The Coaching Kata helps employees to develop problem-solving capabilities by improving how they think about or approach an issue. This solution-oriented method ensures that team members can take the initiative and apply what they’ve learned to other tasks.
The Coaching Kata is an excellent tool for harnessing the collective power of your greatest asset – your people. It provides a structured framework for creating a culture of innovation where employees take the initiative and strive for continual improvement. If you have lean transformation goals, want to drive creativity, and get the best out of your team, then this is an essential tool. In this article, we explore how the Coaching kata works and five key questions you need to ask as part of the approach.
Coaching Kata – Overview
The Coaching Kata helps employees to develop problem-solving capabilities by improving how they think about or approach an issue. This solution-oriented method ensures that team members can take the initiative and apply what they’ve learned to other tasks. Practicing this type of Kata coaching helps to grow the capabilities of your workforce by embedding learning as a daily habit.
The concept was made famous in the book ‘Toyota Kata’ by Mike Rother. In it, he details the habits and routines that he observed at the Japanese automotive manufacturer. These habits were fundamental to their success in driving continuous improvement. Rother took Toyota’s Kata concept and adapted it into a structured framework that other organizations can replicate.
The Toyota Kata is made up of two main Katas or practices: the Coaching Kata and the Improvement Kata. Both provide a structured framework that contributes toward a lean culture of innovation. When combined and practiced on a consistent basis, they support the formation of routines. As these develop into daily habits within an organization, they become part of the fabric of how things are done. The Katas provide a structure that leads to consistent practice, ultimately helping people and companies to achieve their desired goals.
What Is a Kata?
The term ‘Kata’ refers to a small routine or daily practice that is clearly structured. The word has its roots in martial arts where Katas are used to train for various movements. The idea is to practice something small on a consistent basis until it eventually becomes automatic. In an organizational situation, practicing a Kata consistently helps a routine become embedded as second nature to those who use it. This can have powerful effects in both the short and long term by contributing to the development of skills and improvement of processes. The compound results are increases in quality, efficiency, and innovation.
However, the Coaching Kata is about more than a learner mastering a specific process or new skill. It’s designed to develop habits that contribute to creative thinking patterns, proactive problem-solving, and a continuous improvement culture. The structured approach to thought and subsequent action creates a type of ‘muscle memory’ that can be applied to any situation. So, rather than just improving a specific process or business area, it teaches employees to think more openly. It helps them to develop solution-based skills and action-oriented behaviors that make a meaningful difference to your organization.
Kata Coaching Process
The Kata Coaching process is easy to implement and follow. Everyone in an organization should be allocated a mentor or coach to guide them. This may be a line manager and should always be someone with extensive experience in practicing the Kata. With this approach, training happens through working on real issues in the Gemba rather than classroom scenarios. Mistakes are permitted as long as they don’t have a negative impact on the customer. The goal is for learners to become better at problem-solving – not have the solution given to them by the mentor.
The primary task of coaches is to increase the capability of their Kata learners so that they are empowered to drive improvements. Frontline staff are often closest to a problem and therefore best-placed to suggest effective solutions. Coaching them to view problems in new ways and adopt a continuous improvement mindset enables you to benefit from the collective intelligence of the team. The greatest benefits arise when managers focus on enabling their staff to drive improvements rather than trying to do it themselves.