Toyota Kata Seminar, Day3

The key points addressed today (Day 3) at the Toyota Kata seminar were:

  • The PDCA cycle – small experiments that the “learner” develops to advance toward the target condition.
  • The coaching cycle (or kata) – an introduction to the role of the coach, and how coaching is structured in practice.
  • A fairly brief discussion on the current experience with the implementation path for an organization.


Even though the book and course material are quite explicit, a couple of people in the room weren’t readily grasping this until today.

Who Is Being Coached?

In the Kata model, the first level of “learner” is the first line leader who has direct responsibility for the process, and the people who work in it.

On a production floor, this would be the area supervisor.

The core material of the course is how to plan and execute continuous improvement in your work group. This is called the “Improvement Kata”

The “Coaching Kata” is covered and demonstrated (quite well), but it is not the prime topic this week.

Who is doing the coaching?

The coach is nominally the direct supervisor of the person being coached.

To learn how to coach, one must first learn the game. Thus, no matter your role in the organization chart, you come to this seminar gain awareness of the role of your first line leaders.

Then you go home and practice the role some more. Once you have lived in their shoes, then you can turn around and expect them to do the same.

What is absolutely critical to understand here is that this is not a “kaizen event” model. This is a daily improvement model. The coaching cycle happens for a few minutes every day between front line supervisor and the immediate manager. It is a process for developing better supervisors. It cannot (or at least should not) be delegated.

Here is the crucial difference: In many kaizen events, the specialist staff workshop leader is the one directing the actions of the team. The area supervisor may be a member of the team, but she is often not the one actually guiding the effort. In this model, there is no “learner” because there is no deliberate process to improve the problem solving and leadership skills of the supervisor.

If the course has a weak point it is that we “learners” are organized in a way that LOOKS more like a traditional kaizen team, which shifts the instructor / coach more into a role that LOOKS like that of the traditional kaizen workshop leader. Thus, it is easy for a participant to slip into a well-engrained mindset about kaizen events. We have all “practiced” the kaizen event pattern many times. The “kata” pattern is new.

This is the nature of the instructor coaching a group of “learners” rather than the 1:1 that is designed to happen in reality.

So, advice if you decide to attend: Be explicitly conscious that the structural limitations of the course, and deliberately work to overcome them in your mindset. This will help you grasp the material that you are there to learn.

That being said, I have a very explicit picture now of how I want shop floor supervisors to behave and lead. I have a pretty good idea of how to help them get there.

I’ve got an early flight, more later.

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