Toyota Kata

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Toyota Kata

We help organizations maximize their continuous improvement efforts by teaching and installing patterns and routines that promote organization-wide innovation.

For years, automakers from around the world tried to mirror the tools Toyota used in its production system, assuming they would see similar results. Without fail, the tools would not work; but why? The culture was not there to support them.

Toyota Kata is a robust, continuous improvement methodology that originated in Mike Rother's intense study of how Toyota's culture deploys continuous improvement. Rather than focus on the tools, Mike focused on the culture of Toyota. What he found was a culture that critically concentrated on developing and coaching its people on how to respond to the abnormalities of the process through iterative experimentation. From his observations and data, Rother formalized the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata: the two foundational Toyota Kata methods that organizations can use to create a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.

Let's Clarify

Toyota Kata has, in many cases, been misconstrued within the marketplace. This continuous improvement methodology is not a tool or project, it is not something that can be learned quickly, and it is not solely used in a manufacturing setting. Instead, Kata is a management system that helps leaders achieve business objectives by equipping them with a standard protocol to be used to expose the continuous improvement and innovative potential of their teams.

The Elements of Toyota Kata

As mentioned above, Toyota Kata is comprised of two foundational Katas—the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata. Apart, they are ineffective and useless, but together, they are powerful components to an overall innovation infused management system.

Disassembling the Improvement Kata

Within the Improvement Kata, there are four primary steps that, when planned and executed correctly, enables teams to engineer their way towards improved future states. The four steps are as follows:

  1. Understand the direction
  2. Grasp the current condition
  3. Establish the next target condition
  4. PDCA toward the target condition

We have coached organizations across the globe and in a wide range of industries on how to apply the Improvement Kata as a primary team-based method for improvement and innovation. During the course of these engagements, we have seen hundreds of millions of dollars added to the bottom line, morale skyrocket, and overall better competitive positioning.

Coaching Kata: Teaching the Improvement Kata through Coached Practice

If the Improvement Kata is the vehicle, the Coaching Kata would be the acceleration pedal. The purpose of the Coaching Kata is to routinely and habitually coach your team through the Improvement Kata process. At its core, the Coaching Kata enables leaders to facilitate the development of their people, so they are better equipped to solve problems and advance their processes—thereby creating a culture of continuous improvement.

Similar to the systematic process one would use to practice an instrument, the Coaching Kata is practiced methodically using the five-question card. This card is composed of routine questions that facilitate the proper dialogue necessary to ensure teams are being appropriately coached, processes are advancing, and leaders are developing their effective coaching habits.

Together, the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata are a powerful method used to create organization-wide continuous improvement.

Our Approach to Deploying Toyota Kata

For all Kata engagements, our deployment method closely follows the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition. Our intention for each of our clients is to equip them to progress with Kata post-engagement. To accomplish this, we follow a three-phase model, as seen in the image below.

At each phase, our coaches further embed the Toyota Kata method into the learners' routines until it becomes habitual and is executed as if it were being performed by one of our coaches. We have been fortunate to be one of the first Toyota Kata consulting companies in the world, and we have been deploying Kata within organizations prior to the method being published. If your organization could use our assistance, we would be happy to discuss a win, Win, WIN partnership. If you are still uncertain of our expertise, check out a few of our impact stories.

If your organization could use our assistance, we would be happy to discuss a win, Win, WIN partnership!