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Improvement & Coaching

Focus Continuous Improvement to a Vision

Push Minds Past an Implementation Mind-set

FitzGerald: Continuous Improvement Definition: Improve every process, every day.



Produce Continuing Improvement (CI) and evolution by building an integrated company culture of behavioral habits: Improvement Kata.  Improvement Kata directs CI ideas towards a Vision.  It focuses on everyone in the company.  It teaches employees how to look forward into the achievable future and uses the Socratic method to push organizations to excellence.


  • Targets Continuous Improvement towards a predefined visionary goal
  • Expands thinking from implementation to “what could we do instead?”
  • Encompasses the whole company
  • Provides a structure of continually improving
  • Lasts through CEO tenures

The high level view of the Kata process for improvement is shown below:

Improvement Kata


Improvement Kata

  The process outline:

  1.  Verify the Actual Current Condition. Verify Verify Verify
  2.  Devise the Vision. This will be visionary and not change.
  3.  Determine the incremental Target Condition. Everyone should think in terms of Target Conditions.
  4.  Find obstacles that are preventing you from reaching the Target Condition. Some are obvious, some not.
  5.  Create a hypothesis, test it and learn. The learning should accelerate this step in the future.
  6.  Go and see what can be learned from that step.

Let’s look at this in more detail:

Verify the Current Condition

A firm grasp of what you are attempting to improve is important because it affects the trajectory and makes the first movement valuable.  A current condition could refer to a standard process or throughput number.  Validation of the current condition 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 CI to accomplishing predefined goals, rather than just anything.

Target Condition

If your intention is to improve every process every day, then everyone must have a Target Condition in mind.  The Target Condition could be something such as the Standard Work performed.  The Target Condition question becomes “What keeps you from performing your Standard Work?”  Thinking of a Target Condition expands the minds of employees to think into the future of how it could be.


The Target Condition should be a stretch goal.  It must stretch the mind.  Therefore some obstacles may be obvious and some may not.  An important part of the effort is learning.  Unanticipated obstacles induce learning.  A best practice is to pick a Target Condition and then go for it without much deliberation.  This instills learning.  Minimize obstacles to start and then increase with expanded experience.

Next Step

Creating a hypothesis and rapidly testing it is very important.  Then repeating this process is also important.  Information is gathered from each iteration that creates value in envisioning the Next Step.
This step involves testing the hypothesis.  This gives you information to keep taking steps towards the Target Condition.  This journey takes you through the unknown.


As you move forward you will encounter unanticipated roadblocks. This is where the brain of all process participants is used to take what you know, what you speculate, and what you can find out together.  This is the basis for the next hypothesis.

After going through the  Kata process to a Target Condition, some steps don’t need repeating.  The next iterative set of steps are:

  1.  Determine a new Target Condition if you have achieved the previous Target Condition.
  2.  Find obstacles that are preventing you from reaching the Target Condition.
  3.  Create a hypothesis, test and learn.
  4.  Determine what you have learned from that step.
  5.  Go to 1.
Learning for Mentees – supported by managers:
  1. Daily practice
  2. Kata – deliberate routines so beginners can learn the basics
  3. Coaching – corrective feedback
  4. Mastery

Information Kata is half the story.  Coaching Kata is another part of Kata.  Business commitment is the last.  It is important to start as if this program was going last for decades.  CI creates an agile business that charges through challenges into the future.

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

This is how you start:

  1. Create program awareness – Localize this so that expectations aren’t overblown. The program will expand as the number of Coaches expands.  Benefits accrue with time starting small.  Fast adoption carries risks and it not necessary, this is a long term effort.
  2. Educate the concept – People resist change and therefore must experience benefits. Just looking at an environment a different way can create a desire to do something a different way.
  3. Target the first area – We recommend a current issue that represents a point in between a vison and the current condition. For instance, if you are experiencing DOA issues and need to address this immediately then this has a potential if zero defects is a vision.
  4. Educate team roles – Now we get to the nuts a bolts of the effort. The Improvement Kata is relatively strait forward but represents a burden on individuals that may not have much extra time.  The Improvement Kata mentees must offload some of their burden to the Coaches but not the responsibility.  The Coach’s must mentor the mentee’s to succeed.
  5. Coach Coaches – This is important because these are the learned, experienced mentors. There is no doubt that this can be a tough job and some people may not be capable.  There is a methodology to the Coach job however, it requires a Coach to guide the mentee using the Socratic method.  It is important that the mentee experiences the Continuous Improvement process fully and feels that they came up with the key ideas.
  6. Address first area – The most natural area to start with is something needed to be accomplished anyway. Since the stated direction is towards a vision, any current issue that could move you towards that vision could make a good starting point.  Then, when you go through the process, the first Target Condition is what you want to accomplish anyway as a goal for the current issue.
  7. Publicize results – Start slow. We want demand to align with capability.  If the benefits of Kata Continuous Improvement are publicized too soon it may look too easy and expectations become too great.  Remember that your first Target Condition was something you were going to do anyway but the next Target Condition is your first foray into a real Kata effort as you move towards your vision.


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