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Leaders As Coaches: How to Deploy Kata Effectively.

In the first post of this 3-part series, we provided a brief overview of Toyota Kata. We defined Kata as a leadership model by which the leader is managing his or her employees in a structured and repetitive routine that develops a mindset for continuous improvement across the organization. However, we know that for most leaders they spend much of their time and energy putting out fires and ensuring that everyone has the resources needed to meet productivity every day. Most leaders would argue that they cannot afford to implement a system of coaching in their organization, due to the lack of time and the need to meet customer demand.

You Can't Afford Not to Coach Your People

We would argue, not from a philosophical position but from first-hand experience, that if you are a leader you cannot afford not to coach your people. It is possible the fires exist because people have not been properly trained, and the solution is not to provide more bodies or materials, but a true problem-solving, continuous improvement mindset into your workforce. Although we are proposing that the Toyota Kata is the best way you as a leader can effectively coach your people to adopt a continuous improvement mindset, you as leader would be making great strides towards excellence in your organization if you implemented any of the coaching methods available.

Proficient Coaches Wanted

The entire Kata process is under the auspices of a proficient coach. Leaders, if you are not willing to develop as a coach, the system will eventually fail. The learner is developing not only in the Kata routine but also learning about and owning the process to be improved. The coach will mentor the learner and allow for small failures so that real learning occurs. The coach enables the learner to operate outside his or her threshold of knowledge to yield good PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) experiments that eventually lead to breakthrough results. A Kata Coach is someone who creates a controlled learning environment for the learner, in his or her daily process, to methodically experiment on how to improve that process.

Long-term Results Expected

We live in a culture that expects the results we want immediately - instant gratification. Although this might work in a fast food drive through, this is not the Kata method. Any process or area can be improved using the Kata methodology, but it is best utilized for long term issues that have repeatedly been pain points. Often times leaders provide a specific vision for the organization, but no one knows how to achieve it. This is where Kata comes through and shines: the leaders that set the vision now coach their employees on the steps needed to achieve said vision. This process fosters breakthrough ideas and solutions across the organization.

Effectively Deploying Kata In Your Organization

As was stated earlier, Kata is not a one-and-done solution, in fact it is a long term process. Why? Kata is not just a model of coaching for continuous improvement. Rather, it is a complete overhaul of the culture in an organization. The leader who believes in Kata is seeking to create a culture where constant learning, continuous improvement, and coaching/mentoring flourish.

Management Team Commitment

In order for the Kata methodology to work, upper management must be completely committed to and intimately involved in the process. If you are a manager, you will become the expert coaches and mentors needed for success. The only way to become a successful coach is to deploy, understand and use the Kata process.

Management Team Trained

The deployment process should start with an introduction to the Kata process specifically geared toward the Management Team. This activity should be facilitated by an experienced Kata Facilitator. Management will be trained over a 3-day bootcamp where they will be taught the methodology while working on the shopfloor utilizing the tools and techniques of Kata. Following completion of this initial bootcamp, the Expert Kata Facilitator would be used, on a frequent basis, to coach and mentor management to become the expert coaches in their organization.

Management Team Coach

Once the Management Team is trained and ready to implement the Kata process in their organization, they will conduct subsequent boot camps (most likely with the support of the expert Kata Facilitator) for the next level of leadership under them. The goal is to have the initial coaches facilitate and coach new learners. The goal is to have each company be self-sufficient under the direction of an expert Kata Mentor.


This is a long process, but the benefits are tremendous. Daily PDCA's and coaching takes a strong commitment from both the coaches and the learners. With effective practice, coaching Kata yields a sense of personal development and accomplishment, and produces a culture of continuous improvement across the entire organization.

In our final installment in this series next week, we will discuss lessons learned and results obtained using the Toyota Kata Methodology. If you are interested in learning more about Kata, please contact us at RCI currently has two Toyota Kata Coaches who would welcome the opportunity to meet and explore if Kata is right for you and your organization.


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