Navigating today’s volatile and competitive business environment requires organizations to attain numerous challenging targets, in order to avoid getting left in the dust. Two interconnected ways for organizations to achieve these are the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata, which teach a systematic and scientific way of working throughout an organization to get better at reaching and sustaining goals by adapting to an ever changing business environment. These were introduced to the lean community by Mike Rother in his 2010 book Toyota Kata, derived from the continuous improvement practices developed by the Japanese automotive giant.
The word kata means a fundamental movement in Japanese martial arts, and, like martial arts, the Improvement and Coaching Kata must be deployed and practiced repeatedly and correctly to properly develop mastery in an organization. The Improvement Kata is a four-step routine that emphasizes continuous improvement by making the scientific problem-solving method of plan, do, check, act (PDCA) a daily habit. Meanwhile, the Coaching Kata governs how lean leaders and managers teach the Improvement Kata to everyone in the organization.
According to Brandon Brown, Owner and Master Kata Coach at Continuous Coaching Commitment, LLC, organizations will have to incorporate significant change into how they think about processes, having people develop new skills and mindset through deliberate, coached practice. Managers should guide the development of their peopleʼs skills by coaching them in daily practice on real goals. However, those managers should also be among the first to practice and learn the new skills themselves, before they can coach others.
However, Brown, who has completed over 10,000 coaching cycles and contributed to the Toyota Kata Practice Guide (TKPG) book, has noticed that many business leaders lack the humility to properly practice the Coaching Kata. This undermines their ability to deploy the Improvement Kata across the organization. In the Toyota Kata team, there are three roles: a Learner who seeks to achieve bite sized goals laid out in their storyboard, which is a visual tool that provides structure and a focal point for the dialogue; a Coach who is is responsible for teaching the Improvement Kata pattern, and the Second Coach, who participates periodically and pays particular attention to the Coach, i.e. coaches the Coach.
Brown, who is a coach, rather than a consultant, says that he has observed multiple times where people in managerial roles assume that, since they’re in a superior position in the company and have more experience, they are automatically qualified to become a Coach or a Second Coach without being a Learner.
“When the process fails, it's usually because someone has anointed themselves a second coach, just because they feel they're so smart, have more lean and manufacturing experience, and they already know how to coach, or else they wouldn't be a manager or they wouldn't be a director,” Brown says. “However, they haven't spent time in the Learner role, and they don't know what it takes to manage the storyboard and manage this process with the people at the grassroots.”
Brown and Continuous Coaching Commitment join client organizations and provide an extensive array of training classes in Lean Manufacturing Tools and Principles. They facilitate the deployment of these tools as needed in an organization, using the Toyota Kata practice routines of PDCA for bottom line results.
To properly deploy the Kata routines, Brown says the most senior person should actually begin in the Learner position. After a period of 20 PDCA cycles (roughly one month), they will rotate to Coach, and after another 20 Cycles, become the Second Coach. The ultimate learner (such as a team leader) in the structure rotates around in the opposite direction, beginning as Coach, then Second Coach, and ending up in the Learner position. According to Brown, to become an effective Coach, one must begin as a Learner, and it takes a lot of humility from someone who has been in a company for decades and achieved many improvements to accept that. He adds that going through all three roles gives people a more complete view of the process, which allows the organization to reap the benefits more readily for years to come.
“In the Toyota Kata community, process improvement and people development happen at the same time,” Brown says. “I've had learners that have gone through this three-month rotation several times, advancing from a nurse manager or manager of a couple departments to being chief nursing officers, or area managers to plant managers within 18 months. This was because they are able to attack real problems that the organization is facing, and they're able to really get results through other people because they learned how to be a Coach through this process.”
Name: Brandon Brown
Email: [email protected]