"Toyota Kata" is one of those buzzwords you often hear around thrown around in the continuous improvement space, but what does it really mean?
Well, for starters, a kata is a small, well-structured protocol or routine that becomes second nature through practice. The point of the kata is to acquire the habits of thought and action through practice, rather than to just memorize the routine. And, a kata makes these skills transferable to others, which is an important part of developing a sustained culture of continuous improvement within an organization.
Toyota’s improvement processes come from two fundamental kata - the improvement kata (or problem solving) and the coaching kata.
The Toyota Problem Solving Kata:
The Toyota problem solving kata encourages working on single issues and single countermeasures in rapid succession. Operating this way increases the organization’s knowledge and understanding of that process. The goals of this kata are to learn about the system itself to fully understand the situation, and to apply only one countermeasure at a time (so that you can accurately identify cause and effect).
The Toyota Coaching Kata
At Toyota, leaders offer guidance for solving problems in the correct ways, helping to develop employees’ problem solving skills. In this way, it is the team members, not the supervisors, who find the solutions to problems. Most improvement efforts are “bottom up,” relying on and improving upon each employee’s knowledge base.
There are two main duties of a leader under these kata:
At the first sign of an issue, a leader must respond and take ownership of the problem. The first response is to institute a short-term countermeasure - this allows work to continue unimpeded while a more permanent solution is identified and implemented. It is during this pursuit of the best solution that the coaching kata becomes invaluable.
An organization relies on its employees fully understanding their work processes. When a problem arises, it reveals some missing information about the process. Understanding the origin of the problem and its effect on other areas of the organization will enable better problem solving and increase the profound knowledge of the organization as a whole.
See how KaiNexus customer Michael Lombard uses Toyota Kata at his organization: