What Are

Starter Kata?





Improvement Kata


Kata Creates









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Value Stream Mapping

Supporting Materials







The Improvement Kata




But scientific thinking is not our natural, default mode.

What normally happens is that our brain quickly and

unconsciously fills in blanks and jumps to conclusions.

Adults learn scientific thinking through practice.

Scientific thinking is not difficult, it’s just not our habit.  The simple practice routines of

the Improvement Kata teach a practical scientific pattern and help change our habits

of mind.  Practicing the Improvement Kata routines increases and mobilizes anyone’s

-- and any team’s -- creative capabilities and ability to handle tough goals.

The Improvement Kata pattern comes from research on Toyota’s management system,

which is explained in the business book Toyota Kata.

Practice and Learn a Scientific Way

of Achieving Goals

The four steps of the Improvement Kata are a model of scientific thinking

and acting that’s similar to other models of the human creative process.  What’s

different is that each step of the Improvement Kata pattern includes practice

routines, called Starter Kata, that make the pattern easily actionable and teachable.

Instructions for all Starter Kata, for both the Improvement Kata and the Coaching

Kata, are in the Toyota Kata Practice Guide.

Why You Should Practice Kata for Scientific Thinking

Today's prescriptions probably won’t fit tomorrow's problems, and the path to

a challenging goal can’t be determined in advance anyway.  Your best bet is to

practice a universal means (a “meta skill”) of developing your own solutions in

any situation. That’s the skill taught by practicing the Improvement Kata pattern.

When conditions are complex and dynamic, scientific thinking may be the

best approach we currently have for navigating.  At its core, it’s a routine

of intentional coordination between what we think will happen next (theory),

what actually happens (evidence), and adjusting based on what we learn from

the difference.  It’s a working pattern that makes us better at reaching difficult

goals through unclear territory.

The Improvement Kata is for the Learner

The Coaching Kata is for the Coach

To make the scientific Improvement Kata pattern part of how an organization does

things, its managers coach their people in the Improvement Kata routines a little bit

every day.  The Coaching Kata is a protocol for how to do that (see the next section).

Any manager can use the practice routines of the Improvement Kata & the Coaching

Kata to develop practical scientific mindset in their team.  What do you want to achieve?

Quick References to Download  (Click on each)

"If you go through the Improvement Kata process

you'll get to where you need to get to.  And the

more times you do it the better you will get at it."

     ~ Jim Huntzinger, President, Lean Frontiers

"Go where there is no path

and leave a trail."   ~ Emerson

Excerpt from:  Ichijo, Kazuo and Nonaka, Ikujiro, Knowledge Creation and Management:  New Challenges for Managers, Oxford University Press, 2006, page 25.

Learning to Learn

Knowledge assets are not just the knowledge already created, such as know-how, patents, technologies, or brands, but also include the knowledge to create knowledge, such as the organizational capability to innovate.  Although current views on knowledge assets tend to focus on the former because they are easier to measure and deal with, it is the latter that need more attention because they are the source of new knowledge to be created, and therefore a source of the future value of the firm.

One of the most important knowledge assets for a firm is a firm-specific kata (roughly, "pattern" or "Way of doing things") of dialogues and practices.  Nelson and Winter (1982) emphasize the importance of routines for the firm's evolutionary process.  Here, we focus on "creative routines" of kata, which make knowledge creation possible by fostering creativity and preserving efficiency.

Improvement Kata Pocket Card

IK Reference Sheet

IK Zine