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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Practice of Lean and the Marshmallow Problem

At the Northeast Shingo Prize Conference I had the pleasure to meet Mike Rother, author of Toyota Kata.  If you haven't read his book or reviewed his material online you are missing some valuable learning. During Mike's presentation he talked about Lean as a practice of continuous learning through discovery and experimentation. This is what Mike explains from his research on Toyota as Kata. He used a familiar example of the Marshmallow Challenge to explain the differences in how we solve problems. Mike makes the point that those who are constantly discovering, learning, and adapting (kata) meet the challenge to solve problems more effectively.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Marshmallow Challenge Tom Wujec presents some surprisingly deep research into the "marshmallow problem" -- a simple team-building exercise that involves dry spaghetti, one yard of tape and a marshmallow.

The Marshmallow Challenge is a remarkably fun and instructive exercise that encourages teams to experience simple but profound lessons in collaboration, innovation and creativity. Mike Rother teaches that these lessons are essential elements in the practice of Lean. As a Lean practitioner I think Mike is spot on.

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