Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence -- What is Their Role in Coaching and Training?

In February, Matteo Zaralli published a new book -- entitled Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence: Risks and Opportunities for Your Business -- which focuses on how virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are reshaping the way we learn and coach. 

When I spoke with Matteo this past week, I asked him: “What are some of the ways virtual reality and artficial intelligence are being incorporated into coaching and training?” Here is his complete answer:

Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are revolutionary technologies with the potential to radically transform the landscape of learning and coaching, significantly accelerating, enriching, and enhancing the process.

Exploring the domain of artificial intelligence, we see how the accessibility to information and the speed of its acquisition highlight the transformative power of AI. However, its application extends far beyond this. Recently, Open AI introduced a groundbreaking development with the launch of a vocal feature for ChatGPT, offering users the opportunity to interact with an advanced virtual assistant, further expanding the horizons of digital learning.

In parallel, virtual reality is opening new frontiers in education and coaching, thanks to the introduction of cutting-edge devices from Oculus and Apple. Studies conducted on these platforms demonstrate that learning can be up to four times faster, with improved performance and optimal concentration, thanks to an immersive environment that minimizes distractions.

By combining the strengths of VR and AI, we can envision innovative scenarios such as public speaking, healthcare procedures (such as surgical room preparation and intricate surgeries), work safety certifications alongside standards compliance, construction projects, engineering challenges, and energy and plant maintenance represent areas where advanced tools significantly enhance learning and execution of specialized skills; where users can practice in a safe, interactive, and emotionally engaging context. This environment is enriched by the presence of a virtual assistant, with whom users can discuss specific topics, offering an unprecedented learning experience. For coaches and instructors, often constrained by limited time, this synergy provides a valuable simulation tool, allowing them to efficiently support every individual and ensure a high level of continuous learning.

The benefit of having a tool to train and exercise our skills is needed today more than ever. Technology runs, companies run, and more and more skills and abilities developed quickly are demanded at work, but like everyone, the day consists of 24 hours. So it required a tool that allows us to learn faster, with an impact on our recollection and memory, and above all that untied from space and time.

What do you think of Matteo's perspective? Has VR and AI been incorporated into your organization's learning and coaching processes? Have the results been successful? 


The Future of Manufacturing -- What are the New Core Technologies?

This month, Philip J. Gisi published his third book with Productivity Press entitled The Dark Factory and the Future of Manufacturing: A Guide to Operational Efficiency and Competitiveness. His new book provides a view into the future and direction on how to navigate the journey to a more automated, smarter, and continuously learning factory. This book consolidates the major elements of the fourth industrial revolution and describes them in clear terms within the context of integrated manufacturing. It creates awareness and a fundamental understanding of the advanced technologies that are coming together to facilitate highly automated, smarter, agile, and sustainable operations.

When I spoke with Phil this past week, I asked him: "What are some of the newer core technologies in manufacturing and how are they being used?” Here is his complete answer:

Manufacturing is undergoing a significant transformation with the adoption of several newer core technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) / Virtual Reality (VR), and Digital Twins. IIoT involves connecting machinery, sensors, and other devices to collect and exchange data. This data can be used for real-time monitoring, predictive maintenance, and improving overall efficiency.  AI is being used in manufacturing for process optimization, quality control, predictive maintenance, and even autonomous decision-making. Machine learning algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns and make predictions to avoid unplanned equipment downtime.  

AR and VR technologies are being used in manufacturing for training, design visualization, and maintenance. These technologies can help improve efficiency, reduce errors, and enhance collaboration while the application of a digital twin, serving as a virtual model of a physical manufacturing asset, process, or system, can enable real-time monitoring, simulation, and optimization, leading to improved performance and reduced downtime. As I stated in my latest book, “Manufacturers must be aware of, understand, and embrace these changes to stay competitive and meet the evolving demands of customers in the modern era. This book enhances the awareness and understanding of these core technologies by explaining what they are and how they are being used in manufacturing."  Clearly, these technologies are reshaping the future of manufacturing and will continue to do so as they evolve within the scope of the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 for short.

What do you think of Philip's perspective? Are these core technologies now part of your business? If so, have they delivered the expected results?


Lean Six Sigma -- Its Evolving Best Practices and Issues

This past December, Terra Vanzant Stern published the third edition of Lean Six Sigma: International Standards and Global Guidelines. Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is designed to accommodate global challenges and constraints by capitalizing on Six Sigma and Lean Thinking, and her book assumes that the overall goal of operational excellence is to ensure that organizational tasks and activities are being performed to the best of their process capabilities. It defines continuous improvement as activities that support and empower environments to make flexible decisions that lead to ongoing improvement and effectiveness. It covers new global LSS standards, international implementation of process improvement programs,  new international LSS applications, and international LSS areas of competency.

When I spoke with Terra this month, I asked her: "What important updates are covered in this third edition of your book?” Here is her complete answer:

The updates included in this edition are crucial because I have taken Lean Six Sigma to new heights, incorporating cutting-edge updates and advancements that will leave you captivated. With a focus on enhancing change management and data governance programs, this edition is a game-changer for organizations seeking to optimize their processes and drive sustainable growth.

What sets this edition apart is its ability to seamlessly integrate process improvement methodologies with change management and data governance. We understand that these three pillars are essential for organizations to thrive in the current dynamic business landscape. By leveraging Lean Six Sigma principles, you can streamline your processes, drive efficiency, and achieve remarkable results.

Imagine a world where every process is optimized, every change is seamlessly implemented, and every data point is governed with precision. This vision becomes a reality with the help of the latest edition of this book. I have meticulously crafted a framework that empowers organizations to achieve operational excellence while ensuring compliance and data integrity.

But what truly makes this edition intriguing is the transformative power it holds. By embracing Lean Six Sigma, organizations can unlock their full potential and drive a culture of continuous improvement. From reducing waste and defects to enhancing customer satisfaction, the possibilities are endless.

With this third edition of the book, you surely discover how Lean Six Sigma can revolutionize your organization's process improvement, change management, and data governance programs. Embrace the power of Lean Six Sigma and unlock a world of endless possibilities.

The new edition of this book assists you as you embark on a journey toward operational excellence, enhanced change management, and impeccable data governance. It's time to revolutionize the way you do business.

What are your experiences with Lean Six Sigma initiatives? What issues and aspects do you feel should be incorporated as organizations change and evolve?


"Green" Workspaces = Healthier Workspaces!

Just this month, Steve Famulari published an important new book entitled Ways of Greening: Using Plants and Gardens for Healthy Work and Living Surroundings. This book focuses on rethinking working and living spaces and understanding how "greening" can make them healthier and their occupants happier. It teaches how to see unique ideas for spaces and some of the materials needed to create the designs. In addition, it gives readers a way to not only understand greening but to understand how to see greening applied to their place. 

When I spoke with Stevie this month, I asked her: "What are some of the ways in which ‘greening’ makes working spaces healthier?" Here is her complete answer:

Work spaces as well as home spaces are where people spend much of their time. These are spaces where people need healthy surroundings to be inspired, be safe, be creative, grow, and move forward toward their dreams and goals. Greening these spaces can help people in this. 

Having a space with at least 10% of the surface space of the room with living thriving plants improves air quality allowing people to be healthier with each breath. There are also studies that have found that being in green spaces improves people’s memory while studying, improves productivity, reduces the amount of time for people to heal, and reduces stress.

Be creative in designing your workspace and allow it to change over time as the interior garden grows and responds to the light and objects in the space. You can design your own green wall to fit your space which includes plants with colors, shapes, and scents that you enjoy. Using scented plants such as lavender or mint can enhance your space. Some scents such as lavender are helpful for relaxing, while others such as mint are helpful for reducing headaches. Scents have a close correlation with memory. A scent can help people recall a memory from their recent past or from a distant past. Using plants with scents while studying or preparing for presentations, and then having the same scent at the presentation can help people recall what they studied or researched for presentations.

By creating designs that are unique to the space, using green walls, and having plants that have bloomed randomly throughout the year, the site you create with your unique living garden changes and grows with colors and forms daily. Seeing change and growth happen naturally on a daily basis in green office surroundings encourages people to accept change in their lives with more ease and grace.

What do you think of Stevie Famulari's perspective on how "greening" affects workspaces and their occupants? Has your company incorporated these types of improvements in their office locations? How have employees reacted?


The Evolution of Product Development -- Has Lean Adjusted?

In October, Cécile Roche and Luc Delamotte published a book entitled The Lean Engineering Travel Guide: The Best Itineraries for Developing New Products and Satisfying Customers. This book explains many Lean Engineering practices in some detail and the best itineraries to develop better products, discussing the underlying intentions and offering advice for implementation. It includes numerous concrete cases that illustrate this part with case material drawn from the authors’ own experiences. In addition, there is a brief guide to where and how to get started.  

When I spoke with Cécile this month, I asked her: "How has Lean adjusted as product development evolves?" Here is her complete answer:

The power of the Lean approach is that it is based on two strong convictions. 

The first is that a company will succeed if it really takes care of the customers, and therefore offers products that will solve their real problems - Do the right thing!

The second is that the company will make money thanks to the ingenuity of its employees, which must be encouraged by the existence of organized thinking spaces. 

By doing this, you avoid the biggest wastes imaginable: products that don't sell, products that you don't know how to produce, maintain, or recycle at the right cost, and all the rework caused by poor choices - Do the right thing, then do it right!

The practices and tools of Lean are all geared towards answering this question: what are we doing to give our staff the means to understand customers properly, and the means to identify the waste caused by our misconceptions? This constant questioning, which always begins with "Do we know what we don't know?” is the best way of ensuring that we are constantly adapting to change.

To encourage this questioning, we must set up a system that can very quickly identify the gaps, knowledge gaps, and trade-offs that need to give rise to creative discussions and train people to solve problems using appropriate methods. It is the Lean system.

Lean is a dynamic approach. It's not about freezing practices in procedures that are excellent one day but already unsuitable the next, but about regularly questioning all changes (in the context, of technology, resources, skills, etc.) to assess their impact. This is what we call the Kaizen spirit. As Allen Ward said, "Instead of learning to surf, conventional organizations try to control the waves! This almost never works."

What do you think of Cécile Roche's thoughts on Lean methodology? Do you feel that Lean continues to benefit the changing face of product development? 


Managing Process Downtime -- What Are the Biggest Mistakes?

In September, Michael Beauregard published a book entitled Process Downtime Reduction: How to Minimize Waste from Breakdowns, Set-Ups, Supply Chain Issues, and Staffing Constraints. This book provides manufacturers the techniques they crucially need to keep their critical manufacturing equipment running correctly and efficiently – which increases production, decreases labor costs, decreases breakdown costs, and ultimately increases the bottom line. 

When I spoke with Michael this month, I asked him: “What are some of the biggest mistakes manufacturers make while trying to manage process downtime?” Here is his complete answer:

That is an excellent question. 

I think the biggest mistake manufacturers make with managing process downtime is that they don’t manage it – instead, they learn to live with it. They make longer runs so that they can amortize the cost of that long product changeover over more parts. They get the order out by working overtime at the end of the month. They buy more equipment than they actually need. Manufacturers are smart – they learn to adapt to survive, but often those adaptations are the fastest way to solve the problem now and not the most efficient.  

Another big mistake is not measuring downtime and where it occurs. As I wrote in Process Downtime Reduction, “Show me the data!” Many companies cannot. They have anecdotal evidence of their downtime. It takes about two hours to complete a changeover. They remember they ran out of bottles once two years ago so they are focusing tremendous efforts and costs to manage inventory at high levels when the numbers actually show that labor is their biggest downtime cause. They do not make a systematic effort to understand the downtime and where it occurs so they attack where they perceive the downtime problems to be and not the issues that cause the greatest amount of downtime. 

And a third big area is not getting the whole workforce involved. Well, maybe “involved” is the wrong word. They fail to change the culture of the workforce to be looking for wastes in the operation. They load and unload parts without thinking that the machine could have been co-extruding 10 minutes earlier if they hadn’t waited until the core had run out to notify the material handler that another roll of core was needed. 

Do you agree with Michael's thoughts here? How does process downtime affect your organization? What do you do to manage it?


The Toyota Production System -- A Humanitarian Economic System?

In August,  Olivier Larue publsihed a book entitled The Toyota Economic System: How Leaders Create True Prosperity Through Financial Congruency, Dignity of Work, and Environmental Stewardship, which analyzes the purpose and relationship between the different elements of the Toyota Production System (TPS) and how they add up to an economic system rather than just a production system that brings engineering and managerial solutions to businesses. It argues how TPS can be viewed as a science as opposed to a tool-based technique. 

When I spoke with Olivier this month, I asked him, "Why do you believe that the various components of the Toyota Production System (TPS) constitute a humanitarian economic system rather than just a production system?" Here is his complete response:

Many people associate societal economic progress with the creation of goods. However, from the era of craftsmanship to the advent of mass production, the way we organize work also plays a pivotal role in enhancing living standards.

The Toyota Production System represents the most recent methodology in this realm and possesses the potential to become the third and most advanced production system. It comprises three distinctive elements: the better-known technical element, which focuses on eliminating unevenness, waste, and overburden; the familiar managerial element, which prioritizes human safety and development; and the lesser-known philosophical element, which serves as the guiding principle for both the technical and managerial elements. When all three elements are simultaneously implemented, the benefits derived from adopting TPS are not confined to a company's gains alone. Instead, as with previous production systems, these benefits extend to the broader spectrum of our society. However, this is particularly pronounced with TPS because it is not primarily the result of technological advancements, as was the case with mass production systems. TPS also emerges from the application of human principles guided by a distinct philosophical concept of efficiency that markedly deviates from the efficiency favored by the mass production system.

Rather than fixating on a singular notion of efficiency—individual efficiency—with the belief that it will yield the optimal level of efficiency for all, TPS centers around total and true efficiency through the elimination of waste to remove the trade-offs inherent in optimization. Total efficiency entails resolving issues that hinder all factors or actors from attaining their full benefits. True efficiency entails eliminating costs rather than transferring them elsewhere. Eliminating waste entails increasing the ratio of value-added activity in work. 

The principle of total and true efficiencies through the elimination of waste is not confined to the shop floor, where TPS originated. 

The principle of total efficiency doesn’t stop at a particular line, process, or piece of equipment which should not be boosted independently from the efficiency of preceding or subsequent processes. Total efficiency extends to the broader realm of efficiency management. For instance, it applies in the boardroom, where the pursuit of profit should not come at the expense of cash flow. Profit is undoubtedly essential for competitiveness, but it is equally crucial and substantially more efficient to achieve sufficient cash flow from operations to meet financial obligations promptly. 

The principle of true efficiency is not restricted to the shop floor either, where the aim is to use the minimum number of workers, equipment, and materials required to produce only what is needed. True efficiency also implies not trading one self-worth in the workplace for better comfort at home, or raising the living standards of people in the present at the expense of the future when payments are due later. 

The principle of eliminating waste is not limited to increasing the portion of value-added activity in the work, reducing unevenness and overburden to reduce cost but it also extends to reducing the environmental footprint as a result of all activities, value-added or not. 

Together, the philosophies of total and true efficiencies through the elimination of unevenness, waste, and overburden extend to all the stakeholders of society that contribute to a firm's success. This includes customers, employees, and the ecological environment of our planet. Each benefit supports the other as opposed to itself individually regardless of the cost to others. When all parts of the system reap their full benefits without incurring future costs, it coalesces into an economically humanitarian system. It contrasts with a more primitive economic system based on competition where losers are necessary in order to have winners. 

Of course, this call for a specific course of action necessitates problem-solving, and the unattainable remains beyond our reach. However, what is attainable is not always accomplished unless guided by economic humanitarian principles. As Pastor Tim Keller reminds us of what the critical philosopher Jurgen Habermas said “Science might tell us what is, but it doesn’t tell us what ought to be.” Today, The Toyota Production System offers possibilities beyond what a company can gain from adopting it. It presents an opportunity to eliminate socio-economic and environmental contradictions that have historically compelled economic trade-offs. 

What do you think of Olivier's thoughts regarding the far-reaching effects of the Toyota Production System? Do you feel TPS can be an "economically humanitarian system"?


Human-Centered Design (HCD) -- Does It Benefit the Agile Process?

Just this month, Joe Montalbano and Brad Lehman published a pioneering new book entitled, Human-Centered Agile: A Unified Approach for Better Outcomes, which functions as a guide on how to apply Human-Centered Design (HCD) practices to an Agile product development model that is used widely throughout industry and government, where it is applied primarily to software and technology development efforts. This has been an ongoing industry challenge due to the fact that HCD prioritizes time spent understanding the problems to be solved (time spent in the problem space), while Agile prioritizes a fast hypothesize-and-deliver model (time spent in the solution space). 

I spoke with Joe and Brad this past week and asked them: “How does Human-Centered Design (HCD) benefit the Agile process?” Here is their complete answer:

Is there any more overloaded and misused term than MVP? Theoretically, in Agile the MVP is a vehicle to test a hypothesis using lightweight code until value is proven. Teams can pivot. Teams can iterate. Teams get actionable feedback with every release and can be responsive.

The real world isn’t always like that. Not every team can pivot. Not every release is lightweight. Not every failure is graciously accepted as a learning opportunity. Oh, and did we mention that production-quality code can be expensive and time consuming?

Bringing HCD into an Agile delivery workflow gives teams a chance to do their learning earlier in the process and do it less expensively. It lets teams explore multiple solutions and mitigate risks by making informed decisions based on what their customers actually want, not just what an executive hopes they want.

So, what does Human-Centered Agile provide?

Earlier learning — Discovery lets teams identify real customer needs, and validate the problems they are going to spend money solving. Concept Validation with lightweight, disposable prototypes and mock-ups (paper drawings, wireframes, etc.) allows teams to test and refine their solution concepts with users before the first delivery, shifting learning left.

Cheaper learning — The cost of engaging with users for Discovery and Concept Validation is far less expensive than it is to write some production-quality code and then release it to get feedback. 

Lower risks —  The costs of building a product are not the only risk a team takes when launching a product. Releasing products that frustrate customers can harm their relationship to the product, whether they are first-time customers trying it for the first time, or experienced users looking for improvements. 

Unfortunately, too many teams and programs think that HCD and Agile are simply incompatible. They aren’t! We wanted to show everyone that they are actually well-aligned in purpose, and can be done together with some adaptation. This requires a change in mindset, but neither the change in thinking nor change in work practices are as dramatic as you might think.

What do you think of Human-Centered Design? Have you used HCD within your Agile process and workflow?


Should US Manufacturers Relocate Factories and Production Back to the USA?

In June of this year, William A. Levinson published a book entitled Reshore Production Now: How to Rebuild Manufacturing and Restore High Wages, High Profits, and National Prosperity in the USA. The author contends that a manufacturing resurgence in the United States will not only increase the standard of living enormously but generate taxable economic activity that will help pay down rather than increase the Federal debt. Higher productivity also delivers a greater supply of goods to accompany higher wages and thus works against inflation. This can prevent looming recessions and disruptions.

I had a chance to speak with William this month, and during our conversation, I had the chance to ask him two crucial questions. I'm posting them here with William's answers following the questions:

What aspects of reshoring do manufacturers not fully understand? 

Accounting metrics often ignore the total cost of purchase or ownership of a product or service, and focus instead on only the immediate price. Harrington Emerson's Twelve Principles of Efficiency depicted the latter as near common sense, or focus on only the immediate bottom line, in contrast to supernal common sense which seeks to account for all costs. These include but are not limited to the carriage of inventory—one of the Toyota production system's Seven Wastes—in transit, the incompatibility of container ship-sized quantities with just-in-time production systems, the additional lead time associated with transportation, the fact that inventory gives defects a place to hide and additional exposure to force majeure supply chain interruptions. An earthquake that idles a vital offshore supplier factory, a ship that gets stuck in the Suez Canal, or a strike by longshore workers can all paralyze a supply chain. While domestic supply chains also are vulnerable to force majeure, they are also a lot shorter so there is much less exposure.

Many manufacturers and also retailers are also dependent on products from the People's Republic of China (PRC), whose recent activities have proven it to be a dangerous, untrustworthy, and unreliable supply chain partner. The PRC has a long track record of selling us counterfeit semiconductor devices, substandard active pharmaceutical intermediates (APIs), contaminated heparin, melamine-tainted foods, and most recently counterfeit N95 respirators that may have exposed their users to Covid-19. Cheap becomes expensive for domestic sellers who find themselves at the wrong ends of product liability lawsuits because their offshore suppliers, who are often beyond the reach of our judicial systems, cut corners. The PRC also threatened to cut off supplies of vital products, including medications needed to treat Covid-19, and it is now openly threatening nearby countries like Japan, Taiwan (a major exporter of semiconductors), and Australia with military force. The United States was able to respond quickly to wartime losses of access to, for example, natural rubber during the Second World War and we ought to be up to the job of making ourselves independent of the PRC today. 

Why are many company leaders reticent to rebuild manufacturing in the US?

The dysfunctional focus on labor costs drove the exportation of valuable American manufacturing jobs even though American industrial pioneers like Frederick Winslow Taylor, Harrington Emerson, and Henry Ford proved with real-world results that wages become largely irrelevant if management makes the job sufficiently productive. Emerson's Twelve Principles of Efficiency suggests that the idea of a contest of efficiency against inefficiency originated in Prussia where Helmuth von Moltke had to "do more with less" against France in 1870, as France had more soldiers, better rifles, and a superior economy. Japan adopted these principles and used them to win wars against China and Russia, both of whose populations outnumbered them. Japan applied the same organizational principles to its industries, and to the effect that American industrialists were alarmed at the prospect of having to compete against them. Americans such as Taylor, Ford, and Frank Bunker Gilbreth—who cited explicitly the application of military motion efficiency principles to civilian occupations—responded with what we now call lean manufacturing as later adopted by Toyota.

The dysfunctional focus on labor costs drove the exportation of valuable American manufacturing jobs even though American industrial pioneers like Frederick Winslow Taylor, Harrington Emerson, and Henry Ford proved with real-world results that wages become largely irrelevant if management makes the job sufficiently productive. Emerson's Twelve Principles of Efficiency suggests that the idea of a contest of efficiency against inefficiency originated in Prussia where Helmuth von Moltke had to "do more with less" against France in 1870, as France had more soldiers and a superior economy. The Japanese adopted these principles and used them to win wars against China and Russia, both of whose populations outnumbered them. Japan applied the same organizational principles to its industries, and to the effect that American industrialists were alarmed at the prospect of having to compete against them. Americans such as Taylor, Ford, and Frank Bunker Gilbreth—who cited explicitly the application of military motion efficiency principles to civilian occupations—responded with what we now call lean manufacturing as later adopted by Toyota.

Emerson, Taylor, Ford, and others also pointed out the short-sightedness of choosing cheap labor over efficiency. Ford's My Life and Work urges executives, "to overcome by management what other people try to overcome by wage reduction." Emerson's Twelve Principles of Efficiency adds, "It is unfortunate that the employer shies at the suggestion of a 10 percent advance and pays scant if any attention to a 50 percent inefficiency, two-thirds of which is his own fault." Taylor's Principles of Scientific Efficiency talked about the need to hire "high-priced men"—we would say high-priced workers today—who would follow instructions such as those typical of what we now call standard work. Taylor and Ford both added that, when workers realize that the benefits of productivity improvements will show up in their pay envelopes, they will look for ways to make their jobs more efficient. When employers pay as little as possible, the workforce will respond accordingly by doing only what it is told, and probably only when a supervisor is watching. Low wages also give management little incentive to, as Ford put it, "put more brains into the business" to make the jobs sufficiently productive to pay high wages. 

What do you think of Willam A. Levinson's perspective on manufacturing in the USA? Do you think manufacturers can be more profitable in the long run by relocating factories and production back to the USA?


The Coaching Manager -- Toyota Kata and Scientific Thinking

Just this month, Tilo Schwarz and Jeffrey K. Liker published a new book entitled Giving Wings to Her Team: A Novel About Learning to Coach the Toyota Kata Way, which presents a story about the benefits of becoming a coaching manager and how to get there. We follow the fictional character, named Denise, on a journey of discovery and skill development, as she moves beyond the tools and concepts of Lean and focuses on daily practice that helps her supervisors achieve their goals. It's about the Toyota Kata approach, which helps anyone develop and apply scientific thinking -- an exploratory mindset of curiosity and experimentation.

When I recently spoke with Tilo and Jeff, I had the chance to ask them some questions specific to the concepts discussed in their current book, and how those concepts apply to daily work.

Question 1: What are the benefits of becoming a coaching manager?

In general terms, a coach teaches, watches the student, gives appropriate feedback, and assigns drills to learn specific skills.  You can coach anyone on any skill.  In Giving Wings to Her Team, the central character Denise learns a specific type of coaching for a particular skill set -- scientific thinking.

We often think that to navigate today’s complex challenges we need decisive leaders with a clear roadmap that they rigorously implement.  In reality, the more complex the challenge the less a roadmap will be helpful.  Instead, we need adaptive problem-solving, testing ideas rapidly, and learning our way to goals.  In Toyota Kata, this way is called scientific thinking—focus on facts, formulate hypotheses, test ideas instead of making assumptions, reflect, and learn.

Toyota Kata teaches a coaching approach that enables your team to become increasingly adaptive, innovative, and resilient – fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement, so your team can meet their current challenges and be ready for more.

Question 2: How does Toyota Kata help you to become a coaching manager?

The term “kata” is used in Japanese martial arts and are the small skills the black belt teaches and then the student practices repeatedly, with feedback, until doing it the right way becomes a habit. Michael Jordan put it nicely: “You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way.” 

In the novel, Denise faces the biggest challenges of her life as a manufacturing manager and is fortunate to get coaching help from Maggie who runs the local gym.  Maggie has studied and used Toyota Kata in her gym.  She helps Denise learn to work with her team to set big challenges they can relate to, study the current condition, set short-term target conditions, and then experiment toward these targets.  Denise struggles at first, but through practice, and Maggie’s coaching, she gets better and better at giving wings to her team.  

You can learn along with Denise how to become a coach of scientific thinking and by coaching your team to achieve goals that at first seem impossible.  In this book, we go beyond laundry lists of coaching best practices and demonstrate how to develop actual skills in yourself and your team.  

We hope our novel will help you start a learning journey of your own.

What are your experiences with Toyota Kata? Have you applied it in your organization? How has it benefited your managers and teams?