Book: Toyota Kata

I started reading the book Toyota Kata by Mike Rother and I read the first three chapters so far. He argues that the world has only looked at the visible aspects of Toyota, the processes, methods and principles. He stated that you should not look at those aspects, because the real explanation what makes Toyota so special is invisible. He refers to way of thinking and the routines that are normal at Toyota: the Kata’s. This is a Japanese term, normally used in martial arts for patterns that are repeated again and again into perfection. The book describes two Kata’s at Toyota:
  • The Improvement Kata
  • The Coaching Kata
If you get past his slightly arrogant introduction that he finally figured the real secret out, he offers a number of rich insights. He explains quite well how organizations keep repeating the same mistake when they want to change something: they fall in the blind implementation mode. The consequence is that they try to make the change process as predictable as possible. We find it hard to accept the fact that organizational development is an inherently unpredictable process.

It is the art to release the urge to want to control what changes at what moment (I recognize that this can be difficult). It is the art to continuously adjust the direction based on new insights. In an implementation mode, there are unpredictable events and problems that distract you from your goal. But those unexpected events are always there. How many time is spend on making plans and how much time is spend on explaining why they are not implemented as planned?

A wise strategy would accept the inherent unpredictability of development processes and would seek strength in the adaptive capacity of the organization. You need some method that provides the needed confidence that good progress will be made. And that method is often lacking as one falls back into the implementation mode.

He states it is exactly the ‘Improvement Kata’ and ‘Coaching Kata’ that enable Toyota to adapt adequately. Rother described how Toyota makes improvement very specific in three conditions: