Applying Toyota Kata to Agile Retrospectives

Håkan Forss, King (interactive entertainment games), presentation at the GOTO Copenhagen 2015 conference.

I strongly recommend Mike Rother’s book: Toyota Kata.

Description from Workshop description “The Toyota Kata Experience”

Kata means pattern, routine, habits or way of doing things. Kata is about creating a fast “muscle memory” of how to take action instantaneously in a situation without having to go through a slower logical procedure. A Kata is something that you practice over and over striving for perfection. If the Kata itself is relative static, the content of the Kata, as we execute it is modified based on the situation and context in real-time as it happens. A Kata as different from a routine in that it contains a continuous self-renewal process.

I think the great number of worthwhile conference presentations we can all now get sitting wherever we are provides us a great opportunity (and lets us avoid missing out of good ideas because “How could they know“).

A point made in the presentation that is very simple but still constantly the source of failure is that the current system isn’t supporting improvement. Retrospectives are a good method to help improve but if there is no time to think about the issues raised and come up with experiments to improve and review of whether those experiments worked or not and why failure to improve is the expected result.

Creating a culture where it is expected that any improvement ideas are tested and evaluated is one of the most important changes on the path to a company that will be able to continually improve. If not, what happens is some changes are good, many are not and soon people lose faith that any effort is worth it because they see how poor the results are. By taking care to evaluate what is working and what isn’t we create a process in which we don’t allow ad hoc and unsuccessful changes to demoralize everyone.


That aspect of monitoring changes and taking the time to make sure we did have success and if not what we need to change is a key in getting started. Don’t worry about how much you do at first. Get this process down. Make it a habit. As this ability to experiment and improve builds in the organization the speed and volume can be increased quite a bit. But if you try to do many things at first the most likely result is you do them all poorly. And that won’t lead to good results today or for the long term.

Faster iteration (of smaller tasks) and going to the gemba are other important points made in the presentation.

Related: Toyota Kata Song – The Times They Are Changing (2011)Agile Software Development and Deming Management IdeasWebcast on the Toyota Development ProcessFuture Directions for Agile Management (2008)

2 thoughts on “Applying Toyota Kata to Agile Retrospectives

  1. Pingback: Using Dr. Deming’s Ideas at Baptist Memorial Health Care « The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

  2. I work at a facility where the expectation is that a PDCA is used for every event that leads to change. The expectation is that the PDCA is quick and done. Time is not allowed for proper development. The change in culture needs to begin with upper Management and not forcing the development and lean thinking to a speedy answer. This leads to incomplete data and pencil whipping for results. What are your thoughts?

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