The Coaching Kata

The Coaching Kata is the second core routine of human behavior identified by Mike Rother, in his book Toyota Kata, that defines a true Lean managed culture. Last week we reviewed the Improvement Kata in which continual improvement in the workplace is founded in a culture of PDCA based problem solving, based on worker empowered scientific experimentation, discovery and learning.

This 2nd kata is about embedding the act of coaching to spread the improvement kata into daily work and how this changes the way we manage, rather than adding a task onto the way we currently manage.

Some of the points Rother makes about changing behavior are that-

  • Classroom training itself is ineffective in changing people's behavior or the culture but can raise awareness and provide information to those who will practice the instructed behavior with a coach
  • Workshops are designed to make point improvements not develop new behaviors
  • Metrics, incentives and motivators alone are unlikely to change a culture
  • Reorganization may change the form of the organization but not the capability and habits of its people

The key lesson is that we learn by doing, repeatedly practicing behaviors and by experiencing. Over time, this routine becomes ingrained and changes the culture. You must do and learn yourself, using the improvement kata as there is no predefined cookbook or roadmap to solve your daily problems.

This is what coaching workers is meant to do in creating a culture of continuous improvement.

But this change does not occur without the involvement of senior leadership and managers in promoting and developing the culture of continual improvement. You are the ones who own this process of change.

Rother expressed this best-

"Managers and leaders at the middle and lower levels of the organization are the people who will ultimately coach the change to the improvement kata, yet they will generally and understandably not set out in such a direction on their own. They will wait and see, based on the actions (not the words) of senior management, what truly is the priority and what really is going to happen."

Now, more than ever, leaders are wanted! I have attached for you a recent editorial of my further thoughts about this opportunity that we are now presented with in American healthcare.