What is Toyota Kata?

Kata Definition

Kata is yet another Japanese history. It translates to “mold” (型) or “shape” (形) and is used as a training method in martial arts where they practice and perfect routines and movements. The idea is to internalize behavior so they can be used and adapted for different purposes with less effort.

Kata positure

The Toyota Production System

Toyota is the other part of Toyota Kata. Again, we turn to Japan and Toyota car manufacturer. They developed a production system based on the philosophy of achieving the complete elimination of all waste in pursuit of the most effective methods. This is referred to as Lean Manufacturing System and Just-in-Time production.

The Toyota Kata

Just like the Kata is used in martial arts, Toyota developed this approach to build and strengthen the organization’s problem-solving capabilities. Toyota Kata is not a problem-solving tool, but it’s a methodology to become a learning organization.

The Toyota Kata helps the organization to become more agile, innovative and to solve problems. It works with the mindset to increase the speed of learning.

Toyota Kata is divided in two main categories: Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata.

Improvement Kata

The Improvement Kata is for individuals to move from the current state to the desired condition. This is done by using the four Improvement Kata steps:

  1. Understand direction of change: To know where you are heading, you must set the direction. Define your vision to help keep an eye on your bearings.
  2. Grasp the current situation: You cannot develop a route or solutions without knowing where you are. Looking at a map, you are going from point A to point B. Fully understanding your current situation is point A.
  3. Establish next target condition: Based on the current situation and the direction of change, you define your next target condition. This is one step in the direction of your vision.
  4. Experiment towards target condition: Define actions you believe will lead you to the target condition. A dynamic action list is very helpful where you can describe your hypothesis and expected outcome. After a certain time, you will evaluate if the change gave the necessary results, or if you need to adapt and try again. This is an iterative process using PDCA on these experiments.
Once you are satisfied with the results, please don’t forget to sustain.

Coaching Kata

This is the ongoing process between the person performing Improvement Kata and his coach. Both operators, supervisors and managers can use Coaching Kata with their respective coaches.

The purpose with coaching kata is to build and strengthen the employees’ capabilities to solve problems and make improvements. Remember, giving answers straight forward does not built the employees capabilities. Reflection and individual practice do.

It’s a regular exercise for the mind, practicing Kata. The employee and the coach do a weekly one-to-one session of approximately 20 minutes where they reflect on the five following questions:

  • What is the target condition?
  • What is the current condition?
  • Any problems? What is being done?
  • What is the next step (PDCA)?
  • When can we see what has been learned?

Benefits of Toyota Kata

Using this methodology helps establish and strengthen lean thinking, innovation culture and adds problem solving capabilities to your organization.

A3 is a good tools for your Kata process

A3s, with templates for both Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata is a suitable formatted tool to help you document and structure the kata process.

Toyota Kata A3 form

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