Toyota Kata What is it and How Can it Help You Continuously Improve


Toyota Kata is a management philosophy that aims to help businesses continuously improve. It was developed by Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System. As defined by its name, “Kata,” it means continuous improvement.

It’s not exactly what they teach in school. But, it has been proven time and again to work for organizations of all sizes. 

What is Kata?

Kata is a structural process that is used to help individuals understand a model of an internal process. It is not a fixed pattern but can be modified and rewritten as required depending on the business objectives.

Kata was developed by Taiichi Ohno, father of the Toyota Production System (TPS). He wanted to instill in his workers how important it is for them to improve their manufacturing system or kaizen continuously, as they call it.

This philosophy was so ingrained with all employees from day one that he even taught students about Kaizen during classes he conducted inside universities.

What is Kata in Lean?

Kata in lean is an extension of the Toyota Kata, which was introduced by Mike Rother. The concept focuses on learning and transferring knowledge to others within the organization through practice with feedback loops.

In lean management, Kata refers to a collection of behaviors and practices that have been proven to generate success for a company. It includes 2 types: Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata.

What is Lean Improvement Kata?

The Improvement Kata is a process that helps you improve your processes by instilling Kaizen within the team. It involves the following 5 steps:

  • Set the target
  • Study the current condition
  • Analyze root cause
  • Develop countermeasures
  • Test these solutions

The brain may develop the practice into a new habit with proper training to improve kata (which is aided by excellent coaching).

Moreover, Improvement Kata focuses on learning and exploring new things. It’s just about following best practices for continuous improvement in all work tasks.

What is Lean Coaching Kata?

On the other hand, the Coaching Kata teaches individuals how to coach their employees to continually improve. It focuses more on asking questions than giving answers, resulting in better learning opportunities among team members. It consists of the following 4 parts:

  • Observe-the-Current Situation (OOD)
  • Define Target Condition (DTC)
  • Check Understanding (CU)
  • Guide-the-Improvement (GIT)

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Lean Kata Benefits to Develop Scientific Thinking

Teams that have mastered a kata can take confidence from the kata for dealing with any unforeseen problem. The following are some of the major advantages of training and coaching katas:

  • A healthy discussion with a team about upcoming challenges.
  • Discussion about the organization’s goals and visions.
  • Creative problem solving and employee confidence.
  • Job satisfaction and improved organizational culture.
  • Reduced risk-aversion

How does Toyota Kata help to Improve Management Approach?

There are many ways in which you can improve your management approach using Toyota Kata. Here is what it entails:

1. Identify the individuals that need coaching

You can identify the persons who need coaching within your organization as it is an important part of the process. Not everyone can benefit from Coaching Kata like they would with Improvement kata. Furthermore, you should do some initial interviews with employees to see if they’d make good candidates for either or both Kata styles.

2. Select a coach and assign roles

Coach selection may take longer than other parts of implementation but once you have identified someone capable, give them their rightful position as trainer/coach;

3. Use Problem Solving Sprints

Problem-solving sprints are another way through which you can improve your management approach using Toyota Kata. They help you focus on developing new skills and capabilities through practice. Moreover, you can analyze mistakes/failures and other learning opportunities for better results.

4. Audit yourself

Businesses should never stop improving themselves. Also, conducting audits is a great way to see how far your organization has come since implementing these principles. It also helps in sharing knowledge between teams or across departments that have implemented Kata.

5. Keep practicing

As part of Kata in lean, you should keep practicing both Coaching Kata and Improvement Kata. It will help you improve your management approach and learn even more about applying Toyota Kata within the workplace.

6. Build a strong foundation

The continuous improvement philosophy goes hand in hand with teamwork. It makes it ideal for businesses to use when trying to move forward. Besides, use it together as one entity rather than separate parts working independently from each other.

Implement Kata to Make Continuous Improvement in your Business

Learning and applying the concept of Toyota Kata can help you make continuous improvements in your organization. It also encourages a supportive company culture where employees are enthused to think of innovative ways to improve results.

Kata has a proven methodology that has delivered continuous results. Moreover, it has worked for companies like Toyota, so that it will work for you too. Get in touch with us at Kanban Zone to learn more about how you can use Toyota Kata in your organization.

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Kanban Zone
This is a post from the Kanban Zone community. These posts cover various topics related to the Kanban methodology, project and tasks management, Lean, Agile, as well as content relevant to other practitioners from the Kanban community.