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© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
1
Toyota Kata
Mobilizing our ingenuity through good management
Mike Rother, February 2010
The practice of kata is the act
of practicing a pattern so it
becomes second nature.
In its day-to-day management
Toyota teaches a way of
working -- a kata -- that has
helped make it so successful
over the last six decades.
Toyotaʼs Improvement Kata
is something we overlook in
benchmarking and should
learn more about in order to
understand Toyotaʼs story.
Copyright © 2010 Mike Rother, all rights reserved
1217 Baldwin Avenue / Ann Arbor, MI 48104 USA / tel: (734) 665-5411 / mrother@umich.edu
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
2
An organizationʼs processes, practices
and results are an outcome of peopleʼs
thinking and behavior.
If processes are an outcome, then itʼs
important to ask, How do we influence
our behavior in order to accomplish
continuous improvement, adaptiveness,
and innovation?
Toyotaʼs answer is through kata. Kata are
practice routines, like dance steps, that
develop particular skills and ways of thinking.
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
3
THE TOYOTA KATA DEFINITION OF MANAGEMENT
The systematic pursuit of desired conditions
by utilizing human capabilities
in a concerted way
We want
to be
here
We are
here
Current
condition
Desired
condition
Target
condition
Challenge
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
4
A MANAGEMENT TASK
The task is not to introduce new techniques, principles, ethics
or solutions, but to establish a culture of continuous
improvement, adaptation and innovation by practicing a method
or behavior pattern that develops improvement skills and habits.
This is very much like training in sports.
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
5
But leading people to implementing solutions doesnʼt make an
organization adaptive and continuously improving. Hereʼs why:
• It caters to and strengthens our aversion to uncertainty,
rather then developing exploratory mindset and skills
• Todayʼs solutions arenʼt the ones that will meet
tomorrow's challenges
It's not solutions themselves that provide sustained
competitive advantage. Itʼs the ability of the organizationʼs
members to develop solutions.
HOW HAVE WE BEEN MANAGING?
Leaders and managers have tended to focus on outcomes and solutions
A solution at Toyota... ...copied at a U.S. company
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
6
(1) Where we are
(2) Where we want to be
(3) By what means we should navigate the
unclear territory between here and there.
We want
to be
here
We are
here
Unclear
Territory
This is a grey zone!
Obstacles
DEVELOPING SOLUTIONS
There are only 3 things we can and need to know with certainty
We donʼt know in advance what all the steps will be
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
7
HOW DO YOU IMPROVE, ADAPT & INNOVATE?
• How will you make your kanban system work?
• How will you achieve 1x1 flow?
• How will you achieve shorter value-stream lead time?
• How will you achieve your objective?
The way forward is iterative & experimenting, aimed at a
desired condition that we donʼt yet know how we will achieve.
Uncertainty / Learning Zone
Next
Target
Condition
Current
Knowledge
Threshold
We want
to be here
next
Obstacles
Unclear
Territory
?
?
?
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
8
BUT THERE IS A DILEMMA
(A) Our brain favors existing neural pathways (comfort area)
The way our brain works we seek certainty and try to avoid
judgement and criticism. We prefer to operate inside our
current knowledge threshold.
(B) Meeting challenges - improving and adapting - means
developing new neural pathways (learning area)
Itʼs impossible to remove uncertainty from the process
of improvement, adaptation and creation. The way forward
lies outside our current knowledge threshold.
Comfort
area
Apparent
Certainty
Mystery
Uncertainty
Learning
area
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
9
The trick is to develop well-worn mental circuits not for solutions,
but for a means by which we deal with dynamic, uncertain conditions.
Like training in sports: To prepare for contests with unpredictable
paths, the focus of the training is not solutions, but practicing how
to play.
A SOLUTION TO THIS DILEMMA
People can
handle
uncertainty,
work iteratively,
adapt and meet
challenges...
...if they have
practiced and
learned a way of
doing that.
This concept is the basis of the book Toyota Kata
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
10
The Toyota Kata Message:
WE CAN MEET THE CHALLENGES FACING US
If we practice and learn an effective way
of navigating the learning zone
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
11
Establish the
Next Target
Condition
Target
Condition
PDCA Toward the
Target Condition
The 5
Questions
Go
and
See
PLAN
CHECK DO
ACT
C C
T C
Grasp the
Current
Condition
Understand
the
Direction
What challenge
are we striving
to meet?
The step-by-step
discovery process
between where we
are and where we
want to be next.
What pattern
do we want to
have next?
What is the
current pattern
of working?
321 4
THE PATTERN THAT TOYOTA PRACTICES:
- THE IMPROVEMENT KATA -
The Improvement Kata is a four-part routine. Itʼs a systematic
and scientific way for people to successfully navigate
through unknown territory together.
Itʼs the backbone practice in a Lean organization.
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
12
Fractal depiction by Mr. Emiel van Est
THE IMPROVEMENT KATA IS FRACTAL
Because the Improvement Kata is content neutral
it can be practiced throughout an organization
Itʼs a decentralized yet aligned process of improvement,
adaptation and innovation
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
13
AND THEREʼS A COACHING KATA
FOR TEACHING THE IMPROVEMENT KATA
The Coaching Kata is a set of coaching routines to
practice in order to develop effective coaching habits. 
It's a coaching pattern to help you teach the
Improvement Kata thinking pattern.
The Coaching Kata gives managers and supervisors a
standardized approach to facilitate Improvement Kata
skill development in daily work.
The coach needs to know both the Improvement Kata
and the Coaching Kata!
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
14
HOW DO YOU CHANGE MINDSET
AND ORGANIZATION CULTURE?
From one of implementing pre-defined solutions,
to one of actively developing new solutions
Psychology and brain research are clear:
Humans have the ability to alter their mindset. Our brain
is equipped for learning new rules, patterns and habits.
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
15
Dendrites
(receiver)
Cell
Body
Axon (sender)
The human brain is estimated to contain 100 billion neurons. Neurons form
circuits within the brain, which underlie perception and thought.
For communication between two neurons to take place, an electrical impulse
travels down an axon to a synapse, or gap, where transmission occurs.
Both the strength of connection between neurons (ease of information
transmission) and the number of connections increase with use. Whatever
you focus on and practice - with associated emotions - weaves a habit or
pattern into your thinking. (Emotion helps determine what to imprint.)
MINDSET = NEURAL PATHWAYS OR CIRCUITS
Itʼs physiological
“Every time you do something,
you are more likely to do it again.”
~ Alvaro Pascual-Leone
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
16
TO CHANGE MINDSET AND DEVELOP NEW SKILLS
FOCUS ON THESE ELEMENTS
PRACTICE
Repetition
COACHING
Corrective
feedback
KATA
Structured routine
to practice
MASTERY
Overcoming
obstacles
To develop new habits
through practice, a
Learner will have to
experience success.
It will be the responsibility
of the Coach to give the
Learner procedural
guidance that makes the
Learner successful in
overcoming obstacles on
the way to their target
condition.
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
17
THIS LEADS TO A NEW CONSIDERATION
FOR LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT
In order to practice you need to know what to practice
To change mindset and culture through deliberate
practice, the organizationʼs leaders should specify
the pattern that is to be practiced and coached.
The organizationʼs managers should learn the
pattern and how to coach it.
Thatʼs exactly what Toyota does... Toyotaʼs
managers teach a common means for developing
solutions: The Improvement Kata.
Solution
How to
develop solution
Our
Management
System
Given / Directed
Toyotaʼs
Management
System
Specified
Guided & directed
Left open
Left open
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
18
MAKE THE PRACTICING PART OF NORMAL
DAILY WORK, NOT A SPECIAL EVENT
If we only periodically conduct training events or only episodically
work on improvement -- and the rest of the time itʼs business as
usual -- then according to neuroscience what weʼre actually
teaching is business as usual.
If we want a Lean revolution, then we
need to shift emphasis from staff-led,
episodic improvement efforts, to daily
efforts led by middle managers.
A slice of each day should be focused
on iterating toward the next target
condition by applying & coaching the
Improvement Kata.
Supervisor
Area
Manager
Daily
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
19
ONE CONCLUSION IS BECOMING CLEAR
Weʼre not going to be successful by copying Toyotaʼs solutions
We should be copying how
Toyota develops solutions.
(Which is a universal, not
Toyota-specific, science-
based approach.)
The Improvement Kata and
Coaching Kata are practice
routines for teaching and
transferring that approach.
Once you develop proficiency with the Improvement Kata
and Coaching Kata you can evolve them into kata that suit
your organization.
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
20
Next
Target
ConditionTarget
Condition
Current
Condition
Illustration by Dr. Lutz Engel
The more people in an organization
who get to higher skill levels with the
Improvement Kata pattern:
• The more challenges the organization
can take on
• The bigger the challenges it can take on
• The more knowledge it can build
• The faster it can move ahead
INCREASING YOUR ORGANIZATIONʼS CAPABILITY
Practicing the Improvement Kata = expanding peopleʼs comfort zone
Apparent
Certainty
Mystery
Uncertainty
Comfort
area
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
21
We confused the visible content of what we benchmarked at Toyota with
the less visible method Toyota uses to pursue objectives.
We called what we observed Lean, which suggests always minimizing or
maximizing. This idea easily fits into our existing thinking in business, making
it harder for us to see the different management approach Toyota is taking.
As I see it now, Toyotaʼs extraordinary successes came from Lean practices
combined with Toyotaʼs way of working toward any challenging objective. 
Toyotaʼs improvement kata is about solving problems and adapting as you
strive to move from where you are to where you want to be next.  That can
involve minimizing, optimizing, or whatever you wish to achieve.
WE MISUNDERSTOOD THE SOURCE
OF TOYOTAʼS SUCCESSES
• Solve a problem
• Lean practices
• Develop a product
• Market a product / service
• etc.
This is content and
situation specific
How we go about it
The
Improvement Kata
This is content
free and universal
What we work on
The pivotal change proposed by study of Toyota is not in what
an organization does, but in how the organization does it
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
22
WHAT IS MANAGEMENTʼS TASK?
Traditional
Management
Toyota Kata
Management
• Establish targets
• Describe solutions
• Provide incentives
• Get out of the way and
periodically check
results
• Establish targets
• Develop, via practice
with coaching, the
capability in people to
develop new solutions...
...by having people
practice a common way
of working, like the
Improvement Kata
Focus on solutions Focus on how
solutions are developed
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
23
MANAGERS ARE TEACHERS, AND
THEIR ACTIONS DETERMINE COMPANY CAPABILITY
Whether consciously or not, with their everyday words
and actions all managers are teaching their people a
mindset and approach.
So it makes sense to ask: “What patterns of behavior and
thought do we want to be teaching in our organization?”
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
24
How do we make a transition from our
prevailing management approach, to
systems thinking?
We change by practicing a different
behavior. That, over time, leads us to
think about things differently.
What pattern of acting and thinking
-- what teachable, transferrable routine --
can we practice?
With the Improvement Kata and
Coaching Kata we have routines
that can be applied and practiced
in any setting, in order to develop
capability and behavior consistent
with systems thinking.
résumé
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
25
The Toyota Kata Website
FURTHER RESOURCES
Click each item or scan the code for a link to that resource
Essential Books
© Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA
26
Toyota Kata on
Improvement Kata Handbook
(Download free on the Toyota Kata Website)
TK Course at UM

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Toyota Kata

  • 1. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 1 Toyota Kata Mobilizing our ingenuity through good management Mike Rother, February 2010 The practice of kata is the act of practicing a pattern so it becomes second nature. In its day-to-day management Toyota teaches a way of working -- a kata -- that has helped make it so successful over the last six decades. Toyotaʼs Improvement Kata is something we overlook in benchmarking and should learn more about in order to understand Toyotaʼs story. Copyright © 2010 Mike Rother, all rights reserved 1217 Baldwin Avenue / Ann Arbor, MI 48104 USA / tel: (734) 665-5411 / mrother@umich.edu
  • 2. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 2 An organizationʼs processes, practices and results are an outcome of peopleʼs thinking and behavior. If processes are an outcome, then itʼs important to ask, How do we influence our behavior in order to accomplish continuous improvement, adaptiveness, and innovation? Toyotaʼs answer is through kata. Kata are practice routines, like dance steps, that develop particular skills and ways of thinking.
  • 3. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 3 THE TOYOTA KATA DEFINITION OF MANAGEMENT The systematic pursuit of desired conditions by utilizing human capabilities in a concerted way We want to be here We are here Current condition Desired condition Target condition Challenge
  • 4. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 4 A MANAGEMENT TASK The task is not to introduce new techniques, principles, ethics or solutions, but to establish a culture of continuous improvement, adaptation and innovation by practicing a method or behavior pattern that develops improvement skills and habits. This is very much like training in sports.
  • 5. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 5 But leading people to implementing solutions doesnʼt make an organization adaptive and continuously improving. Hereʼs why: • It caters to and strengthens our aversion to uncertainty, rather then developing exploratory mindset and skills • Todayʼs solutions arenʼt the ones that will meet tomorrow's challenges It's not solutions themselves that provide sustained competitive advantage. Itʼs the ability of the organizationʼs members to develop solutions. HOW HAVE WE BEEN MANAGING? Leaders and managers have tended to focus on outcomes and solutions A solution at Toyota... ...copied at a U.S. company
  • 6. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 6 (1) Where we are (2) Where we want to be (3) By what means we should navigate the unclear territory between here and there. We want to be here We are here Unclear Territory This is a grey zone! Obstacles DEVELOPING SOLUTIONS There are only 3 things we can and need to know with certainty We donʼt know in advance what all the steps will be
  • 7. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 7 HOW DO YOU IMPROVE, ADAPT & INNOVATE? • How will you make your kanban system work? • How will you achieve 1x1 flow? • How will you achieve shorter value-stream lead time? • How will you achieve your objective? The way forward is iterative & experimenting, aimed at a desired condition that we donʼt yet know how we will achieve. Uncertainty / Learning Zone Next Target Condition Current Knowledge Threshold We want to be here next Obstacles Unclear Territory ? ? ?
  • 8. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 8 BUT THERE IS A DILEMMA (A) Our brain favors existing neural pathways (comfort area) The way our brain works we seek certainty and try to avoid judgement and criticism. We prefer to operate inside our current knowledge threshold. (B) Meeting challenges - improving and adapting - means developing new neural pathways (learning area) Itʼs impossible to remove uncertainty from the process of improvement, adaptation and creation. The way forward lies outside our current knowledge threshold. Comfort area Apparent Certainty Mystery Uncertainty Learning area
  • 9. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 9 The trick is to develop well-worn mental circuits not for solutions, but for a means by which we deal with dynamic, uncertain conditions. Like training in sports: To prepare for contests with unpredictable paths, the focus of the training is not solutions, but practicing how to play. A SOLUTION TO THIS DILEMMA People can handle uncertainty, work iteratively, adapt and meet challenges... ...if they have practiced and learned a way of doing that. This concept is the basis of the book Toyota Kata
  • 10. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 10 The Toyota Kata Message: WE CAN MEET THE CHALLENGES FACING US If we practice and learn an effective way of navigating the learning zone
  • 11. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 11 Establish the Next Target Condition Target Condition PDCA Toward the Target Condition The 5 Questions Go and See PLAN CHECK DO ACT C C T C Grasp the Current Condition Understand the Direction What challenge are we striving to meet? The step-by-step discovery process between where we are and where we want to be next. What pattern do we want to have next? What is the current pattern of working? 321 4 THE PATTERN THAT TOYOTA PRACTICES: - THE IMPROVEMENT KATA - The Improvement Kata is a four-part routine. Itʼs a systematic and scientific way for people to successfully navigate through unknown territory together. Itʼs the backbone practice in a Lean organization.
  • 12. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 12 Fractal depiction by Mr. Emiel van Est THE IMPROVEMENT KATA IS FRACTAL Because the Improvement Kata is content neutral it can be practiced throughout an organization Itʼs a decentralized yet aligned process of improvement, adaptation and innovation
  • 13. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 13 AND THEREʼS A COACHING KATA FOR TEACHING THE IMPROVEMENT KATA The Coaching Kata is a set of coaching routines to practice in order to develop effective coaching habits.  It's a coaching pattern to help you teach the Improvement Kata thinking pattern. The Coaching Kata gives managers and supervisors a standardized approach to facilitate Improvement Kata skill development in daily work. The coach needs to know both the Improvement Kata and the Coaching Kata!
  • 14. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 14 HOW DO YOU CHANGE MINDSET AND ORGANIZATION CULTURE? From one of implementing pre-defined solutions, to one of actively developing new solutions Psychology and brain research are clear: Humans have the ability to alter their mindset. Our brain is equipped for learning new rules, patterns and habits.
  • 15. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 15 Dendrites (receiver) Cell Body Axon (sender) The human brain is estimated to contain 100 billion neurons. Neurons form circuits within the brain, which underlie perception and thought. For communication between two neurons to take place, an electrical impulse travels down an axon to a synapse, or gap, where transmission occurs. Both the strength of connection between neurons (ease of information transmission) and the number of connections increase with use. Whatever you focus on and practice - with associated emotions - weaves a habit or pattern into your thinking. (Emotion helps determine what to imprint.) MINDSET = NEURAL PATHWAYS OR CIRCUITS Itʼs physiological “Every time you do something, you are more likely to do it again.” ~ Alvaro Pascual-Leone
  • 16. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 16 TO CHANGE MINDSET AND DEVELOP NEW SKILLS FOCUS ON THESE ELEMENTS PRACTICE Repetition COACHING Corrective feedback KATA Structured routine to practice MASTERY Overcoming obstacles To develop new habits through practice, a Learner will have to experience success. It will be the responsibility of the Coach to give the Learner procedural guidance that makes the Learner successful in overcoming obstacles on the way to their target condition.
  • 17. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 17 THIS LEADS TO A NEW CONSIDERATION FOR LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT In order to practice you need to know what to practice To change mindset and culture through deliberate practice, the organizationʼs leaders should specify the pattern that is to be practiced and coached. The organizationʼs managers should learn the pattern and how to coach it. Thatʼs exactly what Toyota does... Toyotaʼs managers teach a common means for developing solutions: The Improvement Kata. Solution How to develop solution Our Management System Given / Directed Toyotaʼs Management System Specified Guided & directed Left open Left open
  • 18. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 18 MAKE THE PRACTICING PART OF NORMAL DAILY WORK, NOT A SPECIAL EVENT If we only periodically conduct training events or only episodically work on improvement -- and the rest of the time itʼs business as usual -- then according to neuroscience what weʼre actually teaching is business as usual. If we want a Lean revolution, then we need to shift emphasis from staff-led, episodic improvement efforts, to daily efforts led by middle managers. A slice of each day should be focused on iterating toward the next target condition by applying & coaching the Improvement Kata. Supervisor Area Manager Daily
  • 19. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 19 ONE CONCLUSION IS BECOMING CLEAR Weʼre not going to be successful by copying Toyotaʼs solutions We should be copying how Toyota develops solutions. (Which is a universal, not Toyota-specific, science- based approach.) The Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata are practice routines for teaching and transferring that approach. Once you develop proficiency with the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata you can evolve them into kata that suit your organization.
  • 20. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 20 Next Target ConditionTarget Condition Current Condition Illustration by Dr. Lutz Engel The more people in an organization who get to higher skill levels with the Improvement Kata pattern: • The more challenges the organization can take on • The bigger the challenges it can take on • The more knowledge it can build • The faster it can move ahead INCREASING YOUR ORGANIZATIONʼS CAPABILITY Practicing the Improvement Kata = expanding peopleʼs comfort zone Apparent Certainty Mystery Uncertainty Comfort area
  • 21. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 21 We confused the visible content of what we benchmarked at Toyota with the less visible method Toyota uses to pursue objectives. We called what we observed Lean, which suggests always minimizing or maximizing. This idea easily fits into our existing thinking in business, making it harder for us to see the different management approach Toyota is taking. As I see it now, Toyotaʼs extraordinary successes came from Lean practices combined with Toyotaʼs way of working toward any challenging objective.  Toyotaʼs improvement kata is about solving problems and adapting as you strive to move from where you are to where you want to be next.  That can involve minimizing, optimizing, or whatever you wish to achieve. WE MISUNDERSTOOD THE SOURCE OF TOYOTAʼS SUCCESSES • Solve a problem • Lean practices • Develop a product • Market a product / service • etc. This is content and situation specific How we go about it The Improvement Kata This is content free and universal What we work on The pivotal change proposed by study of Toyota is not in what an organization does, but in how the organization does it
  • 22. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 22 WHAT IS MANAGEMENTʼS TASK? Traditional Management Toyota Kata Management • Establish targets • Describe solutions • Provide incentives • Get out of the way and periodically check results • Establish targets • Develop, via practice with coaching, the capability in people to develop new solutions... ...by having people practice a common way of working, like the Improvement Kata Focus on solutions Focus on how solutions are developed
  • 23. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 23 MANAGERS ARE TEACHERS, AND THEIR ACTIONS DETERMINE COMPANY CAPABILITY Whether consciously or not, with their everyday words and actions all managers are teaching their people a mindset and approach. So it makes sense to ask: “What patterns of behavior and thought do we want to be teaching in our organization?”
  • 24. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 24 How do we make a transition from our prevailing management approach, to systems thinking? We change by practicing a different behavior. That, over time, leads us to think about things differently. What pattern of acting and thinking -- what teachable, transferrable routine -- can we practice? With the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata we have routines that can be applied and practiced in any setting, in order to develop capability and behavior consistent with systems thinking. résumé
  • 25. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 25 The Toyota Kata Website FURTHER RESOURCES Click each item or scan the code for a link to that resource Essential Books
  • 26. © Mike Rother TOYOTA KATA 26 Toyota Kata on Improvement Kata Handbook (Download free on the Toyota Kata Website) TK Course at UM