What is Kata? Toyota’s Karate Concept for Lean Continuous Improvement and Coaching Success

Kata A Lean Tool for Continuous Improvement and Business Success

Kata A Lean Tool for Continuous Improvement and Business Success


I apologize for my poor Japanse pronunciation. Pray, why am I speaking to you in Japanse?

Well, for this post, we will be delving into the Japanese mindset for business using Kata.

Kata is a methodology used to make businesses lean. The approach, originally used in martial arts, was developed by Japanese car manufacturer Toyota and has since stormed its way into the business realm churning out results, after results, after results.

For instance, Kata methodology has been shown to cut costs by 41%, and improve business performance by 75%.

I hear you, wow indeed!

In this Process Street article, we take a look at this karate concept and explain how to apply it in a business setting.

Click on the relevant subheader below to jump to your section of choice. Alternatively, scroll down and learn how to perfect the art of business.

Kiotsuke! Let’s get to it!

Kata is a structured process inspiring repeated and consistent practice. Kata uses scientific thinking to train the daily skills individuals need for rapid, incremental, continuous improvements.

Whether Kata is used in martial arts, for personal improvement, or in business, the principles remain the same.

Kata Japanese text

Kata Japanese text

The term is Japanese and has a literal translation meaning form, way of doing, or training drill. The concept is to develop a routine or a pattern of behavior that can be practiced again…

…and again…

…and again.

With this consistency, practice becomes perfect meaning that routine develops into a new skill.

This is all sounding simple enough, isn’t it?

Well, that’s because the concept of Kata is straight forward. Less is more when it comes to deploying Kata methodology and realizing the benefits brought. However, consistency and repetitive practice are vital for mastering the approach.

Originally, Kata was used in reference to the patterns of martial art movement, to be practiced alone but also in groups. We are talking white coats, colored belts, pointed toes, and fist-pumping.

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In this sense, Kata evolved from combat, which isn’t as novel as you may think. Many strategies used in business made a similar transition. For Kata, this evolution began at the automobile manufacturer, Toyota.

Toyota Kata: The history of Kata

Kata in business is cited as Toyota Kata, a development made by internationally recognized business guru Mike Rother, in his book Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Results.

Through the adjustment of what is learned along the way, Toyota advances as a scientist would. With each new empirical observation, the scientist adjusts the course to take advantage of what he has learned. I learn

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