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The Power of Lean Thinking | Toyota Kata

Lean thinking is a philosophy based on Toyota’s employee-management routines. People also call it Toyota Kata after a 2009 book by Mike Rother called Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Results. Toyota calls its organizational routines kata, a Japanese word that usually refers to practice routines in martial arts. Kata can also mean any basic form, routine, or behavior.

There are two basic sets of kata. Improvement kata focuses on establishing challenging targets, working through obstacles, and learning from problems. Coaching kata are patterns and plans for teaching improvement kata to employees at every level. The power of lean thinking or Toyota kata offers many benefits.

Constant Improvements

Toyota kata includes regularly scheduled kaizen activities to improve your company and increase performance. According to the philosophies of lean thinking, improvement is an essential part of every business, not something you can forget about until everyone has time. Constant, skilled training and innovation can guarantee continuous improvement.

Faster Production

One of the first places where managers used lean thinking was Toyota’s assembly lines. Training people to do a specialized job well, avoid mistakes, and solve problems on their own can let companies produce products in days instead of weeks. Lean thinking also uses autonomation, which means it helps make automatic machines completely autonomous. If machines in a factory can let workers know that something’s wrong, like the antivirus program on a computer, then they can correct some problems without human intervention. They can also let people know about malfunctions before they become severe enough to stop or slow production.

Increased Efficiency

Streamlining your company’s policies and processes lets employees use resources more efficiently and reduce costs. Lean thinking strives to eliminate seven common business wastes:

  • Transport
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Waiting
  • Over-Processing
  • Overproduction
  • Defects

For example, predicting the supplies your business will need more accurately lets you use less inventory space for extra stuff. That way, you can expand your business more easily by installing new equipment or enlarging office space. If employees can mostly take care of themselves through lean thinking, you won’t need as many managers. You can also reduce defects.

Better Morale

Lean thinking encourages managers to ask employees about their opinions on important policies and trust them to do their jobs without constant supervision. If you seem fair and caring, your employees will be happier and more willing to do their best work. According to Time Magazine, happiness can increase health and longevity for many people. That way, you can reduce absences from illnesses and save money on employee health insurance. You can even increase retention of valuable workers.

Continuous Coaching Commitment, LLC offers extensive training in lean thinking for business owners and managers. Instructors can come to your company, or you can schedule an off-site, educational getaway for your team. Our experienced coaches have traveled all over the world to train employees at a wide range of companies.

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