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  • Writer's pictureTilo Schwarz

Where are the obstacles?

by Tilo Schwarz | Tips for the Kata Coach | Episode 4

In this article, I discuss how to help your improver to identify obstacles.


For new readers: Every Monday I intend to share hands-on tips for better coaching with the Coaching Kata. This episode is #4 in a series of articles about Denise, who has taken on her first management position as a department manager with a small assembly team at PowerPump Inc. Denise intends to develop her team through coaching. Read Episode 1 to get into the story.


Recap of the last episode: Denise asked David, the production manager she is reporting to, to observe phases 2 and 3 of her coaching cycles. She wants to find out why it is so difficult for her to help her improvers to be precise in identifying obstacles. After David has observed Denise's coaching cycles this morning, he has found something interesting.


David shares his impressions of the two coaching cycles this morning with Denise. "Denise, you asked me to especially pay attention to phases two and three, because you often struggle when discussing the obstacles." "Yes, that's right," confirms Denise. "I think I observed something this morning," David continues.

He looks down at his notes. "Denise, the conversation was short in phase two, only 30 seconds. Then you needed almost 5 minutes for discussing the obstacles. I also got the impression that Joe was not really systematic in choosing the obstacle to address“. "Yes, I was so happy when he finally came up with an obstacle, because I felt we would end up with nothing today. Of course, I wasn’t sure that accessibility when installing the intake manifold was a real problem, but I was just glad that Joe finally had an approach“, adds Denise.

David continues, "I've noticed that in question two, about the current situation, Joe used the wording you expected. He said: ‚The average output per shift was 12 pieces during the last weeks because the disturbance rate during assembly of the intake assembly is still too large’. I noticed that Joe formulated the impact indicator as an average of the last few weeks and did not mention actual numbers regarding the process indicator. I have the impression that because of that it was challenging to detect obstacles.“

"What do you mean?“ Denise asks. "Well, you are currently working on reducing the variation of the assembly time for the air intake socket on the pumps“, David replies. "Obstacles express themselves through an impact on the process metric which, in this case, is a higher time requirement. An assembly cycle with more obstacles takes longer than a smooth cycle. Or, to put it another way, an assembly cycle with more obstacles takes more time and therefore results in a higher number for the current situation of your process metric.

In other words, every obstacle has a measurable impact on the process metric. The more obstacles, the higher the deviation between the current condition and target condition for the process metric.“

Denise follows the thought. "Mathematically this means that every obstacle has an undesirable impact on the process metric“, she adds. David continues: "Exactly, and with this formula, you can see nicely that there are two ways to find obstacles. On the one hand, direct recognition of obstacles in process observation, the left side of the formula, or on the other hand, indirectly, by measuring the process metric for each cycle. If one cycle has a significantly worse value for the process metric, there must be more obstacles in that cycle. We can then search to find out what exactly caused this difference in the process“.

"And through this, I can help Joe to find obstacles“, replies Denise. "Besides, the impact of each obstacle can be measured and documented and thereby we find out how big each obstacle is. Now I understand what the problem was today; Joe only gave me averaged values ​​for the process metric and therefore I wasn’t able to help him when he didn’t find any obstacles“.

Denise continues, "This means we should make sure that there are always current figures for the process metric from which single values, ​​and therefore outliers and trends, can be identified. As a coach, I can then ask for the reason of these outliers and help my improver identify obstacles. This affirms again; each phase prepares the next. Stand on red, walk on green.“

Denise laughs and continues, “I like that much better than just arbitrarily pursuing an idea. Thank you, David!“ She looks at her watch, “Oh, we have to go. Mark is already waiting for us at his storyboard; are you coming with me?"

Next week: Read how Denise comes up with a new trick for identifying and evaluating obstacles.



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