An Expert’s Thoughts on the Toyota Kata Summit

Steve Winters, Account Executive – Northwest Washington Steve has been associated with Impact Washington since 2000, with 10 years on the Board of Directors, two of which as Board Chair. He has 30+ years of experience in manufacturing including operations management, quality assurance/continuous improvement, project management, lean implementation and supply chain management, in regulated environments such as automotive, aerospace and medical device. Steve is also an adjunct instructor at Western Washington University, teaching Operations Management.

I just got back from KataCon3 (the Kata Summit) in San Diego, Ca.  KataCon is a chance for seasoned Kata Practioners and those curious about Kata to meet and learn from each other.  The word Kata comes from martial arts and describes the structured protocols and routines that are practiced until they become second nature to the participant.  Toyota Kata is based on a book by Mike Rother by the same name and describes the methods Toyota uses to develop the learning habits of continuous improvement (Lean).  Managers no longer direct employees in the actions they need to take to solve problems and overcome obstacles in the workplace.  Managers become coaches and mentors that develop and empower employees through the scientific learning methods of the Improvement Kata and the Coaching Kata.

I am no longer the Toyota Kata advocate that I was prior to attending KataCon3.  I am now an enthusiast.  After three days of total emersion in Toyota Kata, I have to say that I am an evangelist.  Toyota Kata is going to revolutionize Lean __________(fill in the blank, Lean Manufacturing, Lean Healthcare, Lean Software Development, etc.)  Organizations that are utilizing TK have experienced outstanding sustained results, unlike companies that just try to implement the tools of Lean, only to find they cannot maintain continuous improvement gains.  

The State of Arkansas MEP has a state grant to train 70 teachers on Kata in the Classroom so they can teach it in the schools.   The scientific method of problem solving is going to show students that any problem can be tackled in a rigorous, yet simple technique.   Kata is not only about process improvement, it is about engaging and developing employees.  I conducted a TK presentation and Kata in the Classroom exercise at the CAMPS (Center for Advanced Manufacturing, Puget Sound) roundtable in Kent last week and the participants immediately realized the benefits of the Kata approach to improvement and coaching employees. 

During KataCon 3, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Mike Rother, author of the book “Toyota Kata”.  He is treated like a rock star at these conferences. 

People asked me, “How did you get to have lunch with Mike Rother?”. 

I said it was easy, Mike and I were standing there talking after one of the sessions and it was lunch time, so I asked him if I could buy him lunch.  He said “Sure”.  Having 45 minutes of undivided attention with Mike (and Mark Rosenthal) was invaluable.  Mike is a very genuine nice guy, very humble and is generous with information about Kata.  His website provides free information and Powerpoint slides to help users on their TK Lean implementation journey. 

Impact Washington offers several Toyota Kata workshops throughout Washington and is hosting a TK Practioner’s Day on March 23rd in Mt. Vernon at Skagit Valley College.  Check out our Events page for more information. 

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