Have you learned about kata in your lean certification?

Meme you have graduated go and be lean

So you are starting your lean journey

And you have trained management and employees. You have external consultants to guide you. And you have all the tools ready for implementation. Is that all you need?

Well no…

Old habits die hard and structural behaviors, patterns and systems are extremely difficult to change. Once you have finished your training everyday problems take over again and people tend to fall back in familiar patterns. Familiar patterns take up little energy and you can (almost) do them without thinking. This feels efficient, especially when it is busy. It takes tenacity, perseverance and above all time for reflection to change this pattern of behavior.

Within Lean there is a ‘tool’ which is often overlooked. It is called kata. And it is about scientific thinking and coaching people on that type of thinking. Kata is about making it harder to fall back in old patterns by keeping the new ones top of mind. There are two Kata’s:

  • Improvement kata
  • Coaching kata
Infographic improvement kata

The improvement kata

The improvement kata is about keeping your improvement efforts focused and learning from them. It follows the plan, do, check, act cycle in these steps:

  1. What is my target condition?
  2. What is my current condition?
  3. Which obstacles are in my way?
  4. What is my next step in getting to the target condition?
  5. What have I learned? And what is my next step?

You can support the improvement kata by making sure your visual management follows the kata process. With these questions you know what your end result should look like, but you do not know how you will get there. In business, or any environment, this will seldom be a straight line from current to target condition. There will always be unforeseen events, obstacles and distractions. By keeping how you get at the target condition open, you retain flexibility. This will feel uncomfortable for some people. They were used to planning the how in detail and deeper safe doing so. They were good and adjusting those plans if needed and will not see immediate advantages to working without meticulous planning as they know it. Keep coaching people and keep explaining to them that this is the road we have chosen and why.

Infographic coaching kata

The book of books on kata

Book Toyota kata by Mike Rother


There are some great resources out there:


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