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How Does KATA Fit in Our 
Improvement Process? 
By 
Mike Rother 
and Jeff Liker 
November 2014
It's About 
Developing 
Scientific 
Thinking! 
Rother & Liker - November 2014 2
SOME PEOPLE IN THE LEAN COMMUNITY 
ARE WONDERING WHERE KATA FITS IN 
• Is it a more advanced problem solving 
method to go...
MANY OF US WERE FIRST EXPOSED 
TO LEAN THROUGH THE TPS HOUSE 
It's a great image that makes us want 
to "Just Do It" right...
HERE'S A MORE RECENT IMAGE 
OF THE TOYOTA WAY 
It provides a vision for Toyota's culture 
and makes us think about the cul...
BUT THESE VIEWS MISS SOMETHING 
Scientific way 
of thinking 
Scientific way 
of thinking 
Underlying Toyota's approach/sys...
CULTURE DEVELOPMENT STARTS 
ON DAY 1 
Scientific thinking should get practiced in all your 
improvement efforts... whether...
THINKING CORRECTLY ABOUT 
THE IMPROVEMENT KATA 
One misconception is that some people think of IK/CK as a process 
improve...
KATA COME INTO PLAY EARLY ON 
Kata are structured routines you practice deliberately, 
especially at the beginning, so the...
DAILY MANAGEMENT GENERATES IDEAS 
We are finally 
engaging team 
members in 
daily huddles. 
Team 
members are 
making gre...
COUNTERMEASURE: PUT SOME KATA IN IT 
It's fine to begin with systems for trying to maintain 
standards by reacting to abno...
SCIENTIFIC THINKING IS 
A FOUNDATIONAL SKILL 
Practice the structured 
routines of the 
Improvement Kata 
pattern... 
And ...
EXAMPLE: THE A3 
The thinking pattern that Toyota wants is taught by 
their seasoned coaches, not by the A3 format itself ...
RESEARCHERS WHO BENCHMARK VISIBLE 
TOYOTA TECHNIQUES MISS A KEY INGREDIENT 
The A3 document and associated coaching is a T...
HOW DO YOU DEVELOP 
FOUNDATIONAL SKILLS? 
Both the A3 as it is used at Toyota and the Improvement 
Kata / Coaching Kata (I...
BEGINNERS NEED PRACTICE ROUTINES 
Abstract knowledge doesn't produce change when it's not tied 
to specific behaviors that...
A VIDEO ABOUT PRACTICE 
Next page - 4 minutes 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfAQ8oJIGoA 
Also available on the IK/CK Yo...
The Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata are structured 
teaching routines to shift underlying thought patterns. 
The idea i...
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How Kata Fits In

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The routines of the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata teach scientific thinking & acting, and can be practiced any time you face a problem, goal or challenge.

We often have a fundamental misunderstanding of what Lean is in practice. We mistake Lean solutions for the process that leads to the results. Instead, Kata gets into how to develop the less visible but essential scientific thinking that underlies Lean practices and the Lean results that we see.

The reality is that very little that you see at a Toyota site is the result of one person with a big idea that got standardized across locations. More often, what you see is today’s condition, which is the result of many cycles of experimentation aimed at a particular goal and challenge.

Kata is about the road to developing your own solutions, again and again! The Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata are a management system that coaches people for continuous improvement and achieving ambitious goals in all aspects of an organization.

Published in: Science

How Kata Fits In

  1. 1. How Does KATA Fit in Our Improvement Process? By Mike Rother and Jeff Liker November 2014
  2. 2. It's About Developing Scientific Thinking! Rother & Liker - November 2014 2
  3. 3. SOME PEOPLE IN THE LEAN COMMUNITY ARE WONDERING WHERE KATA FITS IN • Is it a more advanced problem solving method to go beyond A3? • Does it replace daily huddles to address yesterday’s problems? • Should we stop all “Lean” activity to focus only on the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata? • What do we do about the momentum we have gained through Lean tools? Rother & Liker - November 2014 3
  4. 4. MANY OF US WERE FIRST EXPOSED TO LEAN THROUGH THE TPS HOUSE It's a great image that makes us want to "Just Do It" right now! Rother & Liker - November 2014 4
  5. 5. HERE'S A MORE RECENT IMAGE OF THE TOYOTA WAY It provides a vision for Toyota's culture and makes us think about the culture we desire Rother & Liker - November 2014 5
  6. 6. BUT THESE VIEWS MISS SOMETHING Scientific way of thinking Scientific way of thinking Underlying Toyota's approach/system is a scientific way of thinking, which Toyota strives to develop in its members Rother & Liker - November 2014 6
  7. 7. CULTURE DEVELOPMENT STARTS ON DAY 1 Scientific thinking should get practiced in all your improvement efforts... whether trying to maintain a current standard or striving to reach a new one... and whether carried out by a beginner or an expert. Developing this foundational thinking is exactly what practicing the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata is about. Rother & Liker - November 2014 7
  8. 8. THINKING CORRECTLY ABOUT THE IMPROVEMENT KATA One misconception is that some people think of IK/CK as a process improvement tool, rather than a set of practice routines for learning how to approach problems, goals and challenges scientifically. A second misconception involves distinguishing too sharply between a reactive mode of identifying deviations from standard versus a proactive mode of striving for a goal. We found that the mindset pattern at Toyota (modeled by the Improvement Kata) is essentially the same whether an existing standard or a new level of performance are being pursued. Of course, the application of that mindset pattern takes on different shadings in different situations. A third misconception is that IK/CK is only for mature sites that already have established systems for maintaining standards (i.e., stable processes) and initiatives like problem-solving and shop floor management. Actually, at Toyota you begin practicing and applying the scientific mindset modeled by the Improvement Kata the day you arrive. In fact, it's unlikely that you can become a mature site without practicing scientific thinking. Rother & Liker - November 2014 8
  9. 9. KATA COME INTO PLAY EARLY ON Kata are structured routines you practice deliberately, especially at the beginning, so their pattern becomes a habit and leaves you with new abilities KATA: • Are typically for learning fundamentals, to build on. • Are a way of transferring skills and developing shared abilities and mindset in a team or organization. “Let’s begin by practicing it this way for a while.” Rother & Liker - November 2014 9
  10. 10. DAILY MANAGEMENT GENERATES IDEAS We are finally engaging team members in daily huddles. Team members are making great suggestions! We have standards and deviations are noticed! Unfortunately, these actions alone often lead to the unscientific 'action-item- list' approach Rother & Liker - November 2014 10
  11. 11. COUNTERMEASURE: PUT SOME KATA IN IT It's fine to begin with systems for trying to maintain standards by reacting to abnormalities. However, these activities should be undertaken in a way that incorporates a scientific thinking pattern. It's a good idea to think of any standard as a goal, and to pursue it scientifically with the routines of the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata. Unscientific responses to abnormalities Scientific responses to abnormalities Illustration from Toyota Kata, page 115 Rother & Liker - November 2014 11
  12. 12. SCIENTIFIC THINKING IS A FOUNDATIONAL SKILL Practice the structured routines of the Improvement Kata pattern... And get better at... • Handling deviations from a standard • Using the A3 • Heijunka • Respect for people • And so on Rother & Liker - November 2014 12
  13. 13. EXAMPLE: THE A3 The thinking pattern that Toyota wants is taught by their seasoned coaches, not by the A3 format itself Rother & Liker - November 2014 A lesson learned in the Toyota Kata research is that A3 is a Toyota tool that's used there in the context of corrective coaching by an experienced mentor. When A3 gets used in other organizations without this underlying component, the probability of A3 developing systematic, scientific thinking & acting is low. The A3 Tool The desired pattern of thinking & acting is here Experienced Mentor At Toyota 13
  14. 14. RESEARCHERS WHO BENCHMARK VISIBLE TOYOTA TECHNIQUES MISS A KEY INGREDIENT The A3 document and associated coaching is a Toyota technique that helps managers teach a scientific pattern of thinking. What's important from a tech-transfer point of view is the pattern of thinking (modeled by the Improvement Kata), which is held in the coaches at Toyota. Rother & Liker - November 2014 14
  15. 15. HOW DO YOU DEVELOP FOUNDATIONAL SKILLS? Both the A3 as it is used at Toyota and the Improvement Kata / Coaching Kata (IK/CK) are aimed at the same purpose: Developing scientific thinking skills (clarity of objective, conducting experiments, striving based on facts and data). But the A3 alone is more of a summary of a problem-solving process. If used correctly, the Learner is going through it with coaching, and hence practice, at every step. The A3 requires a high level of coaching skill. (Read Managing to Learn by John Shook.) The practice routines of the Improvement Kata & Coaching Kata make this Coach/Learner process more explicit and transferrable. The purpose of the IK & CK is to simplify and systematize the kind of practice that’s more implicit in Toyota's already-strong culture of scientific thinking. Rother & Liker - November 2014 15
  16. 16. BEGINNERS NEED PRACTICE ROUTINES Abstract knowledge doesn't produce change when it's not tied to specific behaviors that can be practiced. Change involves creating small tweaks to behavior that build on one another. Quote from a businessperson: "The biggest challenge I have is to get people to DO. They read books, articles, SlideShares, watch YouTube videos and "talk a good game," but they don't practice. They have difficulty making the connection between thinking and doing." Rother & Liker - November 2014 16
  17. 17. A VIDEO ABOUT PRACTICE Next page - 4 minutes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfAQ8oJIGoA Also available on the IK/CK YouTube Channel Rother & Liker - November 2014 17
  18. 18. The Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata are structured teaching routines to shift underlying thought patterns. The idea is that as the scientific way of thinking becomes more habitual, an organization can move in the direction of a “This is just how we think and do things" culture. Getting practice of the Improvement Kata pattern established inside various activities is an early target condition for culture change. The Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata routines are for organizations that don't think and act scientifically by default, but want to learn to do so. Best wishes for your practice!

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