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Lean Tools, Training, and Systems

Improvement Kata

Next Target Condition

When you and your Coach are using the Improvement Kata to navigate unknown territory...

and it is time to choose your next Strategic Challenge, here are some criteria for a well-considered Next Target Condition

Criteria for a well-considered Next Target Condition

  1. Describe a future state that is just beyond your current threshold of understanding

    Remember — the Improvement Kata is used to navigate unclear territory.

    If you already know how to get there (with no experimentation), then you are using the wrong tool.

    A good Next Process Goal will require honest experimentation — where you don't have 100% certainty that your next steps will actually produce your anticipated results.

  2. Provide a hypothesis to test against

    When we ask:
    "What's preventing us from just working the new way right now?"

    it will reveal obstacles that you start writing down in your Obstacles Parking Lot, which you will then overcome one by one using PDCA Coaching Cycles.


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  1. Describe your desired future state using measurable metrics

    Metrics usually include all of the following:

    1. Planned Cycle Time (to meet demand)
    2. Results Metrics:

      Examples: Lower costs, Lead Time...
      Higher throughput, productivity, quality...

    3. Process Metrics:
      (We predict that doing things this way
      will result in our desired Results Metrics)

      Common examples: Process fluctuation, inventory levels and placement, machine ptime,overall equipment effectiveness, batch size, quick changeovers, number of operators, shifts, overtime...

      More process-specific examples:
      Wash your hands between examining each patient.
      Load the machine this way.

    4. Process Steps, Sequence, and Times

      Might be revised as you do PDCA experiments, but define your work flow when describing your future state

Time to reflect

Tip: Take some time to reflect on questions to stimulate Lean Thinking

  1. Be proposed by you — and approved by your Coach

    You (the person responsible for the process) are responsible to propose each Next Target Condition.

    Especially if you're new to the Improvement Kata, and haven't yet quite fully assimilated all the criteria, you might need to adjust your proposal several times before your Coach agrees and approves.

  2. Have a Target Date

    When do we expect that we will reach this next target condition?

    The Target Date is usually set by the Coach.
    Usually 1 week to 3 months out. Novices should start with easier, shorter assignments.

  3. Be within our control

    When we looked at Strategic Alignment, we might have noticed that something needed from our process might be dependent upon a change from another process. If they haven't yet reached their goal, then maybe we should work on something else first... or maybe we might propose a shared Kaizen Event or A3 Project that spans both processes — so that everything needed can be within "our" (shared) control.

    Or might there be some experiments we could try within our own team to reach our goals without needing to be dependent on that other team after all?

  4. Once agreed — don't change

    Once you and your Coach agree upon your Next Target Condition, don't change it.
    It is okay to clarify them as you learn more, but don't backtrack and try to get out of your commitment to creatively overcome obstacles to reach your agreed-upon Target Condition.

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