Toyota Kata – Habits for continuous improvements MIX-IT

Here are my slides from my talk at MIX-IT 2014 in Lyon France

You can also find the video recoding of this session on InfoQ.

Building on the power of habits, Toyota Kata will help you build a culture of continuous learning and improvement, a kaizen culture.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

What are the habits, routines, behavior patterns, needed to strive for excellence every day? How do we create a culture of continuous learning and improvement?

Building on the power of habits, Toyota Kata will help you build a culture of continuous learning and improvement, a kaizen culture.

In this session, you will be introduced to the two main Kata* of the Toyota Kata, the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata. You will learn how the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata can become your “muscle memory” for continuous learning and improvements in your organization. These daily habits or routines will help you to strive towards your vision, your state of awesomeness, in small experiments focused on learning. The Improvement Kata will form the habits of doing small daily experiments focused on learning and improving. The Coaching Kata will form the habits of the leaders of the organization to help the learners learn and improve.

In this session, we will take Toyota Kata out of the manufacturing context and put it into the knowledge work context. You will learn how you can start applying the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata in a software development context tomorrow.

Time to stop collecting problems and start forming new habits of learning and improving!

(*) Kata means pattern, routine, habits or way of doing things. Kata is about creating a fast “muscle memory” of how to take action instantaneously in a situation without having to go through a slower logical procedure. A Kata is something that you practice over and over striving for perfection. If the Kata itself is relative static, the content of the Kata, as we execute it is modified based on the situation and context in real-time as it happens. A Kata as different from a routine in that it contains a continuous self-renewal process.

Ideas for now

  • How Toyota Kata can become the catalyst for creating a culture of continuous learning and improvement, a kaizen culture.
  • How Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata can become your “muscle memory” for continuous learning and improvements in your organization.
  • How the Coaching Kata will form the habits of the leaders of the organization to help the learners learn and improve.
  • How small daily experiments lower the resistance to change and builds a kaizen culture.
  • How to use the great power of habits to build a new culture.
  • How to apply the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata in a software development context

What is a Kata?

What is a Kata

Kata means pattern, routine, habits or way of doing things. Kata is about creating a fast “muscle memory” of how to take action instantaneously in a situation without having to go through a slower logical procedure. A Kata is something that you practice over and over striving for perfection. In the book “Managing Flow”, Ikujiro Nonaka describes Kata as a traditional Japanese code of knowledge that describes a process of synthesizing thought and behavior in skillful action; the metacognition of reflection in action. If the Kata itself is relative static, the content of the Kata, as we execute it is modified based on the situation and context in real-time as it happens. Nonaka also describes Kata as different from a routine in that it contains a continuous self-renewal process.

Metacognition of reflection in action

Kata is not to blindly copy some else method, but to improve on it in an evolutionary way. You learn and evolve a Kata through the three stages of the learning cycle Shu (learn), Ha (break) and Ri (create). In the first stage Shu, you learn by following the teacher. You imitate the teacher’s practices, values and thinking. You will only move on to the next stage when you have made the teacher’s Kata your own. In the Ha stage, you break from the teacher’s practices and make modifications based on your own creativity. In the Ri stage, you leave the teacher and you start creating your own unique Kata. As you expand your knowledge into new areas, you will loop back to the Shu stage for those areas in an ever-growing spiral of knowledge.

Muscle memory