Kata Techniques

The Application & Impact of Toyota Kata in Continuous Improvement

This project seeks to understand the level of adoption of Kata in UK and European enterprises and seeks to develop a greater understanding of the inhibitors and enablers of its use.

Collaborators involved:


Read Graham Canning’s article on his experiences of Kata, his reflection on its take up by organisations and questions for the research task ahead.

Click here >>>


Toyota Kata first came to prominence with Mike Rother’s book Toyota Kata in 2009, but its adoption in UK organisations (even those who can demonstrate considerable Lean pedigree) appears to be low, though evidence suggests it has been more successful in northern mainland Europe.

Kata’s success hinges on a leader’s ability to coach teams towards a Target Condition for improvement, with considerable trust being put into the teams’ ability to rapidly iterate through experiments to learn more about a problem. This requires leaders to create conditions where controlled trial and error experiments are accepted, where admission that ‘we don’t know the answer’ is not seen as weakness and where a culture exists of a Learning Organisation.

This project seeks to understand different ways and reasons teams and enterprises in the UK and Europe are utilising the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata practice routines, if and how this is influencing improvement skill and mindset, if and how those teams and enterprises are developing their own approach and style, and seels to develop a greater understanding of inhibitors and enablers.

Preliminary survey work is being carried out (March 2019) to gather information that will help inform the research development. Click >>>

Research Questions

In support of the above theme, the following research questions are being considered:

  1. What is the level and nature of the use of Kata in organisations?
  2. What is the impact of Kata on the effectiveness of continuous improvement in organisations?
  3. What are the barriers and enablers to Kata’s adoption in organisations?
  4. What are the critical factors that need to be present in an organisation for Kata to be successful?
  5. Are those enterprises currently using Kata finding that it is more effective than previous attempts to develop a lean enterprise?
  6. How should Kata be positioned in a wider framework of lean thinking tools and techniques? Is there overlap / conflict with other approaches?

Supplementary areas of research include:

  • How effective are organisational efforts at improvement and problem-solving, particularly in terms of ‘complex’ problems?
  • How well do organisations learn from mistakes?
  • What sort of organisational culture allows controlled ‘trial and error’ experiments, to work towards understanding underlying causes of problems?
  • What are the biggest barriers to adopting a ‘learning from mistakes’ approach?


Elicit interest in the research and recruit members to the Research Network Group – from March 2019

Initial scoping meeting – May 23rd 2019 (Cardiff). Visit the Kata event page for details >>>

Methods & Data Collection

Pre-project research: Use, attitudes & awareness survey – March 2019

TBA; potentially to include:

  • Literature review
  • Surveys
  • Case studies
  • Benchmarking studies

Research Network Group

The project will be managed by the LERC Kata Research Network Group


  1. To build a network of Kata Practitioners who are using the approach in their organisations, who can share experiences and best practice
  2. To promote the wider use of Kata through developing (and observing) case studies of successful Kata use
  3. To develop a greater understanding of the organisational and cultural ‘enablers’ that need to be in place for Kata to be successful
  4. To initiate funded Kata related research


Current members
  • Graham Canning
  • Ann Hill
  • Mark Zirbser
  • Prof John Bicheno
  • Sarah Lethbridge
  • Prof Maneesh Kumar
  • Simon Elias
Register interest & for more information

Event web page

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