How Kaas Tailored Uses Strategy in Their DMS

This fall, we’re going to be hosting a series of Zoom Calls (register here, they’re free) unpacking Kaas Tailored’s Daily Management System (DMS). Each month we’ll dive into a different element of our DMS so that you can start to see what it takes to build a DMS. This month, we’re talking about strategy and how starting with the right strategy will set your team up for success when it comes to adopting a DMS. Today, Jeff shares how Kaas uses strategy in their DMS. 

What is Strategy? 

At Kaas Tailored, when we say strategy, what we mean is starting with who we are trying to become as an organization. It all starts with the question of, “Where are we going? Why are we building this beautiful thing together? Why are we collaborating?” 

Here are 7 steps on how we set our strategy:

1. Your Strategy Should Start with Why

“If I don’t have the why, I’m totally useless. My brain just doesn’t start turning until I understand the direction we’re going.” – Jeff Kaas

For us, we determined that Kaas Tailored’s “why” is to “Shine Our Light.” We believe in doing high-quality work with minimal waste so that our full potential may shine. We are a platform for this potential to come alive and thrive, cultivated through living out our three core values of Know and Show The Truth, Best for our Best, and Improve Every Day. Since we are crystal clear on our mission, it gives our decision-makers a clear compass for activities we should be doing together as an organization.

2. Your Strategy Should Answer Where You’re Going 

The next step in our process is knowing the current state. I look at the current situation and ask, “What do I need to see in the next one to three years? What needs to happen so that we thrive and continue to move in the direction of our mission?” This helps us know where are currently standing so that we can set the next Target Condition.

3. Setting your Goals for Strategy 

This year, my goal for the team was to cut the time it takes us to create value by 75%. When I give goals, I want to set a goal that will meet business needs while being a goal the team understands. For example, if I’m the soccer coach and I say, “Win more,” what does the team do with that? While I know the outcome I want to have, more wins, it’s much more practical for me to say, “Hey, I want to see two or three more passes from you every game.” As the leader, I need to know that increasing passes will increase the odds of us winning the game. 

4. Communicating your Strategy with the Team 

I try to make the goal very practical for the team. The method we use to get an achieved goal is Toyota Kata. Kata is simply the process of knowing where we are today and moving a little bit every day in the direction of good. We don’t predict and we don’t pretend to control outcomes; we think that’s outside of our influence. 

5. Measuring the Success of Your Strategy 

We believe that we should do the work. We can control our processes, behaviors, thoughts, and actions, but the outcomes are outside of our control. For example, if I were a farmer, I might want to have a really great harvest, but I can’t make the corn grow. My family and I would sit down and ask, “How will we stir the dirt? How will we turn the soil so we have a variety of things growing? What seeds shall we plant? When will we cover them? How often will we water them?” Those are the things in our strategy that we want our team to be a part of. Then when there’s an outcome, of course we will celebrate it, but we’re not going to get too beat up if we don’t get the desired outcome. 

We don’t have a crystal ball. So instead, if anyone on my team is asked the question, “Where are we trying to go?” They’re able to say, “Well, right now, we’re just trying to take however long it takes us to create value and cut it down to a quarter of that time.” 

Our goal is to reduce the current time it takes to create value by 75%, and we are using Kaizen and Kata to do this. So in our daily huddles, I expect to see the team working towards this goal. They might say, “I ran an experiment yesterday, and here is what I learned. Today I am going to run this experiment, and this is what I think will happen.” This is what I mean by “a little bit every day.”

6. Strategy is an Adventure 

I love the idea of letting business and life be an adventure rather than something that I predict and try to manage. If we know where we want to be and we know where we want to go, but we don’t know the future, let’s not spend too much time over-processing and predicting all the targets along the way. Let’s experience it together. We’re finding that by using Kata, our progress is more consistent. We work in smaller bits, and it’s more fun! 

Sometimes my joy in life is reduced by my expectations of doing something awesome. If I just expect every day to do a little bit, it’s more joyful for me. We expect to see that progress reflected in our Visual Management System

7. Documenting Your Strategy 

If you ever come tour our factory, you’ll see that our strategy is visual on our walls! Our newest addition is our organization chart on our ‘dance floor’ in the center of our shop. We call it our destination guide. It’s a place to answer the question, “Where are we going at an individual level?” If you’re one of our team members wondering how to be equipped, you can walk up to us and say, “I’m currently in this department and I want to learn how to do this job.” We can actually make a map for your future and give you experiences if you want to grow. The Visual Management System we’re building right now allows you to see the Kata we’re working on: to cut the lead time by 75% of all value creation and track the progress of that. 

On the right-hand side of the destination guide, you will see our thinking models, policies, and guiding principles so that when any team member is doing experiments with Kata, we’re doing them in line with what we say we believe. 

How will you do Strategy? 

That’s how we do strategy at Kaas. I will say that this is something I’m extremely weak at. This is an area of growth for us. We’ve had our statement of purpose written for years and years. We want to shine our light. We want to actually deliver joy to people. We want to create an opportunity for potential. I’m fairly distanced saying, “This is where we want to go.” What I’m really crappy at is setting very specific targets like you just heard.