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Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata

Go to solution Solved by Sujata Dhawase,

Improvement Kata is a four step pattern which if practiced daily can build a culture of thinking and working on continuous improvements in an organization.


Coaching Kata is a teaching pattern which if practiced daily helps build the coaching skills and helps teach Improvement Kata thinking pattern to mentees.


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Sundeep Kailwoo, Rajesh Chakrabarty and Sujata Dhawase.


Applause for all the winners.


Q 348. Kata means 'form' in Japanese. It is a choreographed pattern of martial arts which perfects the form of the artist. When the same concept is applied to business excellence, it is termed as Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata. Explain both the terms and their applications in various industries.



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In Business Excellence domain Improvement Kata refers to a Practice of conscious decision making, that's developed over a period of time through consistent practice, deployment, experimentation, and working towards a guided target and not just try storming on a trial and error basis to find a feasible solution. Improvement Kata when applied within the Lean principles aims to deploy continuous improvement for achieving business excellence functional strategic goals. The mindset of deploying Improvement kata is to make sure the practice a daily activity so that habit becomes autonomic in nature.


A normal Process Step phase in deploying improvement kata is :

Step 1: Understand the Challenge or Direction that we want to address

Step 2: Grasp/Analyze the Current condition

Step 3: Identify and Establish the next target condition

Step 4: Experiment towards the target condition

Step 5: Repeat the pattern



Coaching Kata refers to how the Improvement kata steps and the process shared by the experts and the mangers to their teams and the cycle of constant learning and feedback that should follow to track the progress and the improvements made during the Improvement Kata stage.


Some of the Questions that Coaching kata practice should address are :


Apart from the 5 Step process that Improvement kata consists of , Coaching kata will try to know ,

1: What did you plan as your last Step?

2: What results did you expect ?

3: What Actually happened?

4: What did you learn?


These feedback inputs will feed into the Improvement kata loop.



Some of the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata Industry Application Examples :


Aerospace: Companies Like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic have set their focused target on Outer Space travel. SpaceX already launched its Working prototypes and Production Rockets and is working towards reusable fuel and Payload rockets to make them cost-effective. Even though some of the recent unsuccessful vertical landing attempts continue to address the current challenge, analyze what's going wrong, setting the corrective target conditions, and working to achieve the optimal output, and will keep on repeating until successful. The feedback loop from the experts and the data generated will help to formulate the coaching kata process , where the change and it outcome is shared and tracked with the teams for next steps in Improvement Kata loop.


Production/ Manufacturing : Product Manufacturing industries operate in a highly competitive market and the rapid pace to evolvement of the products or its features keep the market leaders and the challengers on tenterhooks all the time. Improvement Kaka is an ideal tool where the competitor moves / enhancements / innovations  become the direction to score the change in the product to be market relevant , match or exceed the functionality , set the processes towards the goal and extend the product lifecycle through functional and utility improvements in the products and services .


Pharmaceutical Industry : An Industry that is working towards developing medicines for the existing non curable and curable diseases and for un-foresighted scenarios like Covid-19. They are constantly moving towards a shifting goal posts basis the results their experiments and trail results.

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Kata refers to fundamental moves made in Japanese martial art, which is practiced over and over again by self, ideally  under supervision of the “Master”. Continuous practice leads to a routine that the body gets used to and become a basic form or pattern that the body will follow as a reflex action, by impulse as a reaction to any stimulation. For example, a “criss cross” arm movement to defend against a punch from an opponent can be practiced as a Kata by self. Continuous practice of the same makes the muscular coordination so efficient that, the arms will move in the same pattern in which the kata prescribes , to fend a punch if and when someone actually attacks.

Thus, Kata is a scientific methodology that uses consistent practice repeatedly to train any skill that enables a person to make continuous, rapid & incremental improvement.

In Business or in an organization, the concept of Kata can be used to institute continuous improvement philosophy , by developing habits and skills to shift individual mindsets. Eventually this will drive the organization’s culture towards continuous improvement and keep processes efficient, customers will be happy and most importantly it will be a profitable organization.

You will see this phenomenon most ardently followed at an inbound Contact Center – The call agents are made to run through scripts for various situations- It is given that 99% of the calls that are received by a service call center is almost similar by history of query. The common call types are defined and appropriate responses are defined, keeping in mind the legalities, Company Policies, Customer satisfaction quotient, industry standards and a “Win Win” approach.

The scripts are repeated with prescribed intonation and soft skills over and over again during training , through “Mock calls”. Over a period of time this becomes a habit and more like a inbuilt programme in the agents and then they are allowed to attend the “real/ live” calls.

There are five steps prescribed in Improvement KATA:

1)    Understand the direction of Challenge

2)    Grasp the current condition

3)    Establish the next target condition

4)    Experiment Towards the target condition

5)    Repeat till satisfaction/perfection

This is almost Similar to the PDCA cycle.

Having said that, instituting a new habit or process can be dauntingany new practice brings about change from the existing and hence there is always the associated perils. Henche Kata needs to be a structured “Routine” that makes skills and mind-sets teachable .

Coaching Kata is a set of routines in teaching, that help you develop coaching skills. It is a pattern or process that helps Managers in a business environment to teach improvement Kata thinking and practicing and applying in real life situations.

The approach to training people is also similar to the steps of Kata improvement.

We may call it PPTF(Prepare, Present, Tryout and Follow up)

Prepare- in this step, the trainer, who is a subject matter expert ensures that the training requirements(Challenges) are recognised & addressed- The purpose and the end objective is known and the required resources are available

Present- The Trainer presents the process or the Kata to the trainee and explains the why behind the process.

Tryout /Practice- The Trainee practices the kata or process exactly as described under supervison of the trainer , until it’s pattern becomes somewhat “involuntary” and habitual for the trainee. Corrections are made and advise given till the trainee understand in detail

Followup- then it is about more practice and the trainer follows up on improvement and advancement for next steps. This step may continue for a period of time till the trainee becomes a thorough through practice and is able to execute.

Example of Coaching KATA is followed in many matured organisations that follow a sturdy training culture and are receptive to lean methods.

These organizations follow many sorts of checklists to monitor the advancement in both  improvement Kata and coaching kata.

There are many such formats available on the net like; Improvement Kata Story board, Obstacle Parking Lot, Current Condition/ Target Condition Form, PDCA Cycle records form.


There are many organizations which are into food business (Quick Sevice Restaurants) that also follow-up on the trainees and processes through “Onfloor” observation Checklists at the Gemba.


Both theh above described methods can be actually used in all organizations with any type of business,  as it is only about practicing till you excel

Thus practicing the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata approach in an organization improves the speed and effectiveness of learning as a group and not as single individuals. It creates a shared ,standard way of thinking and action for the group, which will be well fortified to deliver ever improving results- towards a profitable organization!!

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As we know, Kata is simply a form of martial art, which is transferred to the next generations over many years. Kata is all about consistency, behavior, the way we understand and respond to situation repeatedly by understanding all the dynamics.

When we look for “every day, every one, every process” improvement then Kata is a vital enabler and therefore in business excellence we need to focus on the “Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata”.

Improvement Kata :

Improvement Kata starts with deep thinking and accepting behavior of è Daily process work=Improvement work ; therefore in Improvement Kata we consistently focus on setting up :

a) Direction/Vision b) Understand current condition c) establish the next target condition and d) PDCA towards the target condition


a) Direction/ Vision: all efforts we takes that has to be aligned and synchronized with the big purpose of an organization.

b) Understand the Current condition by visiting Gemba and verifying facts.

c) Establish target condition : Target Condition is a not a Target; Target condition drives a clear thinking and behavior è How we can achieve the next level of performance (target) , Target condition is about driving right behavior collaborating with the team members to achieve target.


While choosing target condition we should be thoughtful, it must be challenging and stretched. Transferring from Current condition to the Target condition there is a Grey area, when we starts taking 1st step then the way towards target condition will be clear, there could be many unpredictable obstacles and to overcome from those we need to use Lean way of thinking/methodologies like PDCA.

 d) PDCA :

Plan – Understand the target condition; Steps and processes, measurable metrics

Do – Implement, adjust and correct actions to move to the target condition

Check – Check and verify, is it an expected outcome? will that help us to move to target condition?

Act – Pick up learnings and use it for next challenge/obstacle removal; make it standard

In this journey, we should need to think of “What we learn during this problem solving/improvement rather scaling up and measuring how much % improvement is achieved?”

Summary of Improvement Kata :

The better is the understanding of Current condition, the more accurate target condition we can set up, once we have precise target condition then we can use our behavior and methodologies to resolve obstacles.

Application: We use Improvement Kata in many ways --- When we Drive Transformation projects / initiatives where we don’t know how to drive it , the way towards target is unclear then this methodology works.

Example – We have assigned with the 1% of CoNQ by Y2022; in 2019 we have done Hoshin and created a target condition with 3years-2year-1 year plan; identified Matrices to measure the progress of target condition; set up target condition for 2019 once we achieved it then set up next target condition and metrics for 2020, likewise. Now we are at 1.8% CoNQ target and we have path to achieve 1%.


Coaching Kata :

Coaching Kata is critical and essential to deploy Continuous improvement culture across organization. This is not only to deploy the methodological thinking but also the right attitude pass on method. In order to sustain Improvement Kata culture we must have to coach to the next level of organization so that this coaching cycle never ends.


 Leader’s should not to only look for how much improvements we are doing instead focus on developing the Problem solving capability and right attitude in people.

In order to develop the capability of People we can do Classroom training and On-job coaching. Effective way to drive it is with Train the Trainer or Metor-Mentee concept.

Key elements of Coaching Kata:



1. Identified Mentor – Mentee should have a Problem to work upon and Mentor should have an experience to deal with similar challenges.

2. Mentor would always ask Guiding questions to challenge the thought process of Mentee

3. Also allow Mentee to do affordable mistakes while learning by experience

4. Encourage Mentee to take 1 step at a moment, this to focus and invest all efforts to improve capability and attitude of mentee towards problem solving

5. This leads to : shift in Thinking, Discussion from unidirectional to focused, thoughtful/methodological approach to resolve obstacles , following A3 or PDCA structurally and improving mentee’s capability


Summary of Coaching Kata: This cycle of Mentor-Mentee should drive organizational practical problem solving capability development and bring more trust in organization. Predominantly what has learn from the exercise should be focus rather than what is the achievement

Application: Most of the Organization drives TTT (Train the trainer) , Mentor-Mentee program to – develop people , drive succession planning , create next level of leaders, improve people engagement, improve trust between organization and employees, improve moral of employees


Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata concepts are well explained in “Toyota KATA” book by Mike Rother.




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