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Marketing Kata Experiment


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Process outline of conducting a Marketing Kata experiment based on Mike Rother's Toyota Kata and Business901's Lean Marketing work. The Improvement Kata is part of Mike Rother’s work documented in the book, Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results.

I have developed a process of using Kata in my marketing as the basic way I become involved with clients. Unless you have developed a standard practice, marketing is not anything more than an experiment. Kata is a way of doing. A way of developing structured practice routines. We use Kata to develop our Marketing/Sales Experiments (campaigns seem like I am going to war), Digital Marketing Practices, and a host of other marketing efforts. You can learn more by joining the Lean Marketing Lab at

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Marketing Kata Experiment

  1. 1. Marketing Kata Experiments Based on Mike Rother’s books on the Toyota Kata Information on the Toyota Kata can be found at Marketing Kata Experiments developed by
  2. 2. Marketing Kata Experiments Vision: Developing an Improvement Kata we first look at the vision or the desired Business Outcomes that we want from our experience. I like to think of vision as a guiding image. Sort of a systems type thinking that guides what we do on a day to day basis. Without a vision, many projects flounder. If it too far of a stretch, there is no pull. A good vision is depicted in this picture the next mountaintop. It does not have a clear path, but the plans are to be on top of that one over there in 90/120 days or a year-end. The time depends on the type of project you are working on. Sometimes it is easier to find this vision in a question: • What strategic objective will be met/enhanced by this exercise? • What business outcome (needs) will be improved? • What business purpose does this training provide? Activity: Write down the desired Business Outcome (Vision): Write down the desired Business Outcome (Vision) for your department? Write down the desired Outcome (Vision) for yourself?
  3. 3. Marketing Kata Experiments Challenge: Rother calls the challenge: A strategic differentiator, a new condition, which will cause us to stretch and grow. He says to describe our challenge by using the words “Wouldn't it be great if we could...” I like to think of it in terms of a focusing question that comes from the work of Gowin and Novak. The Focus Question directs our inquiry or points us in the direction of our current practices to be considered. The focus question contains two concepts. One to guide us in exploration & secondly steers us to the processes we use. It is a big question as it guides the entire outcome of the Kata. However, in the same breath, it provides the boundaries of the inquiry. The focus question, the challenge is reflective. It sets the guiding specifications, the system structures that we are presently using to achieve our present condition. Think of questions, challenges like this but keep them within the scope of the training you are attending. What are the key objectives and initiatives? Summarize the challenge or a focus question for your business, department. You can have several that can be prioritized later. But start out writing a couple base on Rother’s recommendation: Wouldn't it be great if we could...” Wouldn't it be great if we could...” Wouldn't it be great if we could...”
  4. 4. Marketing Kata Experiments Current Condition: Grasping the current condition means understanding and accepting how our philosophy, people, process and problem-solving currently performs and operates. We need to describe and document the areas of concerns. It is our starting point, and without measures, in these areas, it will be very difficult to determine improvement. The old Ohno saying, “without a standard, you cannot improve.” This is the idea Standard Work and SDCA. It is beyond the scope of the document to develop measures for your existing department but start listing based on the Challenge: • What are the causes of suboptimal performance that could be resolved? • Where are there inefficiencies or inconsistencies (waste) that could be resolved? After review, list the current conditions that we will be addressing. These are day to day things that we experience. Don’t list things that will take 3-months to determine an outcome. If that is the case, your challenge is too broad and needs to be narrowed. This is the level we experience and gain immediate feedback. Think about what activity will affect what behavior/action and how do we measure that now. How do you know it is not working? Activity: What are the current actions/behaviors now? What is the feedback we receive and how?
  5. 5. Marketing Kata Experiments Target Condition: The purpose is to create a gap based on the current state and data we have so that we can establish a measurable target condition. As the Toyota Kata says, the target condition should lie outside our current knowledge threshold and has a specified achieve-by date that’s between 1 week - 3 months out. From what to what by when. In the Lean world, I think of this as somewhat bigger than PDCA….the hypotheses we have to form is one of exploration/emergence. I call it EDCA versus PDCA… It centers around Exploration/Emergence more of the design thinking, lean startup…venture into the unknown. Create a gap! When setting a target condition ask, What conditions are in place that are causing these actions/behaviors? Review People, Process, Platforms, and Products/Services, without changing something here you are more than likely just to fall back into the same patterns, actions as before. Once we develop a target condition, we begin to see Obstacles/problems that appear to be preventing us getting there. Activity: List your current conditions to your target conditions by when: List your current conditions to your target conditions by when: List your current conditions to your target conditions by when:
  6. 6. Marketing Kata Experiments Now we go to what Rother calls the GREY ZONE. Rother states, “The grey zone is our learning zone. We are going to iterate toward the target condition. We are looking for the most direct path through the field of obstacles to the target condition, which won’t be a straight line. You’re in a mode of rapid learning and discovery, adjusting your course based on facts & data gained through experimenting.” Think of Columbus, Erickson, Magellan, that pirate Drake. Our threshold of knowledge moves with each experiment. With the Improvement Kata, you learn as you strive to reach the Target Condition, and adapt based on what you are learning. We find the route to the Target Condition by learning from experiments and focusing on the next step based on that learning. This is PDCA which we will treat each presentation workshop as an experiment. Stringing the task in sequence or clustering reveal recurring patterns or the next step of what is needed. What is always challenging is that there are those 4 Ps in place that reinforces our actions, the way we do things. Aligning the task clusters in accordance, with the 4 Ps, will assist in asking more specific questions, more emergent questions. It will cause to think of how we will put things into action; the true power of Lean. Make a preliminary outline of your event schedule. You can make it linear somewhat but connect the sessions that have relations. Be prepared to choose a different session and go a different course if your learning indicates that. Treat each session as an iterative, PDCA cycle with an attempt to reach your target.
  7. 7. Marketing Kata Experiments This is why coaching is so important in developing adaptive patterns. Change is hard and small change is the best way to accomplish this. What becomes deliberate is the approach, the way of learning, the pattern. That is what we are after, the process of learning, the process of deliberate practice, the process of PDCA. The Five Questions make up One Coaching Cycle 1. What is the target condition? (The challenge) 2. What is the actual condition now? a. What was the last step (presentation/workshop)? b. What did you expect? c. What actually happened? d. What did you learn? 3. What problems or obstacles are now preventing you from reaching the target condition? Can you address it now (different session, talk to presenter)? 4. What is your next step? What do you expect? 5. How quickly can you go and see what you have learned? (at the summit or back at work) PDCA
  8. 8. Marketing Kata Experiments These are the typical stages of progression. In the true sense of Kata, I would only act as a coach during the process. However, in some circumstances based on project scope I may incorporate suggestions and best practices, what we would call guided experiments. It is a process of discovery not one of linear planning. For example, the idea is to create/discover a customer or customer cluster and how to learn from them at a rapid rate. Through this process, you will learn and document the steps required and create more standard work as a result. As experiments are completed, more opportunities are discovered, more targets are reached, and challenges become greater. Marketing Kata Experiments Information on the Toyota Kata can be found at Start your Experiment at