A kata is originally a fundamental movement within Japanese martial arts, but can also refer to any fundamental form, routine or pattern of behavior. Recognizable patterns of behavior and clear expectations make deviations (problems) easier to recognize and also act as a basis for improvement and for formulating and achieving higher standards. 

Within Lean management, kata refers to two related patterns of behavior: improvement kata and coaching kata

The improvement kata is a repetitive, four-step routine that allows an organization to improve and adapt. This makes continuous improvement through the scientific problem-solving method of Plan, Do, Check and Act (PDCA) a daily habit. The four steps are: 

  1. Establishing a vision or direction
  2. Gaining insight into the current situation
  3. Defining the following target state
  4. Make progress toward your objective (the plan or "P" defined in the first three steps) through rapid, repetitive PDCA cycles that uncover and remove obstacles.

The coaching kata is the routine by which Lean leaders and managers teach the improvement kata to everyone in the organization. The teacher or coach gives the learner procedural guidance - not solutions - that enable the learner to successfully overcome obstacles. (After Rother, 2010, and Shook, 2008.)

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