Improvement Kata

I like katas. Wikipedia defines kata as, (型 or 形 literally: “form”) a Japanese word describing detailed choreographed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs. I have used katas to help me establish my understanding or rhythm while learning a new concept. For example, when I wanted to learn Test Driven Development I did Uncle Bob’s Bowling Game Kata.

Below is the improvement kata from the HP Laser Jet firmware team. This was a massive team of 400 developers that implemented continuous delivery in 3 years before continuous delivery was invented. One interesting and impressive fact about what this team accomplished was that they automated testing of circuit boards (and we complain about unit testing simple methods). This is the gist of the kata.

  • What is the target condition? (The challenge)
  • What is the actual condition now?
  • What obstacles are preventing you from reaching it?
  • Which obstacles are you addressing now?
  • What is your next step? (Start of PDCA cycle, plan-do-check-act)
  • When can we go see what we learned from taking the step?

I’m not going to get into the details of the kata because you can Bing all the info you want on it. I was just impressed hearing about what the HP team accomplished and felt ashamed for feeling my past improvement tasks were hard. I use to use a similar process in evaluating business strategies and tactics. This is the same thing that I have done on Agile development teams and a practice I use today.

W. Edward Deming and Toyota started the craze and HP made it work for a massive software development organization. I have read and seen multiple resources on process improvement and the improvement kata, but this talk, by Jez Humble, one of my DevOps hero’s, made me do this post (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6m9nCtyn6kE). The talk is on why companies should grow innovation from with in, specifically grow DevOps experts instead of hiring them. He also touches on the HP team and the improvement kata.

Conclusion

If you haven’t heard of the improvement kata, I would recommend you add it to your research list if you are a part of a team that wants to get better.

Improvement Kata

The Amazing DevOps Transformation Of The HP LaserJet Firmware Team (Gary Gruver)

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