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Kata in the Classroom Taking Root Worldwide

Kata in the Classroom Taking Root Worldwide
Colleagues at thyssenkrupp Elevadores in Guaíba, Brazil run the Kata in the Classroom (KiC) exercise.

Rather than handing out solutions, we can prepare young people for their own yet unknown future, by having them practice the meta skill of scientific thinking.
- Mike Rother

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The power of Toyota Kata — a skill-building process designed to help learners think and act more scientifically — has already been well documented. Its Starter Kata routines are being practiced by companies, teams and individuals worldwide.

"Kata is the missing link in ensuring that continuous improvement takes place at the process." a recent U-M Kata for Daily Improvement participant said of the methodology. Practitioners from all walks of industry have increasingly employed the pattern, developing coaches and learners keen on making continuous improvement a habit.

But the shop floor or back office aren't the only places Kata is taking hold. Thanks to Kata in the Classroom (KiC) — a simple exercise designed to help teach and learn the Improvement Kata pattern — students of all ages are learning to think scientifically. From middle schoolers to mid-career professionals, KiC is democratizing Kata, so to speak.

"The design spec for the Kata in the Classroom exercise is that it's got to fit in a fifty-minute class period," says Toyota Kata author Mike Rother, who developed the KiC exercise as a simple, accessible tool to teach the 4-step Improvement Kata pattern. "These are skills that cut across subject matter boundaries that are useful in many different areas."

The only materials required to run KiC are a stopwatch, several free printouts (available at www.katatogrow.com), and a 15-piece Ravensburger puzzle. Working in teams of 4-5, participants shuffle the puzzle and run self-generated iterations aimed at improving their assembly speed with each passing round. By forcing learners to generate and refine solutions through experimentation, KiC demonstrates the importance of establishing a clear target, setting achievable goals, and taking controlled steps to get there.

And its reach has not been confined by classroom or country. After attending U-M's three-day Kata program in October 2018 — including a KiC session led by Rother — Daniel Bertschinger conducted the exercise for his colleagues at thyssenkrupp Elevadores in Guaíba, Brazil. Not surprisingly, the feedback was positive.

"Mike Rother gave us "homework" to do a puzzle training," Bertschinger said. "They really enjoyed the methodology! We are consolidating as a training on our calendar, aiming to obtain operational excellence of our personnel and thus of our operation."

With teachers, students, and working professionals like Bertschinger conducting the hands-on exercise worldwide, there's no telling how many everyday scientists are being developed, young and old.