All organizations are probably to some degree adaptive, but their improvement, adaptation and innovation usually occur periodically -- when the need becomes critical -- and are conducted by only a few people in the organization. That's too little too late. We’ve been after continuous improvement for a long time. How do you actually embed that in the fabric of an organization?
Based on my research, Toyota does it via a behavioral routine I call the Improvement Kata. The Improvement Kata is a routine that can be learned by anyone, and practicing it daily is the way Toyota develops ingenuity, initiative and engagement across the organization. It’s like the scientific method, but for all of us and for any team. Teams using the Improvement Kata learn as they strive to reach an objective, and adapt based on what they are learning.
Each organization can, of course, have its own variant; its own improvement kata. The first book in this section, "Toyota Kata," explains how to use and and how to teach the Improvement Kata the way it's done at Toyota. As I come across other books that describe forms or aspects of improvement kata I'll add them here.
How do you develop Improvement Kata skills in an organization?
--> By deliberately practicing!
Brain research is clear: We can adopt new patterns of thinking and acting like the improvement kata through daily practice with guidance from a coach. It's no different than acquiring skills in sports, music, medicine, language, and so on.
What should leaders and managers do?
Number One --> Watch what you say and do! The behavior patterns that leaders and managers demonstrate will be picked up and replicated by those around them. Leaders and managers should be among the first to acquire improvement-kata skills and habits.
Number Two --> Coach! This involves leaders and managers coaching people in practicing the Improvement Kata every day. In this approach the job of leaders and managers is not so much to get the results, but to develop people so that the desired results can be achieved.
There is a convergence underway among brain science, business and education on how we acquire skills and change our thinking. The following books present insights into learning via deliberate practice, with which every 21st century manager, leader, educator, consultant and trainer should probably be familiar:
I think it is important for leaders and managers to ask themselves, "What routine for improving, adapting and innovating are we teaching the members of our organization?" In other words, "What is our improvement kata?"
If you're a leader, manager, coach, trainer, educator or consultant, the information in the books listed in this guide is something you should be aware of. Reading Toyota Kata + The Talent Code is one good way to start.