A word about KATA
Toyota’s Lean Management System is commonly believed to be the only stable gold standard and the most effective business system in the world. Its genesis and evolution are one of the most exciting lessons of agile adaptation and visionary leadership. To understand it better, it is worth getting to know (or just recall) the two most important starting points for this concept, and their two corresponding systems that are responsible for Toyota’s success. Kata improvement and kata coaching, which are described by Mike Rother, are an important part of one of them.
A brief description for systematization: in the early 1950s, the leadership of the fledgling Toyota Company outlined a very ambitious challenge – “to become a world leader in the automotive industry” (“the true north”). At a time when Toyota’s efficiency was almost ten times lower than the average for Detroit’s Big3 (Ford, GM, Chrysler), it was a very brave and visionary decision that demonstrated strong leadership.
The strategic analysis started from the so-called two “Japanese features”, which were associated with hazards and opportunities for both the implementation of the vision and the future of the organization:
- A very big limitation is the lack of natural resources in Japan, which forces the need to import, and causes significantly higher costs of purchasing raw materials when compared to other car manufacturers.
Toyota has found a solution to this problem by reducing other cost items, especially production costs. This is due to the very meticulous elimination of waste (lean manufacturing). Cost rationalization is therefore mainly ensured by the production system (TPS).
- The second, this time positive and very strong “national trait” is, according to Toyota, exceptional employees.
By making full use of their skills, the company produces cars of better quality and with a higher added value. Therefore, the competitiveness of the organization is ensured by the TQC system (comprehensive quality control), of which two routines are a very important part: kata improvement and kata coaching. They determine the ability to adapt, constantly improve, and fulfill long-term challenges.
Toyota has certainly achieved a spectacular success, and completed its ambitious vision. It is today the most popular automotive brand in the world, with the highest sales of 9.5 million cars (2020).
It should be emphasized that Toyota’s success is a result of a very strong organizational culture and the connection between the above-mentioned systems: TPS and TQC. Each has a similarly high impact on the organization’s performance and the company’s market position, although to the amazement of Toyota managers, much more attention is paid to the production system (TPS). In the groundbreaking book “The Machine That Changed the World” (Womack, Jones, Roos), the authors do not mention the role of TQC, which is surprising, and even a “disappointing disadvantage” of this book (opinion of Masao Nemoto). This is because TPS alone will not ensure all the aspects of quality, and will not make the organization capable of adapting the continuous improvement.
Over 30 years of experience in Lean Management. He is a psychologist, consultant, trainer, coach and management mentor. He was a Regional Director in leading organizations in the financial industry and participated in the creation of HR and management projects implemented jointly with the consulting BCG Company. Specializes in the development of people, leaders, teams and organizations in the VUCA environment.