Toyota Kata * Overview, Improvement Kata, Teaching Kata

Toyota Kata – Introduction and Experiences
Teemu Toivonen
• My name is Teemu Toivonen
• I work as manager of application services at Aalto IT
and have introduced Lean and Agile practices to the
way we work
• I have about two years of experience of Toyota Kata,
and I don’t consider my self an expert. I’m a
• I’m very interested in Lean Agile, Lean, Coaching and
Systems Thinking
– I enjoy discussing and debating these topics so please
indulge me (@number_9_, [email protected] or
over a beer;)
Goal for the event
You will have a basic understanding of the philosophy of Toyota Kata and how
it works. This will be achieved by a combination of:
• Short lectures
• Discussion
• Exercises
Engaging conversation is more important than quiet
listening so when you have a question or comment please
share it!
What is a Kata?
Kata is a routine or repeating pattern for doing
Why are habits and routines
• Can someone describe shortly the difference
between driving a car:
– The first time they drove
– After several years of experience
Routines and habits are the bases for effective
and efficient action!
“We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
- Aristoteles
Toyota Kata is about creating habits that
create excellence.
The Philosophy Behind Toyota Kata
1. The second law of
thermodynamics: everything
deteriorates over time
– There is no stable condition that
can be maintained
– The only solution is to improve
2. Grow people and maximize
human potential by engaging
people to continually improve
as part of their everyday work
Toyota Kata
• Continually improve as part of everyday work to get
better and fight entropy
• Grow people and maximize human potential by
engaging them in the improvement through Toyota Kata
Questions or
comments about the
Toyota Kata is two behavioral routines to realize these goals
Improvement Kata
Coaching Kata
Improvement Kata
1. Hypothesis
2. Experiment
3. Result
4. Learning
A good target
condition is abouth a
month away
Long term vision
”North Star”
Next target
PDCA experiment
your way to the target
Current condition
Understand deeply
Understand the direction
Understand the current condition
Define the Next target condition
Experiment your way to the target
Start over
Example: Weight lose
• I will be using weight lose as an simple
example of the concepts I’ll be talking about
1. Long term vision
• Also known as “True North” or “North Star”
• Sets the direction for short term plans
• Is brief and describes the outcome and the
• Toyota manufacturing example paraphrased:
– “One piece flow, zero defects and 100% value
adding steps (no waste)”
• Does not need to be realistically achievable
• Choose wisely 
This seems
This seems
There is always too
much to do and by
random choices you get
A team without a North Star
Things you
must do!
Things you
can do
North Star
Things you
can do
A team with a North Star
Weight lose: North Star
• Enough exercise to stay on good shape and
• Eat healthy and good food
• Spend quality time with family and friends
with good energy
• Get enough rest and downtime
2. Understand the current condition
• Understanding the current condition is the
bases for going forward and means going
deeper than the superficial lever
– Involves Systems Thinking and a process viewpoint
• “Go and see”
It’s a lot harder to
really see than you’d
Current condition: Weight lose
• Quality of food is poor and the amount of
calories is too big
– Especially too much carbohydrates and fat
• Not enough exercise
– Weights once a week
– Basketball once a week
• Weight 107 kilograms
3. Set the target condition
• A target condition describes both the outcome and process
and can be achieved in 1-3 months
– In the beginning shorter is better for learning
• A good target condition is challenging
– Just right, not too easy and not too difficult
• You can start with skeleton target (challenge) and fill in the
details as you learn more (target condition)
A good target
condition is just
beyond where you can
see clearly
Target condition: Weight lose
• Regular meal and snack schedule
• Less calories per meal by healthy composition
of meals
• Exercise
– Weights 2-3 times a week
– Basketball 2 times a week
• Lose 5 kilograms of weight in 3 months
What are the obstacles?
• As part of understanding the current condition
and setting the target condition you gain
insights into the obstacles that are in your way
• Pick one (which one seems most important)
and start finding your way toward your target
condition one step at a time with PDCA
Obstacles: Weight lose
• Meal sizes are too big – food is good and I like
to eat
• Too busy and tired to get exercise. Mostly a
feeling rather than a fact
4. PDCA experiments
Time for a new plan!
How do I sustain the results?
What is your hypothesis?
Design a quick experiment
What is the expected outcome?
What was the actual outcome?
Was it what you expected?
What did you learn?
Run the experiment
“quick and light”
Points of emphasis
Short iteration cycles
Go and see
Focus on learning
4. Navigate towards the target with experiments
Find the route to the target by
learning from experiments and
focusing on the next step forward
based on that learning
Experiments: Weight lose
Expected outcome
Actual outcome
Eat smaller meals
• Lunch
• Dinner
Less food consumption
during the day
More unhealthy snacks Eating smaller
in the afternoon and
meals makes me
eat more snacks.
Lunch: Eat half meat and
half salad
Less calories during the
day and protein will
keep hunger away
Works out pretty much
as planned, except
when there is good
Eating salad and
protein is good
diet choice and
makes it easy to
eat less .
At the beginning
difficult, but as it
became a habit it got
commitment is a
good motivator.
New habits are
difficult in the
Increase basketball
Social pressure will help
training by making
me get more exercise
commitment to friends to
play on two days
Improvement Kata
1. Hypothesis
2. Experiment
3. Result
4. Learning
Remember quick
experiment cycles!
A good target condition
is abouth a month
away. Describes both
outcome and process
Questions before the
Long term vision
”North Star”
Points of emphasis
Next target
Short iteration cycles
Go and see
PDCA experiment
your way to the target
Current condition
Understand deeply
Focus on learning
Understand the direction
Understand the current condition
Define the Next target condition
Experiment your way to the target
Start over
Improvement Kata exercise
The Coaching Kata
The purpose of the Coaching Kata is to teach
and coach the Improvement Kata using real
world problems as practice.
Improvement Kata
Coaching Kata
When do you need a mentor/coach?
The need never goes a way. You can spend a
lifetime learning the Improvement Kata and
still have need for improvement. The role of
the coach is to help you learn.
No one questions why world class athlete’s
need coaches. Why should work be different?
The responsibilities of the mentor
• Teach the basics of the Improvement Kata to
the mentee
• Develop the mentees abilities by coaching him
in the use of the Improvement Kata through
real problems/challenges
• The mentor can not give solutions to the
mentee, but is responsible for the results
Requirements for the mentor
The mentor must have first hand
knowledge and experience of
using the Improvement Kata.
The mentor must be involved in
the Improvement Kata in order to
coach properly. Don’t coach blind.
Coaching Kata
Before the target
condition is set
Focus on understanding
the long term direction
and current condition in
order to set a good and
challenging next target
After the target
condition is set
Keep the target condition
clear in the mind while
focusing on the next step
towards that target
condition. A mindset of
experimenting and
learning is crucial.
Coaching before the target condition is set
• Is there a clear and shared vision for the long
term goal to set the direction?
• Does the mentee understand the current
condition deeply?
• Does he know what is the next target
condition? Do you need to give him a
challenge that he can turn into the target
Coaching after the target condition is set
The five questions:
1. What is the target condition?
2. What is the actual condition now?
3. What obstacles are now preventing you from
reaching the target condition? Which one are
you addressing now?
4. What is your next step (PDCA experiment)
5. When can we go and see what we have learned
form taking that step?
From Toyota Kata by Mike Rother
The next step
The most important thing is
making sure that the next step
is clear for the mentee.
It is better for the mentee to
figure out the next step, but if
necessary the mentor can
decide it. Go and see XYZ!
Remember routines are powerful…
… even in coaching!
Coaching Kata
Key points
The purpose of the Coaching Kata is to
teach and coach the Improvement Kata
using real world problems as practice.
Focus on guiding the Improvement Kata pattern
Ask question, don’t give answers
In unclear situations suggest: go and see
Remind the mentee about the key aspects of
the Improvement Kata
Short and frequent coaching discussions
Is the next step clear?
Coaching questions
Before the target condition is set
What is the North Star?
What is the Current Condition?
What is the next Target Condition?
What is the first step?
After the target condition is set
What is the Target Condition?
What is the Actual Condition?
Which Obstacle are you working on?
What is your Next Step
When can we Go and See?
Coaching Kata exercise
A3 - template
A3 is a single page document to support the
Improvement and Coaching Katas.
A3 – documents help to…
Learn the Kata
Create shared
Create structure
(thinking and coaching)
The A3 is not a form to fill! It is a living document that is updated
and revised throughout the Kata.
A3 and organizational learning
Solutions are documented
together with their context
The why behind the
solutions is also documented
A3 documents also reveal
the thinking process that
lead to finding the solution
Share the failures.
Worst practice is as valuable
as best practice
A3 exercise
Study the A3 template and try to understand
how you could use it to help you in the:
– Improvement Kata
– Coaching Kata
Experiences and lessons learned
Toyota Kata at application services unit
in Aalto IT
• About 35 people
• Almost everyone has used the Improvement Kata
and A3 documents in their work
• 5-10 people use the Improvement Kata actively
on their own accord. The rest use it on occasion
• I and few other people can act as coaches, but
this is our bottleneck.
• Using Toyota Kata and A3 templates has already
made a considerable improvement for us
To what kind of work do we apply the
Improvement Kata on?
• Process improvement work
• Improving our production services by
understanding and eliminating root causes
behind the incidents
• Good substitute for a lot of traditional project
– For example a design of a new service can be a
series of Improvement Katas
Get started by practicing the Improvement Kata. Start with a simple
problem to practice the form, but quickly move to more challenging
Remember to keep the time scales small in the beginning (at most a
month). You will learn better this way.
Better yet. Find someone who wants to learn with you and share
your experiences about the Improvement Kata. Do not start with the
Coaching Kata before you gain experience in the Improvement Kata.
Choose the initial group of Improvement Kata pioneers.
Organizational position can be a factor, but you should also consider
how enthusiastic the person is.
I made the initial mistake of choosing just my team leaders. Soon I
added more enthusiastic pioneers to the group.
Teach the pioneers the basics of the Improvement Kata and get them
to experiment with it. Start using the Coaching Kata with them after
a while. Be honest about your expertise level. Emphasize learning
Start scaling up by giving training sessions on the Improvement Kata
and A3 – documents. Several short trainings sessions are better than
one “big” one.
Make sure there is background material that people can study. Do
everything you can to encourage experimenting.
Try to find ways to make Toyota Kata desirable. Not just the
management fad of the month.
Have your pioneers share their experiences and learning.
A3 – documents can be a great help in teaching the Toyota Kata and
making the results visible.
Remember that there is a real risk that it becomes too much about
writing the A3 – documents instead of the thinking and behavioral
Develop your coaching capability by teaching your pioneers (and
other who show promise in the Improvement Kata) the coaching
Kata and ask them to choose people who they will start mentoring.
Follow up on their coaching efforts regularly. Remember to support
and encourage their efforts.
Be explicit about teaching the Coaching Kata. I made the mistake of
assuming people will learn it from being Coached. Teaching it
explicitly will save you time and frustration.
Some will learn the Improvement Kata with ease. Most won’t. Be
patient. There are no shortcuts. The level of coaching is critical in
developing people in the Improvement Kata.
People who can do the Coaching Kata will be your bottleneck. Focus
on developing this competence. There are no shortcuts here either.
Developing a real capability in Toyota Kata is really long term
process. Trying to force the issue will only result in superficial
Analogy to Agile: It is relative to easy to do Agile aka implement
Scrum, but it is really difficult to actually be Agile.
Sources and additional information
Toyota Kata by Mike Rother
It is the single best book about
Lean I have read and read a lot 
Håkan Forss has also interesting
things to say about Toyota Kata.
Improvement Kata
Coaching Kata
• Comments?
• Questions?
• Feedback?
Contact me if you want to discuss afterwards:
[email protected]
“We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
- Aristoteles
Toyota Kata is about creating habits that
create excellence.

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