Monday, September 21, 2015

Strategy Deployment and the Improvement Kata

By Pascal Dennis

My friend and colleague Mike Rother wrote a fine book a few years back called Toyota Kata.

In it he described the problem solving process I was lucky enough to learn at Toyota manufacturing.

Mike astutely called it the “improvement kata”, invoking the martial arts concept of a core routine that you practice over and over.

(Our readers may recall that I am an Aikido practitioner of some commitment, and questionable ability. Aikido has provided me with good health, flexibility (physical at least), and copious metaphors.)

How does the improvement kata relate to Strategy Deployment (aka Hoshin Kanri)?

Strategy Deployment’s core steps are:
  1. Develop the plan

  2. Deploy the plan

  3. Monitor the plan, and

  4. Improve the system

Strategy Deployment is a planning and execution system whose process entails continually surfacing problems – so we can fix them.

Step 4 entails harvesting all the now visible problems. How do we do that?

In our coaching practice we teach multiple methods – Problem Solving A3’s, Quick and Easy Kaizen (Kaizen Teian) – and the improvement kata

There’s no one best way – you pick the tool that’s most helpful. Each of these tools, in fact, is informed by the same powerful algorithm our Toyota senseis taught us all those years ago.

At Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, everything reinforced the core steps and problem solving was like breathing. (Interested readers are referred to Chapter 5 of The Remedy)

But that’s not true in many organizations. We find people benefit from practicing core problem solving routines, the same way I benefit when I practice core Aikido movements.

Thanks, Mike.

Best regards,


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