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Toyota Kata

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Toyota Kata

Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Results


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Let go of classroom training and embrace real, continuous improvement through Toyota Kata.

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If you have ever trained in martial arts, you may be familiar with “kata,” the term for a routine or pattern that improves your practice. Based on this approach, Toyota created a routine that supports continuous improvement. Engineer and continuous improvement expert Mike Rother explains that “improvement kata” and “coaching kata” form the invisible bonds that make Toyota successful. He explains essential improvement concepts like “PDCA” and “mentor-mentee dialogue” in detail, complete with case histories and examples. His text is dense, yet easy enough to digest if your background is in manufacturing. Fortunately, he loves schematic figures and explanatory drawings and they help guide the way. getAbstract recommends Rother’s insights to leaders in manufacturing eager to explore behavioral patterns and techniques that go beyond the known Lean Manufacturing toolkit.


“Toyota Kata”

Toyota is a profitable, competitively successful company that applies certain practices and values for success. A layer of invisible tools, routines and management techniques drives Toyota’s continuous improvement journey.

These routines helped Toyota cross “unclear territory” and move from where it was to where it wanted to be. To make that leap, Toyota came up with a set of procedural sequences called Toyota Kata that it repeats frequently to reach the results it wants. In Japanese, “kata” stands for “patterns” or “routines.” You can also translate kata as “a way of keeping two things in alignment.” Toyota Kata has two parts: an “improvement kata” and a “coaching kata.”

Approaches to “Process Improvement”

Your firm may be using workshops, “value-stream mapping” and to-do lists as tools to address process improvement. However, a three-day workshop seldom provides the desired work-process results. Using value-stream maps doesn’t improve processes; it just shows you where your end-to-end process harbors improvement potential. The list of pending actions is another flawed tool, since the number of open items...

About the Author

Engineer, researcher and teacher Mike Rother worked with Toyota on continuous improvement, and affiliates with the University of Michigan and other research institutions.

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    P. B. getAbstract 3 years ago
    Pareto Paralysis - this is what it means (Toyota Kata by Mike Rother):

    A Toyota person once told me to focus on the biggest problem. However, when I tried to do this I noticed a negative effect: We got lost in hunting for and discussing what was the biggest problem. When we tried gathering data and making Pareto charts, it took a lot of time and the biggest problem in the Pareto chart was usually “other” which put us back into debating options. By the time we decided what the biggest problem was, the situation at the process had changed. This effect is called Pareto paralysis, and I encourage you to avoid it. Pareto paralysis delays your progress as people try to determine the “right” first step to take.

    Conclusion: it matters more that you take the first step than what the first step is.

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