Many organizations we work with have management systems and problem-solving processes and tools already in place. They often wonder how and where kata fits into what they are already doing. Kata does not replace these tools; instead kata can be used as an opportunity to enhance the processes and methods that you are currently using.
There are two patterns of kata, improvement kata and coaching kata. Improvement kata is simply a routine to engage a team around process improvement, whereas coaching kata is a method or routine for coaching a person through problem-solving.
From my experience working in healthcare, I have found many benefits to practicing both improvement kata and coaching kata. These benefits include: adding rigor to the study and adjust phase of a project, gaining team engagement, taking the anxiety out of coaching, creating visibility of progress towards metrics, and enhancing learning and reflection.
Adding rigor to study and adjust
When teams finish a value stream or complete a rapid improvement event, kata can add rigor to the study and adjust phase. The sequence of questions allows the team to focus on what is working, what is not working, and what barriers exist. The practice allows the team to make small changes quickly and work toward a solution.
The practice of kata can be very useful in engaging teams; especially teams that are resistant to change. One reason people tend to push back when it comes to change is they don’t think the new process will work. The kata routine allows resisters to point out the barriers that they see, which can help ease the discomfort that comes with change. In addition, the small changes made rapidly can help move the team through larger changes by gaining acceptance bit by bit and achieving quick wins along the way.
Take the anxiety out of coaching
Sometimes a coaching interaction can cause anxiety for both the learner and coach. Using kata as a framework for coaching can help alleviate this anxiety. Following the routine of kata allows the learner to feel more prepared and the approach tends to generate a dialogue that helps the interaction feel more collaborative.
Following the coaching kata can be especially helpful if a person is coaching someone who has positional authority over them.
See progress to metrics
The routine kata provides help to keep teams focused on the metrics they have set; therefore, it allows them to see progress in real-time and validates their work. The routine of kata produces small, gradual changes that can add up to big wins. I often see teams get more encouraged to keep improving as they see the performance to a metric improve.
Learn and reflect
Kata challenges me to continuously learn and reflect as we work through a problem. With each rapid cycle experiment comes deeper understanding and personal growth.
Simply put, kata is a routine that can help you and your team focus on the study and adjust phase of a project, engage everyone, reduce anxiety during coaching, visualize progress, and encourage learning and reflection. Kata is about changing our behaviors and our practices in continuous, incremental ways.
Linda Mirkes, Network Manager
Workshop: Kata: A Pattern for Continuous Improvement
Kata in Healthcare white paper
Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit