The team organizes itself to spread what it has learned throughout the organization


Yokoten is the short for either Yokotenkai (横展開) or Yokoni Tenkaisuru.

Japanese kanjis are composed with irreductible parts named “radicals” and compositions of transformed radicals named “components”. They provide underlying concepts, just like a rebus.

Let’s decompose the underlying ideas in this Japanese writing from the components and radicals:

: sideways, side, horizontal, width, woof, unreasonable, perverse - it’s etymology is “across, as in a cross beam”, and its radicals are

  • : wooden clappers (signaling the beginning or end of a performance)​
  • : “wa” - 3rd music note / box / car / receptacle for feces / square guitar
  • : rice field - this can be understood as the work place where wealth is grown

: unfold, expand / exhibition - it’s original meaning is to roll over in sleep, and then to unfold

  • : corpse
  • : garnement / coating

: open, unfold, unseal

The primitive character from Liushutong, two hands opening a gate can easily be seen:

The 開 primitive character from Liushutong
clearly shows two hands opening a gate

From this in depth analysis, Yokoten can literally be understood as an invitation to open with both hands the doors to unveil dead bodies found in the workplace at the final clap, a postmortem.

To reveal the Yokoten power, this exchange of information should take place across different structures and hierarchies [Roser 2021] to  spread information across the organization, on both the results and even more importantly the process, of how the results were achieved.

Yokoten helps is key for improvement or problem solving because it addresses systemic problems [Soltero 2017]; therefore, Yokoten is crucial for systemic improvement and may come in different flavors, such as retrospectives and demos at organization level.

Yokoten implies that improvement actions are not over until the return of lessons learnt have not been spread [Aimetti 2011].

Impact on the testing maturity

Yokoten cannot be a centralized top-down “standard”. Sharing is promoted rather than enforcing practices [Larman 2014]. This leads Managers to act as Landscape Gardeners who simply take care of seedlings and let them grow. Actually, “Rigid standards will only kill kaizen” [Larman 2014] [Imai 2012].

Few Yokoten practices from Japanese culture:

  • Nemawashi (根回し, making arrangements): this is an informal way to get support from coworkers and others before starting a project  - this increases the chances of success of the project [Roser 2021]
  • Tatakidai (叩き台, chopping block or springboard for discussion): reaching a consensus and informing others when the project is 80% complete in order to improve acceptance likelihood [Roser 2021]
  • Ringi (稟議, decision making using a circular letter system to inform all superiors and workers): the “ringi” is the japanization of the English word for “ring”; in Japan, it helps decision making since an employee is able to make a proposal on a document that travels around the company across all stakeholders who approve or request modifications. After the approval of all lower management levels, the approval of the CEO is then a mere formality. Also called “ringi seido” or “ringi system” [Roser 2021]
  • Asaichi (朝市, “Morning Market”): literally, “the first thing in the morning” [Imai 2012] - this usually takes place as a daily meeting with a commitment to never carry forward the same problem to the next day [Imai 2012]
  • Nomu (飲む, drink, smoke, take): in Japan, meeting at afterworks, drinking and chatting informally is essential to learn things kept untold, the tacit knowledge [Nonaka 1995]; this is so important that in Japan, a term rose from the mixing of nomu and communication: “nominication” or “nommunication

Some other Yokoten-like practices from the agile culture:

  • Community of Practice
  • Retrospectives (with escalation process) or Inspect & Adapt from SAFe [SAFe 2021-49]
  • Liberating Structures: series of workshops at scale techniques [Lipmanowicz 2014]
  • Tea-REX: Return of Experiences at tea time [Moustier 2020]
  • 3 amigos
  • Flying Mentors: Mentors should be spread across the organization to evenly raise it maturity [Moustier 2020]
  • Daily Standup Meeting: Scrum introduces the DSM to raise alerts on the Sprint objectives [Schwaber 2020]
  • X-Teams: Teams are enabled with networking and Ambassadors features [Ancona 2002] to increase the Team’s sharing and solving abilities notably thanks to broadcasting, influencing and conversing [Appelo 2010]
  • Review Bazaar: demos are organized as a Science fair with visitors [Larman 2010]
  • Event-Storming: Ideation engineering technique at organization level [Brandolini 2021]
  • Impact Mapping: workshop to spot actors, impacts and deliverables from a goal [Adzic 2013]
  • PanTesting

As these practices tend to push information through the organization, it is a passive way of preparing the Gemba from the learnings of the Yokoten.

When Yokoten is to be set in an organization, the usual development of yokoten-type communication mechanisms starts first within a single Team, then department and eventually between departments.

Agilitest’s standpoint on this practice

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© Christophe Moustier - 2021