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  • Writer's pictureTilo Schwarz

Cleaning up the Experimenting Record

by Tilo Schwarz | Tips for the Kata Coach | Episode 9

This article discusses making faster progress by distinguishing between two types of obstacles.


For new readers: Every week, I share hands-on tips for coaching with the Coaching Kata. This episode is #9 in a series of articles about Denise, who has taken on her first management position as a department manager at PowerPump Inc. Denise intends to develop her team through coaching. Read Episode 1 to get into the story.

Recap of the last episode: In her coaching cycle, Denise finds out that Joe was not able to do the last step as the product he wanted to observe was not produced the last days. As a next step, Joe now wants to find out when he will be able to complete an observation.

(Read Episode 8).


After Joe leaves, Denise stays at the Story Board and reflects on their coaching cycle. She used the questions of the Coaching Kata, but Joe had not really made progress towards his Target Condition today. That happens quite often, Denise thinks and begins to flip through the old experimenting records a bit stumped.

She repeatedly finds obstacles similar to the one Joe has written down today. Examples are: ‚New data is missing‘, ‚waiting on colleagues from department XY to do the next step‘, ‚product to observe not produced right now‘, ‚I did not have time to take the step‘, ‚necessary measuring equipment missing for measuring parameter XY‘, ‚I have not yet evaluated the data from my last measurement‘.

These are not obstacles in the process, Denise thinks. These obstacles, therefore, have no undesired effect on our process metric. They only stop us from implementing the next step. Only if we eliminate obstacles in the process will we get closer to the Target Condition.

Denise has the idea to distinguish between two types of obstacles in the future:

‚Process Obstacles’ and ‚Implementation Obstacles'.

When Denise reviews the experimenting record templates, she discoverers that the obstacle column contains an alternating mixture of process obstacles and implementation obstacles.

This makes things very confusing, Denise thinks. From a distance, it looks like we are performing many coaching cycles and steps to improve the process. In fact, we are just spinning our wheels, removing one implementation obstacle after the other. The obstacle parking lot was also full of both kinds of obstacles. Also, she discovers obstacles in the parking lot that Joe had worked on and removed long ago.

Denise walks back to her office, takes out the notebook she calls ‚my management handbook 'and starts to write down what she has learned this morning:

Distinguish between two types of obstacles:

  1. Implementation ObstaclesProcess

  2. Obstacles (or obstacles in the process)

Denise thinks if we always write down the 'process obstacle' we are currently working on, even when an 'implementation obstacle' occurs, we will know if we are making progress.

She writes: ‚Note the current process obstacle in the experimenting record‘.

This will leave the obstacle in the obstacle column on the experimenting record unchanged until it is removed, Denise continues her thoughts.

Also, this would be much clearer, and we would easily recognize if we are not making progress as line after line on the experimenting record would address the same obstacle.

Maybe it would be best to use a separate experimenting record for every obstacle in the process. Denise continues thinking. In the future, we will note steps to overcome an implementation obstacle, like the one that occurred this morning, on the experimenting record. Still, the obstacle in the obstacle column would be the process obstacle we are currently working on.

Denise writes: ‚Use a separate experimenting record for each process obstacle'.

With implementation obstacles we should be fast, she thinks. It would be best to take the step immediately. Today in the coaching cycle, we could have called production planning right away to find out when Joe will be able to observe the piston pump assembly, Denise concludes. I will push for that in the future instead of waiting for information until the next coaching cycle.

Also, the obstacle parking lot needs to be more concise; she muses. In the future, we will only write down process obstacles. Besides, we should cross out obstacles we successfully remove and also mark the process obstacle we are currently working on. Maybe with a sticky arrow, Denise decides.

If my improver finds it challenging to prioritize obstacles and choose the next obstacle to address, a well-structured obstacle parking lot might also be helpful, Denise ponders. We could create a column with the unwanted effect of the obstacles or add a tally list with the frequency of occurrence. Then prioritizing is easy. She also notes these thoughts in her notebook and decides to discuss and test them with Joe and Marc tomorrow.

Next week: Read what Denise finds out when testing her new ideas and what the three types of experiments are.

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