Instilling the Continuous Improvement Culture in Your Business through Toyota Kata

Toyota Kata Malaysia

Over the years, many organizations are deploying continuous improvement methodologies to gain the competitive advantage in the market. However, most of the organizations are failing due to unspoken frustration because of the gap between desired results and what really happens. Targets are set, but they are not reached. Change does not take place.

The evidence of the last 20 years indicates that trying to replicate or reproduce another company’s tools, techniques, or principles does little to change an organization’s culture, its way of doing things.

But what are we really lacking off is how do the successful organizations are actually live principles?

The secret recipe is focusing on developing daily behavior patterns is a leverage point because, as the field of psychology shows us, with practice, behavior patterns are changeable, learnable, and reproducible.

Based on Mike Rother’s research in his best seller book; Toyota Kata. The heart of sustainable improvement in Toyota is rely on pattern of thinking and how they are conducting theirself, that are practice over and over every day in Toyota.

These behavior patterns are not visible, are not described in Toyota documents, and it takes a long time to recognize them. Yet they are how Toyota leads and manages its people.

The Toyota Kata’s management style objectives is to demonstrate a much more useful understanding of how Toyota manages to achieve continuous improvement and adaptiveness.

The critical aspect to sustain the continuous improvement culture in Toyota is not something really visible. What visible to us is their tools and techniques, but the underneath of what we can see is the management style and their routine.

Interestingly, Toyota people themselves have had difficulty articulating and explaining to us their unique thinking and routines. In hindsight this seems to be because these are the customary, pervasive way of operating there, and many Toyota people—who are traditionally promoted from within—have few points of comparison. For example, if I ask you what you did today, you would tell me many things, but you would probably not mention “breathing.”

When the continuous improvement is instilling in the organization as the practice culture (not only as the written culture). Regardless whatever might happen to the organization, such as change in top leadership or business strategy, the organization always hunts for improvements.

Focusing on solutions does not make an organization adaptive. Whenever benchmark other organizations or factories, you are simply looking at a solution they developed for a particular situation at a particular point in time. But when you are replicating the same solution to your organization without have deeper understanding on the problem and why the host company is deploying the solution. Hence, you are falling into ‘Benchmarking Trap’.

Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata is focus on the Toyota’s way, as it is sometimes called, is characterized less by its tools or principles than by sets of procedural sequences—thinking and behavior patterns—that when repeated over and over in daily work lead to the desired outcome.

Literally, Kata was derived from word forms or movement in Japanese. However, Rother scopes the kata as the organization’s alignment in synchronizing their best practices.

The Toyota Kata is not a rocket science theory for the businesses. But it is a great management style in complementing the continuous improvement initiatives in structured manner for organizations are able to the dynamic and unpredictable environment.

Kata are also different from principles. The purpose of a principle is to help us make a choice, a decision, when we are confronted with options, like customer first, or pull, don’t push. However, a principle does not tell us how to do something; how to proceed, and what steps to take. That is what a kata does. Principles are developed out of repeated action, and concerted repeated action is what a kata guides you into. Toyota’s kata are at a deeper level and precede principles.

The Toyota Kata is focusing on 2 main areas in practicing kata :

  • Improvement Kata – Fits the attributes spelled out above and provides a highly effective model for how people can work together; that is, how to manage an organization.
  • Coaching Kata – The repeating routine by which Toyota leaders and managers teach the improvement kata to everyone in the organization.

Resulted from these 2 areas, the organization will benefit the survivability of the business since everybody is playing their own roles in Toyota Kata.

Please contact to inquire more about Toyota Kata training and practices in Malaysia.