Toyota Kata helps workers think differently and solve problems. It instills a scientific way of thinking, through practice and coaching by managers, to make teams more effective at problem solving and making improvements. The approach counteracts our human tendency to jump to conclusions without testing and experimentation. Toyota Kata was identified as a key ingredient that underlies Toyota’s ability to sustain its success in applying lean tools and principles.
While Toyota Kata does not teach problem solving, it helps create a mindset that can make people more effective at problem solving – through practicing “Starter Kata.” Starter Kata are small routines or protocols that get practiced deliberately, especially at the beginning, to help people acquire a scientific thinking mindset. Starter Kata increases the speed of learning and is especially helpful when companies want to develop a shared way of thinking and working in a group of people, because everyone starts with practicing the same basics.
There are two main elements within Toyota Kata and each has its own set of Starter Kata – Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata.
The Toyota Improvement Kata helps develop fundamental skills of working like a scientist. The learner iterates or experiments his or her way toward a desired goal instead of simply deciding the way forward. This way of thinking and working helps people successfully deal with uncertainty and challenges.
The Toyota Coaching Kata is a repeating routine by which managers teach Improvement Kata to everyone in the company. The teacher or coach gives the learner procedural guidance, not solutions, helping the learner successfully overcome obstacles and develop confidence. Since many managers do not have experience in coaching others to think this way, the Coaching Kata helps managers develop these skills. With Toyota Kata, managers can develop their own coaching skills and their team members’ problem-solving skills simultaneously.