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Beware of kankotsu

Beware of kankotsu

Beware of kankotsu

As a keen practitioner of Lean management, the prospect of hosting a Lean Sensei with 40 years of experience is a humbling opportunity. I was fortunate enough to experience this last week when a Toyota group Sensei, let’s call him Sensei-san, visited Perth. Sensei-san has worked in the Toyota group in the US, Australia, UK, Czech Republic and Japan.

Sensei-san had no prior knowledge of Ozgene or the type of work we do. On his arrival he went directly to our run charts and was immediately able to have a conversation with the team based on the targets and current state shown on the charts. It was impressive to see how at ease he was in the environment, asking the team to explain causes for overdue tasks and instantly applying the ‘5 whys’ root cause analysis.

I also gained some further insight into the Toyota Production System (TPS) and standard work. Sensei-san described standard work as a contract between the team members and the management, which at Ozgene is recorded in the Geneoz SBS (step-by-step) application. I had previously not thought of standard work in those terms but it made a lot of sense. At Ozgene, there is a clear separation of people and processes. This has helped tremendously in creating a culture where people are not blamed for process failures. At the same time, team members are expected to follow the SBS, which are agreed on and improved by the individual teams on a regular basis.

Kankotsu = Expert

The challenge is to create the SBS so that process failures are not possible. According to Sensei-san’s considerable experience, standard work is often recorded for the big steps but the small steps are missing. Also, the instructions are written for experienced team members, not for the newcomer. The experts usually have tacit knowledge on how to do things and the way they process things is predictive.

Sensei-san used the word “kankotsu“, “kan” meaning intuition/sixth sense and “kotsu” meaning knack/art. It is incredibly difficult for an expert to move the kankotsu from processes into explicit organisational knowledge. The experts are often seen as the superstars in the organisation and promoted to different areas before their tacit knowledge is recorded. This in turn leaves the beginners to reinvent the wheel, which is a huge waste for the company and for the individual.

– Frank, CEO –