Coaching Kata With Dr. Jeff Liker

Coaching Kata With Dr. Jeff Liker

by Patrick Adams | Aug 15, 2023

In this episode, Dr. Jeff Liker and I dive into the fascinating world of Kata coaching and explore the key concepts from his novel on the subject.

What You’ll Learn:

1. What led you to write a novel with Tilo Schwarz?

2. For the listeners that do not know, what is kata coaching?

3. What did Tilo add about coaching to Mike Rother’s 5 question card?

4. Why a novel about kata coaching? I understand that Tilo already published a book about the coaching microskills.

5. What would you like to hear from readers that would really excite you?

About the Guest:  Jeffrey K. Liker is Professor Emeritus, Industrial and Operations Engineering at The University of Michigan and President of Liker Lean Advisors, LLC. He is author of the best-selling book, The Toyota Way, Second Edition, and has coauthored nine other books about Toyota including The Toyota Way to Service Excellence, and The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership. His graphic novel with Eduardo Lander and Tom Root tells the story of lean transformation at a mail-order company: Lean in a High-Variability Business. His articles and books have won thirteen Shingo Prizes for Research Excellence. He was inducted into the Association of Manufacturing Excellence Hall of Fame and the Shingo Academy.


Click here for more information on “Giving Wings to Her Team: A Novel About Learning to Coach the Toyota Kata Way”

⁠Click here to connect with Jeff on LinkedIn⁠

⁠Click here for The Lean Solutions Summit 



Patrick Adams  00:00

Hello and welcome to the Lean solutions podcast. My guest today is Dr. Jeff liker. He is actually returning he was with us back in season one. And if you’re unfamiliar with Dr. liker, which I hope you’re not unfamiliar with him. Dr. liker served as a professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan. He is the president of liker lean advisors, LLC. He is the author of the best selling book, The Toyota way, Second Edition, and has co authored nine other books about Toyota including the Toyota way service to excellence and the Toyota way to Lean leadership, his graphic novel that tells the story of Lean transformation at a mail order company Zingerman’s. We’ll be talking about that later on in the show. And his articles and books have won 13 Shingo prizes for research excellence, his newest book, which I have in my hands right here, giving wings to her team. We’re going to talk extensively about this today. So I’m excited to have you back on the show. Welcome to the show, Jeff.


Jeff Liker  01:31

Thanks, Patrick. I’m excited to talk about this different kind of venture because it’s a novel.


Patrick Adams  01:36

Yes, yes, I’m excited about it. It is a novel about learning to coach the Toyota kata way. So we’ll dive in and talk about this. But I mean, what, Jeff, what led you to write a novel with with TiVo Schwartz


Jeff Liker  01:52

was actually tlo, who he had written a complete novel before I got involved at all, submitted it to the publisher and got a contract. But his background was that he had been a plant manager in one of the first companies in Germany that Mike rather used for his research that developed Toyota kata. So he was one of the people who was involved in testing the ideas and developing the ideas. And then he left that company and started consulting and he created something called the terracotta coaching dojo. Dojo in Japanese is where normally you think of as the martial arts like karate, and you go to the gym, and then as a dojo, you’re in the dojo learning how to fight in that case. And then he uses that term for learning shopfloor skills, like basic skills, like you have to learn how to weld if you’re in the welding shop. So he thought, he asked himself the question, where do managers go to learn how to lead to learn how to coach? And the answer is, was no place, they just, you just sort of struggle along and do it and figure it out, or you read books, but most of the books are very high level. And they’re really just a general advice that you may or may not be able to put into practice. So the work can actually develop the skill, not just hear about it, not just think about it, but learn to do it. And he came up with the idea of the dojo as creating a place where you could practice coaching skills. And he continued beyond what Mike had developed for coaching, and developed what he calls 20 Micro skills, and wrote a book, self published book that describes each coaching skill and what it is and the steps and how you practice it and has pictures and graphics, and he kind of realized that it’s more like an encyclopedia. Very few people are going to sit down and read encyclopedia. So he came up with the idea of writing first blogs about this woman, Denise, Denise was actually him when he was learning. And then he got the idea of writing the novel. And then he got to a certain point and realized he was German. English was not his first language. And he wrote a little bit more like an engineer than novelist. So through my brother, he got me involved. Because I’d been writing in a more conversational style. And I loved what he did. And anyway, we spent about a year rewriting it into a novel.


Patrick Adams  04:33

Wow, that’s amazing. So when when T lo was presented you with this idea, you know, through my grandmother, and you read it, so you said Denise is the character now is it an exact representation of his experience?


Jeff Liker  04:51

Well, it’s roughly based on the you know, if you see a movie or so, something like roughly based On. But you know, he personally, and what happened in a big picture sentences would happen with him. So for example, he ended up making a huge transformation of that plant to something to a level that they had never performed before. That actually happened, he did it under a lot of pressure from senior management. They’re considering closing the plant. And he had to sometimes work against the pressure from management for short term results. So basically, the, the storyline was something he lived through.


Patrick Adams  05:36

Gotcha. So that’s, that’s good to know. And obviously, the it’s a, it’s an easy read, it’s going to make sense for many people. I mean, and obviously, having the two of you, I mean, two, amazing, you know, people that that understand lean and the Toyota production system to be able to, you know, invest your knowledge and skills into it. I mean, I can’t imagine it’s, it’s gotta be an amazing novel.


Jeff Liker  06:03

I will take your word for it. So the sequence was Taillow, German, an engineer by training, he writes, than I who have learned through the turn away, and various books, to learn write in a more conversational accessible style. That’s stage two, stage three was that we hired a professional novelist. She went through it with me in great detail. And one of her criteria was that if she handed it to her sister or mother, they would be able to understand it relate to it. If they’re even basic stuff that people in manufacturing takes take for granted, like, setup time reduction, normally wouldn’t would wouldn’t think that you’d have to explain what that is. And she would write in an error note would be what is setup time reduction. Nice. Nothing to her. Yeah. Haven’t been refractory. So we had to explain even at that level of detail, when we’re we, we had to use a an example. Sure. You set up your coffee machines to make coffee. So it’s very, I think, accessible to certainly lean community, that kind of community put, if you handed it to a relative, they would understand it. Love it.


Patrick Adams  07:27

That’s great. What a great idea. So and you mentioned, you know, you mentioned dojo, and you mentioned kata and some other things. For those that are listening in that may be hearing some of those words for the first time, you know, similar to, yeah, you know, the words that were that were defined in your book. Could you help define for listeners that that maybe don’t know what is kata coaching, what is kata and what is kind of coaching,


Jeff Liker  07:53

but I see behind your left ear, the Toyota kata book. Yes. And Mike was one of my students. And he learned along with me, the Toyota Production System, he personally was much more active on the shop floor much more into practice than theory. But having practiced it for decades, he wrote learning to see about value stream mapping. So having practiced it, having taught, for example, Value Stream Mapping, map your value stream, here’s your future state, work toward the future state, he realized that when he was there, guiding them to the future state, there would be a lot of activity, it’d be good activity, and they would make huge progress, and they’re very happy. But when he left, everything’s starting to slow down and eventually stop. So his question is, what can I leave behind, beside a future state map and a converted value stream? And what he wanted to leave behind was a way of thinking so that they could do their own kind Zahn, the idea of learning teaching the fish rather than fishing for you. So what would they be the equivalent of fishing? What does he want to teach? And if you dig down into the Toyota Production System, you’ll find that the underlying mindset that Toyota wanted to develop was scientific thinking. They called it scientific thinking. What they meant by that was not that you’d be a professor and you’d write peer reviewed articles and conduct rigorous peer reviewed research rather, in your normal daily practice. When you looked at something, you would look beyond your first impression. So when you go to see you would look deeper. In fact, Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, would make you stand in a circle for a whole day just to see, just learn how to observe and to realize that your first impression is superficial. And then as you study more deeply, you start to see all the variation and all the various ways And then you have to turn that into thinking about ideas for improvement. So how do you get people to do that to look objectively, deeply? He has own I would say without preconceptions, empty your mind without preconceptions. And then to try things, and to view what you try not as a solution, but as an experiment to learn from them finally, take the time to reflect what happened, what did I learn? How will this inform my next experiment? So it Oh, no, it basically teaching is, don’t try to quickly come up with a diagnosis of the problem, quickly come up with a solution, then spend all your time implementing a complex solution. But rather deeply understand the current your objectives, the current state, then run many small experiments very quickly, very cheaply. And that’s the backbone of kaizen. So how do you teach people the thinking way that goes with site kaizen. And then Mike came up with this method. He’s a first what is the scientific method? Let’s keep it simple. You need to know where you’re going, what your goal is, you need to know where you are your current condition, you need to set shorter term targets goals along the way, because it’s difficult to take one huge step. And you’re tempted to take one huge step if you have a one year goal. And then for each of those small, like maybe one week goals, then I’m going to encourage you to experiment. If you have an idea, don’t beat it to death and try to analyze it and figure out if it’s going to work, just try it. And then do that through kata, which are, he gives you sort of like a lesson plan or drill that you’d have if you were, say, playing a sport or trying to learn music, you’d have drills to practice. So he gives you those drills, he has something called the Toyota kata practice guide. And you try out the drills, but he also says it’s helpful for most of us. If when we’re trying those drills, we have a coach who’s watching and can see if we’re doing them right and give us corrective feedback and push us further. So he has a role for the coach and a role for the learner. The learner is learning the improvement kata he calls it, and the coach is practicing the coaching kata. And TLO took the coaching kata, which was basically a card with questions. And he elaborated on it, what happens if I asked you what your goal is, and you have a very general broad answer. And I want you to focus in on something more concrete, measurable, specific. And the general goal is to guide you through asking questions like the Socratic method, instead of guiding you by telling you stuff and maybe even give you the answer.


Patrick Adams  12:57

Right. And what’s what was your or what’s been your experience Jeff with with CATIA, I mean, you, you’ve obviously, you know, worked with Mike, you know, on a regular basis and and have worked with companies and have been able to witness and be part of developing Catia within organizations. I mean, what, what’s been your experience? Do you feel like people struggle with those five questions and in the similar ways that te lo found?


Jeff Liker  13:27

Yes. And in fact, I do a masterclass on Lean leadership with high level people who are directors of continuous improvement globally and been doing this for decades and real smart people. And they teach problem solving. And when I give and we do an exercise. And when I give them the question card and say ask these questions. The learner has problems answering the questions, like I asked for the target condition, and they give me the challenge and ask the current condition they give me just the out the KPI number, giving me characteristics of the current state, or the condition for its current condition. So the current condition includes the the where you are on the target metric, and where what generally what’s the condition that you’re saying? Sure, they have no trouble with the number, but they have they struggle with the condition part. And then I asked them what they’re gonna test. And they go, they go into great detail, but they described like five different things. And we’re trying to encourage them to test one idea at a time. Right? And then we also ask them, What is your prediction? And we have we teach them that to state the idea we’re gonna test then your prediction, and as a place to write it on a storyboard, and half the time they have not written it on the storyboard. Yeah, and you have to just make it up on the fly. So the rigor, even in this very simple version of scientific thinking, seems to be difficult and challenging, even for these really smart problem solving people, then when the coach will automatically start telling them thanks, you know, so for example, I asked you what the current condition is, and you know, you just give me the number. And then I say, what’s your current condition, it’s right over here, and they start reading what’s on the post it notes for longer. So they just naturally sort of jump in and take over. So there’s all sorts of errors they make, but they make plenty of them.


Patrick Adams  15:41

Yeah. Now, a lot of the the items that you mentioned, experimentation, record, the storyboard, a lot of those tools are available for free out on, you know, Microsoft there has a website that anybody can Google that you can go out there and find it and download any of these tools for free. I want to ask you the question around those tools. Now, you alluded to this a little bit. But when Mike rather, you know, studied Toyota, and he created this structure for kata with the storyboard, with the experimentation records, which you’re talking about. Now, are those things that Toyota uses at Toyota and did use or was that something that was created after?


Jeff Liker  16:23

So if you So Mike’s, learn the most, I think, from various people who are TPS experts, they’ll be able to say, I’m an expert at TPS. But certainly, these very highly regarded people who’ve been doing it for a long time. Some of them were students of th yono. Some of them are students of students, Aficio second generation, but they have a very deep knowledge. And they all pride themselves on being good teachers. And they all think that they have a better way of teaching than anybody else. Sure. And if you ask them how they teach, they kind of get confused. Or they say, you know, they, they sort of dismiss it, you know, they say we ask them questions, we asked him, you know, let’s go, let’s go and say, show me what you’ve learned, you know, that they they kind of dismiss their teaching method, even though they have a fairly sophisticated method. But they they developed it mainly through practice. So what Mike was trying to do is develop kata who’s trying to develop AIDS, for people who didn’t weren’t learning from teaching Ono, or the rest of us and make explicit what for these people is really implicit. In fact, I’ve shown it to some of these people. I remember one situation where the son of Shingo, who worked for Toyota, he was we’re explaining about kata to him, and he’s saying, oh, kinda, he’s doing karate, and he’s sort of making fun. And he didn’t really was not didn’t seem interested. And then one of my colleagues showed him a Catia storyboard. There was a group that was presenting out from a crowd a storyboard, and they presented out their project. He didn’t know it was Catia. And he said, Ah, very good thinking way very good. Like that. So I think if they saw the result, they would like it, right. Like conceptually, it sounds a little bit gimmicky, and they tend to be a little suspicious of like, consulting versions of what they do.


Patrick Adams  18:29

Right, and that’s where I think you know what we’re talking about. And you know what T Lowe was? And yourself were able to do in the book, I think what people don’t understand is they think that, oh, I’ll just use a storyboard and I’ll use the, you know, experimentation record, and I’ll, and then I’ll just kind of go through the motions. And that’s, you know, being a good problem solver. And that’s not necessarily the case, that wasn’t even the, what was meant by when when, when Mike put all that out there it was more, it’s a practice to to grow your your knowledge base to grow your ability to think scientifically, but you got to start thinking on your own at some point. And that’s kind of what you guys are saying is like, okay, the five questions are great for practice. But I mean, what’s really happening, like, talk to me, like we’re human here, and stop reading off your board and really tell me what’s, what’s the current condition, we just do have a


Jeff Liker  20:50

fine line between being flexible enough to go where the learner is there that specific learning that specific situation and still keep the pattern of the kata. So we still keep the pattern. So the pattern is again, the challenge or big goal, current condition, the smaller target condition, we asked for obstacles, what’s going to prevent you from reaching the target condition, and then experimenting, using that experimenting record, as you say, so that pattern doesn’t change, right? At a high level. But what you say what’d you ask will change shot, what Mike introduced was that he introduced the word starter. So instead of just kata, it starter kata. So his view is that the starter Kata is to get you started. Then as you learn, you start to elaborate and make the code of your own. And to fit your environment. So for example, reading the card, just reading the questions on the card, which asks things like, what is your target condition? What’s your current condition? That’s this first step in the starter kata, right. And we fill in the book recommend we do that. And it turns out nice skift Decide the questions were too easy. And she had read them and she, so she goes to the first coaching session, forgets a card and says, I don’t use any way I remember the questions. And then she forgets to ask one of the questions. Oh, and the learner struggles and she doesn’t know what to do. She has a mentor, Maggie, and Maggie happens to work at a low on a local gym, where Denise works out and has learned about kata and is using it to improve her gym. And then Maggie said, let’s go over what you did. And they realized that Denise had skipped this question. And it was the critical question that led to all the problems she had. Oh, wow. Next coaching session, she brings the cart. Yes. And but then she learns from Denise, Denise, it turns out is going is going to Tilos training courses. And she’s learning from to love. So she would come back excited about something she learned. So she’s teaching Denise what she’s learning from tila. So it she teaches the nice. Now that you’ve mastered reading the card, don’t think of the card as questions to ask, think of the card as a set of headings, to just get started to understand how the learners thinking, Hmm, so it’s kind of the opening gambit is I asked you what is your target condition? Then I listened to what you say, then I have to formulate? If you give me a perfectly good answer we go on. Sure. But more often than not, you missed something, for example, the condition part. And then I will then ask you deeper quite deepening question. Question. And there’s guidelines on how to formulate the question. So I’m not leading the witness. So I’m not putting words in your mouth. So that then leads eventually is over time and through trials and tribulations that leads to realizing that for me to know whether you should get we should go on from question one who’s really phase one to phase two with what’s going through the chart condition to the current condition. I have to know whether he gave me a good answer or not. So I have to have what we call in the book a reference for what is a good answer. And Denisa turns out is skier So Maggie uses a skiing example. If the ski instructor asked you to go down the hill and watch as you how does the ski instructor know whether you’re doing it right or not? And that’s because the ski instructor has standard in his head, about the correct way to ski. And he knows whether you’re using your body right to turn, for example. And what if you’re doing it wrong, he knows various ways you can do it wrong. So he will then give you a corrective feedback based on that gap between the standard and the actual. So what is the standard for each face? So then Denise has to figure out what the standards are for each so she knows what is a good answer the question, what is your target condition? What is a good answer to the question? What is your current condition? And then Taillow has this guideline which says, This is real simple. Go on green stop on red. If you don’t have a good answer to the current condition, it’s red. Don’t move to the next question until it’s green. So, look about that. How do you know if it’s a good answer or not. So as an example, one of the things that needs learns is that if for the current condition, you give me average tendencies, like over the last two weeks, on average, this happened, you’re usually going to have trouble finding the root cause. What you really need are actual data points, and then find the outlier. That was the defect, then study that for that defect, what actually happened. So you’d have to go much more deep into the actual condition, rather than looking at general. So you know, that’s an example of another struggle point is that Denise is then the learner describe, gives averages, and then she goes on, and then the learner struggling, and she doesn’t know why. But it’s because they never really understood the current condition properly. So that she has to go back to the current condition after they’re already experimenting.


Patrick Adams  26:55

Sure, sure. Yeah, that’s, that’s good. I love it. It definitely is, seems like it would help, you know, many people that have either are hearing about kind of for the first time, or have even been using products in their, you know, within their business or what, even in their personal lives, to be able to go back and read through this. And now understand, Okay, now, I know a little bit more about, you know, how to use the questions, you know, a little bit more effectively. And I think that for me, that’s been my experience where a lot of people read through those questions, and they get, you know, okay, information, but to your point, they’re just not, they’re not going deep enough, and really understanding what’s really happening, you know, just asking the question is one thing, but, you know, really listening and responding appropriately is another point, at the end of the day, we’re trying to move closer to our target condition. And so, you know, those are going to help us do that. That’s great. I do have a question that, you know, has been asked, and I don’t know if it’s addressed in, in your newest book or not. But it would be around, you know, once your, once your challenge has been established, and you’re looking at determining your target condition, or measurables. For that, what would be your advice to someone who has been given a challenge? And now they have to create measurables? Around that what, what are the right measurables? Or how do I pick, you know, the the measurables that are going to help know that I’m moving the needle in the right direction.


Jeff Liker  28:29

Okay, so the outcome measures often is based on the company, and what their goals are, what their strategy are, and what their goals are. And normally, they have developed ways to measure their success. If it’s cost reduction, they have measured ways of measuring cost in the factory controllable cost or whatever they measure. So for the challenge I would use, if you can, I would use a measure that makes sense within your company and the company used to and their scorecard for how they’re being met, how they’re measuring their success. Then when we actually go further in the book, and at some point, the goal, the challenge is so big, that we have to break it down. We break it from actually turns out from a six month challenge, two to three month challenges, and then one month challenges within the three months. And then we same outcome measure as the six month goal. But then there’s also more some specific process metric. Now when it gets into a process metric, what some would call a leading indicator, that is now a theory that if I move the needle on this process metric, I will get this outcome. So that’s essentially hypothesis, right? You have to really think and study and you might change your mind. You might change your process indicator as you learn more and then Specifically, when you get down to short term target conditions, those are even more specific parts of a process. So, for example, in the book, they do setup time reduction. And the, the outcome is really, the outcome that they want is that they eliminate the backlog, the order backlog, you know, they’re late shipping, so they want to ship on time. And they and one aspect of that one of the key drivers is setup time. So setup time is the than the process metric to drive, reducing the backlog, but then they break down set up into different steps. And they work on a target one target condition is to eliminate searching for things. And they then measure whether you have to go search for this or whether it’s immediately at hand when you chain. So that’s a process metric that is very specific to that phase of setup reduction, exams, they address that for the next step. At some point, they had to fix quality. Because there are defects after setup that had to be resolved in one eliminate those defects now, so totally different measure. So the process metrics and the short term for the star conditions could keep changing.


Patrick Adams  31:28

Right? Yeah, which makes complete sense. And obviously, you know, when when you’re walking through those and choosing what you’re going to work on, you know, you want to be in alignment with, you know, whatever is going to drive you closer to your target condition. Your challenge.


Jeff Liker  31:46

So that’s the real deep thinking, what were the root cause? What is you’re trying to ask, this is what I want to achieve? What is the cause of that. And there’s certain situations where I’m where it’s cause and effect are pretty obvious. But in complicated environments, like manufacturing, or most service operations, it’s not obvious what the causes, that’s why we think about the request. So whatever we think is the root cause is really a hypothesis until we try something to eliminate that cause we won’t know if it then it gives us the outcome we want. That’s right. That’s right. If you get stuck into thinking that all our metrics should be standard metrics, you’ll never get to the root cause.


Patrick Adams  32:32

That’s right. And I love I love the, you know, the thought process that goes behind this, because, you know, and you’ve, you’ve heard this before, but you know, Toyota will say it’s not about the outcome, necessarily, it’s about the journey. And really, what kinda is doing is it’s teaching you a method that is going to get you you know, to the outcome that you want, but you’re learning, you know, as you go, and you won’t always choose the right experiments or your, your, your hypothesis may not be, you may not, you reach the hypothesis that you thought that’s okay, though, that’s part of the process is part of the learning journey.


Jeff Liker  33:11

In fact, if if you did, if every single experiment worked and achieve your goals, and you did get it right each time and achieve the challenge, then Twitter’s view is this isn’t a good enough challenge. Right. So another concept that Mike introduces called the threshold of knowledge. And that’s the point at which you’re guessing and you don’t know anymore. And if you stay within your threshold of knowledge in your comfort zone, you’re not going to learn anything, and you’re not going to push out your performance to another level. And people haven’t stay gelling within their comfort zone within a threshold valid. So you really want to get the learner beyond the threshold of knowledge. That’s right, that’s really helpful. Challenge them, but you don’t want to push them so far, that they’re in the panic zone, and they don’t have a chance, you know, so you want to play in the challenge zone, where they’re learning and the end there. And one way knowing that you’re learning is that some of your experiments fail. Yes.


Patrick Adams  34:16

And then and then you have time to reflect and ask, what did you learn? And, and some of that comes with, you know, culture because people have to be, you have to be okay, it has you have to be in a culture where it’s okay to say, hey, the experiment didn’t work out like we expected. It’s still a win for the team, as long as you learn something,


Jeff Liker  34:34

well, normally, in an environment where it’s not okay. That’s an environment of what we call assumed certainty. That is, we assume that we know everything, and we could predict the future and we should be able to identify the root cause accurately, and then our solution should work and I about you, but I don’t live in that world. So there’s, you’re not really going to learn very much, you’re not going to progress very far. If you are only comfortable with winds and winds will mean you’re staying within your threshold of knowledge. Right? Exactly. If you’re outside your thresholds of knowledge, you’ll blame it on. Not we didn’t know enough, but rather, it was somebody’s fault.


Patrick Adams  35:24

Right? Yeah, for sure. So Jeff, you know, in giving wings to our team, so your newest book, for someone that reads this, which, you know, I’m crazy excited. Obviously, I just received it directly from you. Thank you for the signed copy here. But I have it in my hands, I’m getting ready to read it. What do you expect from listeners? What are you looking for the the outcome, like what what would you say would be the ultimate, you know, compliment to you as the author you and tillow. To hear from readers of this book.


Jeff Liker  36:04

Okay. So, number one, they, and we’ve had some readers who have given us good feedback. And several people said they loved it, that they didn’t want to put it down, that they time pass, they didn’t realize that they were still reading it, and they missed their deadline. Or their their meeting that they had scheduled. So get people who are engaged, really, like a good novel, don’t want to put it down. That’s number one. Number two is I learned a lot. And it made me think about coaching, engaging people, and cod, if you know about kata, or lean, it made me think about it differently than I had. And then they could explain why how’s it? How’s their thinking different? Like, for example, we thought that you just read the questions off the question card, right? And then our tendency was to start to give information and tell. And we didn’t realize that there was an art to how you craft questions. And then the third is, somebody says, I read this, and it gave me an idea how to deal with this client. And I tried it, and it worked, you know, so they put it into practice. And they try it. So that’d be so first is just they liked it. Yep, enjoyed it. Second is that it’s somehow profound in some way. And they learn some surprising things that made them think and then third, they put into practice in some way.


Patrick Adams  37:35

Love it. Okay. I’m gonna take that to know as I’m reading through it, and I will definitely give you give you some feedback, for sure. And today, as we just kind of wrap up, I don’t want to miss this opportunity, Jeff, because you and I are together right now. We’re going to be together again, in October, very shortly here, October 2, third and fourth. And specifically for the Lean Solutions Summit. In Michigan, which we are part of the summit on the third day of the summit, October 4, we’re going to be taking a tour to Menlo innovations with rich Sheridan and also to Zingerman’s mail order with you which one of your books your graphic novel was written about Zingerman’s and you’re going to be on site at Zingerman’s. When we do this tour for the Lean Solutions Summit. Can you just tell us a little bit about what the those that are on the tour can expect when they arrive at Zingerman’s and the time that they’re going to spend with you there?


Jeff Liker  38:35

Well, this is a mail order company, and they mail pretty gourmet food all over the United States. And they have a call center. And they have, they have to process the letters and put things in boxes and ship the boxes and put the right stuff in the boxes. And it turns out to be a more complicated process than it seems. And they’ve been working with Eduardo lander, who is one of my PhD student for PhD students who also is a first author working for about 15 years they’ve been under his guidance and learning lean. And basically anything that you know about Lean, any tool concept, standard work, visual management, error proofing, you can go down the list, everything is there and working and operating at a fairly high level. And they keep every year they get better. We call the book that you’re referring to lean and a high variability business because they don’t know when they come in the morning what’s going to be ordered, calculate attacked while they do calculate attack, but not in the conventional way. So I had to figure out solutions like how do we figure out the customer demand rate when was changing all the time? And they’ve done that? So you’ll see how they had to come up with creative ways of applying the principles of literature away to a very highly variable environment. And then they I started teaching a Master’s course at Michigan, using kata, and we did project Still do projects in their, in their facility. So they have been using kata for about the last five years. And they’ve been able to engage their frontline with kata, because the idea of experimenting kind of makes sense to people to try something or reflect, learn that makes sense. So they, you’ll see examples of Kata. We did this book Lean and a high variability business, which tells the story of their transformation. The last part of the book is about kata. Part three, we have a new book coming out, which is just part three, it’s called Engaging the team at Zingerman’s, male owner. And hopefully, that’ll be available by then. But it’s a shorter book. Both these books are graphic novels, comic books. So it’s it’s pictorial, and like the giving wings to our team, it tells the story in storytelling fashion. And hopefully, you’ll get a chance to see the book and then see the reality behind the cartoonish book.


Patrick Adams  41:07

Yes, I’m hoping that if the book is available, we will be able to get a copy of that. And each of the participants hands are the tour participants hands. But either way, it’s going to be an amazing tour that everyone can partake in and be part of and meet you, Jeff, while they’re while you’re there. And


Jeff Liker  41:28

to each of the tour groups is to tour groups that will be talking about cotton about the what our experience at mail order, I’ve been working with them through my students for the last 15 years. And it’s one of the kind of results that I’m proud of that I was part of this transformation that really took a business that was growing fast, but they’re struggling to make a lot of money. And through Lean, they become became very profitable. And they’re able to meet demand every year.


Patrick Adams  41:58

I’ve been there a few times. And it’s amazing. Definitely one of those bucket list items for anyone in the Lean world to go check out. It’s pretty amazing. So the Lean Solutions Summit, October 2, third and fourth, we will drop a link in the show notes for your book, Jeff, your newest book, giving wings to your team, as well as your LinkedIn profile if anybody wants to reach out to Jeff, and then also a link to the Lean Solution Summit. We’d love for all of you to join us there, October 2, third and fourth. It’s going to be an amazing event with a great tour, including Jeff liker, as part of that tour. So Jeff, once again, as always, I love talking with you. It’s been great over the years to get to know you and just, you know, just really gleaning as much information as I possibly can from you. And I just appreciate your willingness to share and help develop the Lean community. So thank you so much.


Jeff Liker  42:54

Thanks for your what you’re doing to give people like me voice and share with Lean community.


Patrick Adams  43:00

Absolutely. Thanks, Jeff. Take care.


Meet Patrick

Patrick is an internationally recognized leadership coach, consultant, and professional speaker, best known for his unique human approach to sound team-building practices; creating consensus and enabling empowerment. He founded his consulting practice in 2018 to work with leaders at all levels and organizations of all sizes to achieve higher levels of performance. He motivates, inspires, and drives the right results at all points in business processes.

Patrick has been delivering bottom-line results through specialized process improvement solutions for over 20 years. He’s worked with all types of businesses from private, non-profit, government, and manufacturing ranging from small business to billion-dollar corporations.