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Use Kata to Create Change Within Your Organization

Empower employees and achieve goals with a well-practiced routine.

Mike Rother studied Toyota for two decades, uncovering many practices that have made the company so powerful. However, companies trying to simply benchmark someone else's tools can get stuck. Conditions are always changing (markets, technology, natural disaster), and it's difficult to know what lies between a business's current situation and its next goal. A business needs a practical and adaptive way to navigate the unknown path to lean goals. Rother says Toyota's answer here is a subtle, yet relatively simple practice. It's their kata, a well-practiced routine that becomes a natural way of performing daily work. Rother suggests Toyota has two fundamental kata: an improvement kata and a coaching kata.

The improvement kata models the creative process. It helps people navigate unknown territory in a systematic and scientific way, making iteration and rapid-cycle experimentation a habit. With a goal in mind, teams direct their attention and ingenuity to the situational details and problems they encounter.

Once they have learned the improvement kata, managers and supervisors also need a coaching kata for teaching the improvement kata. Through repeated use of an effective routine for coaching, the managers and supervisors teach teams the improvement kata thinking patterns. Each coach in turn has an experienced mentor (the "second coach") observing and guiding his or her continuous learning of both the coaching kata and improvement kata.

Regularly, the coach spends 10 to 15 minutes with each learner and goes through the Five Coaching Kata Questions. Constantly repeating these questions teaches a pattern.

The Five Coaching Kata Questions:

1. What is your target condition? (The challenge)

2. What is your actual condition now?

3. What obstacles are now preventing you from reaching the target condition? Which one are you addressing now?

4. What is your next step? (Start of the next PDCA cycle--PDCA stands for Plan-Do-Check-Act, a scientific continuous-improvement cycle)

5. When can we go and see what we have learned from taking that step?

Decades of widespread and continued practice of their kata has made Toyota an industry leader. Your company can use kata if you have the persistence, motivation and determination to practice.

 



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