Convert aspiration into action with Target Condition
Good afternoon readers,
Today’s topic is Target Condition. Target Condition is another concept that has its roots in the Toyota manufacturing philosophy and management system that has in many ways, as demonstrated again here, continued to serve as the bedrock of Lean principles and practices.
Before we go further, it is important to avoid the linguistic trap often encountered by Toyota people when introducing and discussing the concept in English. As outlined by Mike Rother in his excellent book Toyota Kata (2010), Toyota people could ask a question such as “what is the target?” and often mean “what is the target condition?” Putting the odd linguistic borrowing aside, Tsunami being a fantastic example, Japanese and English are naturally vastly different, so easy mistake to make I say
Target and target condition are nonetheless not the same. A target is a goal or objective that you seek to achieve, whereas a target condition is much broader than that. Target condition encompasses the means or process by which, almost step-by-step, an outcome, or series of outcomes are realised. It is the difference between “what is the goal we want to reach?” and “how (or by means of which process) do we reach that goal?”
For example, ‘improving productivity’ is the target but it cannot be achieved directly, which is where the target condition comes in because it introduces the process by which that productivity goal can be achieved. To take a higher education example we encountered and resolved here in St Andrews, the target could be the near automation of producing student status letters and the corresponding reduction in wait-time from two weeks to two minutes, and in that case a Rapid Improvement Event was a target condition that brought all stakeholders from Student Services through to Registry around the table, and in the spirit of Toyota facilitated the creative space in which to think about and break down that process step by step in order to fundamentally improve it, addressing all stakeholder needs. An exciting video on this very topic you can find here.
Target condition is so useful because, let’s face it, identifying a goal is just the easy bit. Whatever it is, learning a language or improving a process, a target condition can really focus the mind on the element/s that need the most focus; the difficult more conceptual bit of establishing the process by which that goal will be achieved.