Book Review – Seeing To Understand:

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In today’s post, I am reviewing Panos Efsta’s book, “Seeing to Understand”. Efsta kindly provided me a copy of his book. Efsta has written the book as a scientific thinking lifestyle coach. The book goes in depth on ways to coach yourself to developing intentional practice of scientific thinking using mainly Toyota Kata concepts. He also introduces concepts from Training Within Industry and process behavior charts. Efsta identifies it as a lifestyle regardless of what field you are working in. I have only introductory experience with Toyota Kata. So, reading this book was very helpful for me.

Toyota Kata is Mike Rother’s brainchild. Toyota Kata is based on the research that Rother and his team did from 2004 to 2009. Toyota Kata encapsulates the practice of scientific thinking as part of the management system at Toyota. Please note that this is what Rother and his team captured based on their research and not what Toyota has documented. As Rother puts it:

No one knows what the world will look like in the future, so one of the most valuable skills you can have is the ability to adapt. Scientific thinking is exactly that. It involves a running comparison between what you predict will happen next, seeing what actually happens, and adjusting based on what you learn from the difference. Scientific thinking may be the best way we have of navigating through unpredictable territory to achieve challenging goals. Practiced deliberately for even just 20 minutes a day, scientific thinking can make anyone more adaptive, creative, and successful in the face of uncertainty.

Rother’s research was based on two questions:

1.What are the unseen managerial routines and thinking that lie behind Toyota’s success with continuous improvement and adaption?

2.How can other companies develop similar routines and thinking in their organizations?

Efsta’s book is a great resource to have while learning about Toyota Kata. An example is the chapter on the Storyboard. The storyboard is a tool in Toyota Kata to document the improvement journey. It captures the four steps:

  1. Get the direction – Understand the sense of direction
  2. Grasp the current situation – Understand where we are with facts and data
  3. Establish the next target condition – Target condition focuses our attention and provides guidance. Target condition stretches you beyond your current limited knowledge and aspires you towards a new performance standard.
  4. Conduct experiments – Understand what obstacles are preventing you and experiment to remove the obstacle(s). Document what happened and what we learned along the way. Iterate.

The use of Job Methods from Training Within Industry is a great way to grasp the current condition. As Efsta puts it, during the process of grasping the current condition, we are looking for the specific work patterns that currently represents the focus process and all the behaviors and attributes which lead the process to perform the way it does.

Efsta has detailed an obstacle-hunting map that I found quite useful. The obstacles are identified when we ask the question – what is preventing us from performing at the target condition? There are several tips that Efsta provides that assists in understanding the process better. For example, in Manufacturing, an obstacle should be structured as Fact + Data + “Negative Impact”.

After each chapter, Efsta has a Reflection section where the reader can document their reflections upon reading each chapter. One sentence that Efsta uses across the book is – There is nothing arbitrary or unintentional about scientific thinking. Scientific thinking as detailed by Toyota Kata is a structured framework which helps in tackling the ordered and complicated problems. Efsta provides several examples that helps cement the framework. Efsta also goes into detail on creating IMR Process Behavior Charts in MS Excel that will be useful for the reader.

One of the key concepts I realized while reading Efsta’s book is that solving today’s problem helps you with solving tomorrow’s problem. The more you do it, the thinking sets in and you get better at the thinking itself. This is the basis of kata.

Efsta’s book is available here and here. Mike Rother’s website for Toyota Kata is here. I encourage the reader to check both of them out.

Always keep on learning…

In case you missed it, my last post was Real Lean:

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