TOYOTA KATA, or the “right” patterns of management and leadership in a “lean” organization
Two concepts: Rationalization – Production System (TPS), Competitiveness – People (TQC)
Treating employees “as people” and with “respect” is not automatic and obvious…
- the need to improve the level of the employee-supervisor relationship. From being treated instrumentally (1 – a “transactional” level of the relationship – the employee is a “cog in the machine”), we should move to being treated subjectively (2 – a “partner” level – the employee is a “person”). Superiors who build self-esteem using power do not fit into the new culture in which the role of the superior is reversed (“servant leader” vs. “served”). The so-called “clan” type of culture (or “collaboration”), in which the feeling of stress disappears, begins to prevail, and commitment and greater input into all tasks are triggered (the so-called Hawthorn syndrome). We can talk about a family atmosphere, loyalty, pride in belonging to an organization, and a general higher sense of well-being.
- respecting people means, among other things, recognizing their dignity, values, potential and possibilities. Therefore, superiors should give employees more freedom in action (instead of controlling them), set new ambitious goals, and methodically support them in their implementation.
- the role of the supervisor is radically changing: from a “manager/supervisor of the implementation of tasks”, a leader becomes a “teacher-mentor”. Because in Toyota: “to manage is to teach”, i.e. to develop the skills of employees, who then improve processes using proven methods – patterns of thinking and acting (kata).
- “system 1” is our intuitive “automatic pilot”. It works very quickly, it is habitual (“second nature”) and emotional. It is effortless and requires no attention (control), and it is enough for us in routine circumstances (on average 90-95% of situations in life).
- “system 2” divides our attention between activities that require mental effort, such as problem-solving. It is definitely slower, but is rational and logical. System 2 is activated only when system 1 has difficulty with a task. System 2 is responsible for innovation, however, it requires concentration and consumes a lot of energy. For this reason, we usually intuitively avoid new challenges, even though we have great potential. According to Toyota, this is the greatest “eighth waste.”
- Improvement Kata,
- Coaching Kata,
- “Kata” is derived from the basic sequence of movements (standard form) performed in martial arts. It is passed down through generations from master to student. In practice, learning is based on experience: the teacher demonstrates and corrects the student. There is no theoretical learning (from instructions).
- Due to the constant practice of kata (repeating patterns many times), people are more self-aware and self-confident. This is of great importance when meeting any challenges.
- “Kata” is a learning cycle: shu-ha-ri. Shu – protect (TWI training + supervision), ha – break away (supervision), ri – freedom to create (the student already has good habits and improves himself with the support of a coach). This cycle represents three stages of learning for a student and three levels of commitment for a teacher. Important note: in “non-toyota” companies, the employee training cycle usually ends at the “ha” stage, when a student begins to reflect the applicable standard, and the instructor ceases to supervise him. This often happens before the employee becomes familiar with the task and before developing a desired habit. At Toyota, each employee’s learning cycle continues throughout their working lives. The learner goes through all the cycles over and over, and deeper and deeper – periodically going back to the basics. Going back and refreshing the basics elevates the skill to a higher level (master practice). Thanks to this, each employee improves themselves, and at the same time improves the applicable standard. Taiichi Ohno once said: “a person who has not made a single improvement in standard work within a month does not deserve his salary.”
Improvement Kata – the most important and universal pattern.
- confirmation of the vision or direction of action,
- understanding of the current conditions (current situation),
- determination of the closest target state (next challenge) on the way to the adopted vision,
- striving for the target state by quickly repeating PDCA cycles in order to find and remove obstacles.
It is worth paying attention to the importance of the PDCA cycle – the foundation and part of the TQC. Toyota has modified the conventional PDCA model in order to continuously increase quality and productivity. The cycle is based on a scientific method of proposing changes to the process, implementing these changes, monitoring and measuring results, and taking corrective actions. It is used in solving all kinds of problems: from spontaneous (troubleshooting, elimination of deviation from the standard) to caused (reaching the target state, introducing innovations) problems.
- The need for coaching never disappears as it is impossible to become fully proficient in the application of the improvement kata.
- The teacher-student relationship is based on real respect and trust.
- At Toyota, every employee has their own coach. Each employee is assigned to a more experienced employee (mentor) – in the case of an operator, this is a team leader, who in turn is supported by the group leader. At higher levels, it is not only the immediate supervisor that can be a mentor.
- A coach must meet high skill requirements. Teaching can only be done by a person who has a very conscious approach to continuous improvement, the ability to use the improvement kata, and the ability to teach it (coaching kata).
- One of the most important skills of a coach, apart from the use of PDCA and the A3 report, is A3 thinking. This report is a method that combines two important management processes: hoshin kanri (strategic management) and problem solving.
- The role of the coach is not to share their knowledge (solutions) with the student so that he or she is able to cope with the challenge faster and more effectively. This is a very common mistake in many organizations and causes learners to “take shortcuts” in order to avoid the tedious process of learning by doing. As a result, this may lead to a short-term improvement in efficiency, but it will not enable people to truly understand and master skills. Therefore, first master the first step, and then move on to the next one.
- During the dialogue, the mentor helps the learner understand, but the learner has to come up with the solutions himself. For this purpose, the mentor even allows for small mistakes to be made (but without affecting the client).
- The coach is responsible for the results of the process (the motto from TWI: “if the student has not learned, it means that the teacher has not taught”)