The Business VP either defines a Vision, which focuses his team in a direction, or defines a Challenge. The Challenge has an accomplish by date..

Challenge: Accommodate 30% business growth in the next 3 years.

Next Challenge: Decrease the time to do a Value Stream Map by 1 week in one year.


The VP is considered a Coach to the Value Stream Manager and the Value Stream Manager is considered a Learner relative to the VP.

Supported by predefined Coaching Questions.

Coach and Learner come as a combination. The Coaches responsibility is to guide the Learner through the process. The Learner does just that, learns. These two individuals act as a team. Every Coach has a Learner and every Learner has a Coach. This concept propagates all the way up to the VP.  There are 6 predefined questions that every Coach can start with.

Value Stream Manager

Value Stream Manager

The Value Stream Manager is responsible to:

  • Build the Current State Value Stream (CSVS),
  • Build the Future State Value Stream (FSVS), and
  • Support their team’s selection of Target Conditions (Explained later)

If the VP does not have a strategy to deliver then the Value Stream Manager can develop their own requirements for the Value Stream.

To enable rapid and complete communication the Value Stream Manager will set up an especially relevant Learners Storyboard. This storyboard will include:

  • Target Condition (TC) – A TC is an interim requirement with a due date for a process improvement that moves you towards a Challenge. You iterate to your challenge or vision through Target Conditions. Each TC has a due date.
  • Challenge – This comes from the VP and represents the end goal that the TC marches towards.
  • Current Condition (CC) – Represents detailed documentation of current performance
  • Experimenting Record – This contains documentation of experiments performed to reach the TC.
  • Obstacles Parking Lot – The move from the CC to the TC encounters obstacles. Some obstacles are predictable ahead of time and some aren’t. All of the obstacles are listed here.

The Value Stream Manager also builds the schedule.

Challenge: Improve processing velocity by 30% in 2 years.  Leaving one year to work out bugs and maintain up-time metrics.

Next Challenge: Reduce Defects by 5% in one year.

Supported by predefined Coaching Questions

Value Stream Loop Manager or Process Manager

Value Stream Loop Manager

The responsibilities of the Value Stream Loop Manager include reviewing the CC and analyzing how this impacts the Value Stream. This manager will publish the current condition and then to distill Process requirements to help determine the TC.

The VS Loop Manager initiates the Coaching Summary Board which summarizes:

  • Learners
  • Coaches
  • TC
  • Dates

This Summary Board displays responsible individuals which facilitates successful communication. TC goals, and the experiments and expected results.

The VS Loop Manager is responsible for starting the CC/TC Form and also determining the requirements for the TC by back-and-forth dialogue with Coach and Learners.

Challenge: Select the top four processes to improve and push for a 10% velocity improvement in 2 months.

Next Challenge: Eliminate 30% of the inventory in 2 years.

Supported by predefined Coaching Questions

Process Manager

Process Manager

The Process Manager determines the requirements, each with a due date. Also, determine what needs to change to improve and meet the challenge. The Process Managers are one step above the operators in the company hierarchy. Process Managers are very close to what needs to improve. Subsequently, their teams are a key to success.

They will manage the CC/TC Form and populate the “Process Activities Analysis” which keeps track of the CC and the TCs. Also, the documentation of the experiments is done in the “Experimenting Record”.

The Process Manager is the Coach for the operators and works very closely with them to deliver on the TC. While working with the operators, they should use any set of tools they can think of to help them “Learn” about the process.

Challenge 1: Improve process velocity by 15% in 2 months.

Next Challenge 2: Decrease unnecessary motion by 30% in one month.

Final Challenge 3: Implement a Pull system and eliminate 50% of inventory in 3 months.


Improvement Kata – A Pictorial View of the Flow to a Challenge or Vision

Kata Policy Propagation, Realization, and Continuous Improvement

This graphic summarizes the trajectory that the process takes starting at the Current Condition and subsequently progressing towards the Challenge or Vision. Let’s walk through this.

The effort starts with a thorough understanding of the CC. One way to think of it is that if you have the CC and the Vision you can draw a straight-line trajectory from one to the other. Without fully understanding the CC you will never know the trajectory of the improvement line.

As you move towards the Vision, your first stop is a TC. The assumption is that it is not possible to move directly from the current condition to the Vision or the Challenge, so you must get there in steps.

The movement to the first TC takes you through. Some of the Obstacles are known ahead of time and some are not. For individuals new to this process, don’t set the first Target Condition too far from the Knowledge Border so they don’t take on too many unknown Obstacles. As individuals get more comfortable with this process they will also be more comfortable venturing through areas of unknown obstacles.

The first step is to get to the first TC. The next step is to get to the second TC and so on until you accomplish the Challenge.

The states described above are explained in more detail below:

Verify the Current Condition (CC)

A firm grasp of what you are attempting to improve is important because it affects the trajectory and makes the first movement valuable.  A CC could refer to a standard process or throughput number.  Validation of the CC will keep you from trying to improve an unstable process.


This is key, out there and possibly unattainable.  What would you really like to accomplish. For instance: 0 defects, a safe environment, 100% value added work.  The Vision not only lets you voice a destination but also constrains the trajectory to your destination.  This is key because it focuses improvement to accomplishing predefined goals, rather random improvements.

Target Condition (TC)

The TC is chosen carefully because it has an assigned due date that you must accomplish it by. The TC is also on the trajectory towards the Vision and Challenge. There may be many TCs that you moved to before you accomplish the Challenge. Thinking of a TC expands the minds of employees to think into the future of how it could be.


The TC should be a stretch goal.  It must stretch the mind.  Therefore, some Obstacles may be obvious and some may not.  The goal is to Learn. Unanticipated obstacles induce learning.  A best practice is to pick a TC and then go for it without much deliberation.  This instills learning.  Minimize encountering Obstacles to start and then increase with expanded experience.


As you move forward you will encounter unanticipated Obstacles. This is where the brain of all process participants is used to take what you know and what you have found out together, and do what it takes to move past these Obstacles.  As a result of this effort setting TCs closer to the CC becomes more common.

The sooner this journey is started, the quicker exceptional results roll in.

Coaches and Learners Relationship

The Coach/Learner relationship is the key that makes this whole methodology work. This methodology focuses on learning. The concept is that if you have expertise in learning you will create a competitive advantage. As learning becomes a virtue in your company, the company will start to move forward faster.

Every manager is a coach. The Coaches responsibility is to lightly direct the Learner towards the success of moving closer to the Challenge. Usually the Coaches have more expertise than the Learners and therefore must be on guard to not feed the Learner solutions.

Every manager can also be a Learner. This methodology should propagate completely up and down an organization. The goal is Policy Propagation which leads to action. The following section includes a starter set of questions for both the Coaches and Learners.

The graphic below highlights the Coach/Learner relationship between the different levels of individuals therefore leading to constant improvement..

Potential Questions for the Coach

Coaching Kata questions:
  1. What is the Challenge?
  2. What is the Target Condition?
  3. Explain the Current Condition?
  4. What Obstacles do you think are preventing you from reaching the Target Condition?
    • Which “one” are you addressing now?
  5. What is your Step? (Experiment)
    • What do you Expect?
  6. How quickly can we go and see what we have learned from taking that step?
Reflection Questions for the Coach
  • What did you plan as your Last Step?
  • What did you Expect?
  • Explain what happened?
  • What did you learn?

As a result of implementing the Best Continuous Improvement program you will make time your ally.


Related Videos:


Continuous Improvement and Automation

Continuous Improvement Toyota’s Method.  Moves you towards a Challenge or Vision, involves the whole company, and creates a competitive advantage.

Toyota – How to run a company.  Take 30 min and see how you can move to a pinnacle.

Kata: Policy Propagation, Realization, & Continuous Improvement

Toyota’s Secret

Toyota’s Continuous Improvement Program Races Towards Your Vision.

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