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Continuous Improvement,

Policy Propagation, and Realization

The Best Continuous Improvement Program Combined With Policy Propagation


Continuously Improve Towards a Vision or Challenge


Utilize your All Your Company’s Minds: “Improve every process, every day”



Toyota’s Kata is a methodology that propagates policy throughout the organization leading to realized benefits. It begins with the business direction.  Then it moves through realization. Kata focuses progress towards a specific direction and fosters communication up and down the chain of command. Consequently, Kata marches a company towards achieving their vision. It is noteworthy that Toyota has used this for 60 years to propel their company to excellence.

Other Benefits Include

  • Quantifiable movement towards a Challenge
  • Expands thinking from implementation to “what could we do instead?”
  • Stimulates employee ingenuity
  • Increases employee engagement
  • Encompasses the whole company
  • Provides a structure of continually improving
  • Lasts through CEO tenures
  • Employee growth opportunities up and down the chain of command
  • Continual pushing improvement velocity
  • Communication leads to goal alignment
  • A smoother move to Lean Production

Kata High Level Methodology



The VP brings in the ever important business requirements. By understanding business goals, the customer requirements, and the corporate capabilities, the VP is responsible for developing the strategy which leads to business success. This starts the alignment of the business to results utilizing the Kata Methodology.

The business strategy from the VP leads to strategic business targets. These targets propagate down to the Value Stream Manager and results in Value Stream targets. These then propagate down to the Value Stream Loop Manager to develop their targets. Lastly, depending upon organizational structure, the Process Manager determines their targets.

The VP is considered a Coach to the Value Stream Manager and the Value Stream Manager is considered a Learner relative to the VP.

Value Stream Manager

Value Stream Manager

The Value Stream Manager is responsible to build the Current State Value Stream (CSVS) and consequently build the Future State Value Stream (FSVS). The FSVS is the basis for Target Conditions which will be explained later.

If the VP does not have a strategy to deliver then the Value Stream Manager can develop their own requirements for the Value Stream.

To enable rapid and complete communication the Value Stream Manager will set up an especially relevant Learners Storyboard. This storyboard will include:

  • Target Condition (TC) – A TC is an interim requirement with a due date for a process improvement that moves you towards a Challenge. You iterate to your challenge or vision through Target Conditions. Each TC has a due date.
  • Challenge – This comes from the VP and represents the end goal that the TC marches towards.
  • Current Condition (CC) – Represents detailed documentation of current performance
  • Experimenting Record – This contains documentation of experiments performed to reach the TC.
  • Obstacles Parking Lot – The move from the CC to the TC encounters obstacles. Some obstacles are predictable ahead of time and some aren’t. All of the obstacles are listed here.

The Value Stream Manager also builds the schedule.

Value Stream Loop Manager

Value Stream Loop Manager

The responsibilities of the Value Stream Loop Manager include analyzing the CC and analyzing how this impacts the Value Stream. This manager will publish the current condition and then to distill Process requirements to help determine the TC.

The VS Loop Manager initiates the Coaching Summary Board which summarizes:

  • Learners
  • Coaches
  • TC
  • Dates

This Summary Board displays responsible individuals and as a result, communication is successful. TC goals, and the experiments and expected results.

Value Stream Manager

Value Stream Manager

At this point they start the “Time Plan

VS Loop Manager

Value Stream Loop Manager

The VS Loop Manager is responsible for starting the CC/TC Form and also determining the requirements for the TC by back-and-forth dialogue with Coach and Learners.

Process Manager

Process Manager

The Process Manager determines the requirements, each with a due date. Also, determine what needs to change to improve and meet the challenge. The Process Managers are one step above the operators in the company hierarchy. Process Managers are very close to what needs to improve. Subsequently, their teams are a key to success.

They will manage the CC/TC Form and populate the “Process Activities Analysis” which keeps track of the CC and the TCs. Also, the documentation of the experiments is done in the “Experimenting Record”.

The Process Manager is the Coach for the operators and works very closely with them to deliver on the TC. While working with the operators they should use any set of tools they can think of to help them “Learn” about the process.

Value Stream Manager

Value Stream Manager

The Value Stream Manager populates the “Theme/Role Matrix” and sets up the “Coaching Schedule”.


This rounds out a schedule of who is responsible for what and when. When the process propagates to the Process Manager then the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata loop starts the “Learning “ iteration needed to advance the key processes towards meeting the VP Challenge.

Below I review some additional important points to help explain the concept.

Coach and Learner come as a combination. The Coaches responsibility is to guide the Learner through the process. The Learner does just that, learns. These two individuals act as a team. Every Coach has a Learner and every Learner has a Coach. This concept propagates all the way up to the VP.

Improvement Kata

Kata Policy Propagation, Realization, and Continuous Improvement

This graphic summarizes the trajectory that the process takes starting at the Current Condition and subsequently progressing towards the Challenge and Vision. Let’s walk through this.

The effort starts with a thorough understanding of the CC. One way to think of it is that if you have the CC and the Vision you can draw a straight-line trajectory from one to the other. Without fully understanding the CC you will never know the trajectory of the improvement line.

As you move towards the Vision, your first stop is a TC. The assumption is that it is not possible to move directly from the current condition to the Vision or the Challenge, so you must get there in steps.

The movement to the first TC takes you through. Some of the Obstacles are known ahead of time and some are not. For individuals new to this process, don’t set the first Target Condition too far from the Knowledge Border so they don’t take on too many unknown Obstacles. As individuals get more comfortable with this process they will also be more comfortable venturing through areas of unknown obstacles.

The first step is to get to the first TC. The next step is to get to the second TC and so on until you accomplish the Challenge.

The states described above are explained in more detail below:

Verify the Current Condition (CC)

A firm grasp of what you are attempting to improve is important because it affects the trajectory and makes the first movement valuable.  A CC could refer to a standard process or throughput number.  Validation of the CC will keep you from trying to improve an unstable process.


This is key, out there and possibly unattainable.  What would you really like to accomplish. For instance: 0 defects, a safe environment, 100% value added work.  The Vision not only lets you voice a destination but also constrains the trajectory to your destination.  This is key because it focuses improvement to accomplishing predefined goals, rather random improvements.

Target Condition (TC)

The TC is chosen carefully because it has an assigned due date that you must accomplish it by. The TC is also on the trajectory towards the Vision and Challenge. There may be many TCs that you moved to before you accomplish the Challenge. Thinking of a TC expands the minds of employees to think into the future of how it could be.


The TC should be a stretch goal.  It must stretch the mind.  Therefore, some Obstacles may be obvious and some may not.  The goal is to Learn. Unanticipated obstacles induce learning.  A best practice is to pick a TC and then go for it without much deliberation.  This instills learning.  Minimize encountering Obstacles to start and then increase with expanded experience.


As you move forward you will encounter unanticipated Obstacles. This is where the brain of all process participants is used to take what you know and what you have found out together, and do what it takes to move past these Obstacles.  As a result of this effort setting TCs closer to the CC becomes more common.

The sooner this journey is started, the quicker exceptional results roll in.

Coaches and Learners Relationship

The Coach/Learner relationship is the key that makes this whole methodology work. This methodology focuses on learning. The concept is that if you have expertise in learning you will create a competitive advantage. As learning becomes a virtue in your company, the company will start to move forward faster.

Every manager is a coach. The Coaches responsibility is to lightly direct the Learner towards the success of moving closer to the Challenge. Usually the Coaches have more expertise than the Learners and therefore must be on guard to not feed the Learner solutions.

Every manager can also be a Learner. This methodology should propagate completely up and down an organization. The goal is Policy Propagation which leads to action. The following section includes a starter set of questions for both the Coaches and Learners.

The graphic below highlights the Coach/Learner relationship between the different levels of individuals therefore leading to constant improvement..


Value Stream Manager

Value Stream Loop Manager

Process Manager



 The Questions for the Coach

Coaching Kata questions:
  1. What is the Challenge?
  2. What is the Target Condition?
  3. Explain the Actual Condition?
  4. What Obstacles do you think are preventing you from reaching the Target Condition?
    • Which “one” are you addressing now?
  5. What is your Step? (Experiment)
    • What do you Expect?
  6. How quickly can we go and see what we have learned from taking that step?
Reflection Questions for the Coach
  • What did you plan as your Last Step?
  • What did you Expect?
  • Explain what happened?
  • What did you learn?

As a result of implementing Kata Policy Propagation, Realization, and Continuous Improvement you will move closer to the Toyota Production System.  In conclusion, make time your ally.


Related Videos:

Toyota is the Best Company

Continuous Improvement Toyota’s Method.  Moves you towards a Challenge or Vision, involves the whole company, and creates a competitive advantage.

Toyota – How to run a company.  Take 30 min and see how you can move to a pinnacle.

Kata: Policy Propagation, Realization, & Continuous Improvement

Toyota’s Secret


Toyota’s Continuous Improvement Program Races Towards Your Vision.


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