Kata is a Japanese word for detailed choreographed patterns of movement. Most commonly known for its use in martial arts, the word Kata has been applied to the practices of turning scientific thinking into a practical skill anyone can learn through a 4-step working pattern and deliberate practice.
Using Kata within an organization can enable teams to make autotomized decisions and move situationally. When an organization wants to improve, or develop, they generally follow the same pattern – starting where they are, where they want to go and a plan to get to that new position. However, the means in which to get there is not always clear and this is ok, it is not supposed to be clear. Internal and external forces are not guaranteed and can throw a plan off course when unexpected. This path in Kata practices is known as the blind terrain, and Kata provides you a method to keep moving forward while overcoming and maneuvering round obstacles in the way.
There are only 3 certain things:
- Where it currently is
- Where it wants to be
- The means in which they want to get there
There are two parts to the Kata in business – The Improvement Kata for the employees and the Coaching Kata for the supervisors. Once implemented the repeated actions become standard practice within the running of the business. Passed down from directors to managers, and down to employees just like martial arts are passed down from master to student for generations.
Kata differs from other lean production process and principles as it looks more at the behavioural patterns of the employees who action those processes rather than the process itself. The learnt methodologies create a culture of adaptability and flexibility that can be applied to any situation.
The Improvement Kata
Practicing the improvement Kata in an organization is about embedding improvement, adaptability and innovation in to daily work to every employee within the organization. Thus making it easier for the application of lean processes and ability to continuously improve.
The improvement Kata methodology involves learners, usually employees, to:
These steps are teachable to any organization and create critical thinking skills that are fading out of today’s business world. In order to take and complete step 4, a learner needs to experiment with different ways in which to obtain the stepping stone target, and get closer to the overall organizational goal. This is accomplished by using what is known as a ‘Storyboard’. This is managed by the learners, who record the challenge, stepping stone condition and the current condition. The Storyboard needs to be available to look at throughout the Kata process so it is not forgotten. It also allows the coaches to see where the learners currently are, and offer mentoring sessions where necessary.
The Coaching Kata is the responsibility of the managers to assist the learners in their journey through the steps of the Improvement Kata. The coach will guide them through each step through the use of the Storyboard mentioned above, and daily coaching cycles. These coaching cycles are a course of 5 questions they ask the learner, which must be answered to show their level of understanding. The learners will place the answers in a PDCA cycle record, which will keep track of all the experiments they partake in to reach their goals. The daily coaching cycles may seem repetitive but they help to embed the Kata thinking patterns in both the coaches and the learner.
The coaching cycles are repeated until the goal or challenge is finally met.
Overall the use of Kata within a business can create a flexible and adaptable work force to any situation that arises. A workforce that can work autonomously to resolve issues and keep the processes moving as efficiently as possible.