Auburn Works

Auburn Technical Assistance Center (ATAC)

Flavor of the Month - Practical Leadership Tips


Over the years, we’ve heard of many management techniques such as TOC, TQM, JIT, ISO, Lean, 6 Sigma, Shainin Red X, etc. One of management’s challenges is to prevent these useful tools from becoming the “flavor of the month.”


One of our clients was interested in the Toyota Kata seminar to enhance her capability to lead a continuous improvement team.  When she requested funds to attend the seminar, her supervisor questioned how the Toyota Kata process fit into their current programs of Lean, Kaizen Events, and 6 Sigma.  He wanted to ensure they weren’t chasing the flavor of the month.


This was a fair question.  How does Toyota Kata fit into the overall continuous improvement theory?


Over 70% of companies have used some type of continuous improvement program, but less than 25% have achieved the desired results (Pay, 2008).  The primary reasons for poor results are lack of management support and failure to tie activities to bottom line results.  Notice that neither of these issues involves the choice of the tool being used.  The real reasons for success or failure lie in our commitment and application of the tools.  This means that culture trumps tools.


The Toyota Kata process is a "pattern of behavior or practice" often seen in the martial arts. The pattern or kata, helps leaders to develop a culture of continuous improvement so that the tools are more effective.  If you chose to use Lean or 6 Sigma tools to correct problems, then the Toyota Kata is a technique for making steady progress toward your target while developing people’s ability to use the tool.  This technique overcomes the two failure reasons by engaging the leadership in continuous improvement while tackling problems that are directly related to business challenges.


For a detailed review of the Toyota Kata process, I’ve included a link to a very informative blog post by Mark Rosenthal (2010) which can be found at:


If you want to learn more about the Toyota Kata process, the Auburn Technical Assistance Center is hosting Mike Rother in a one-day seminar on July 17, 2012 in Athens, AL.  You will have the opportunity to hear directly from the researcher and author of the Toyota Kata book about this interesting management training technique.  If you are looking for the latest leadership training methods to drive your continuous improvement activities, come join us for this exciting seminar. 


For registration information, go to




Key Words: Leadership training, continuous improvement, Management training, Toyota Kata


Pay, R. (2008, May 1). Everybody's jumping on the lean bandwagon, but many are being taken for a ride. Retrieved 10/15/08, from

Rosenthal, M. (2010, June 28). Toyota Kata: The "how" of "engaged leadership." In The Lean Thinker. Retrieved June 28, 2012, from


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