Toyota Kata and IT White Paper

Jeffrey K. Liker, PhD

September 2019

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In a rapidly-changing world, adaptive, agile people, teams, and companies are more likely to succeed. Many frameworks focus on adaptability (Lean, Agile, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, Lean Startup, Learning Organization, Complexity Theory, Systems Thinking, Design Thinking, etc.). However, theories and frameworks do not equal change.

We may have good ideas and get good results from a pilot, but that does not guarantee overall success. Ideas and methods are not enough: we have to work to bring them to life. That is what Toyota Kata is about.

Over years, Toyota built habits of scientific thinking in their employees. This was explained over fifty years ago in the original pamphlets for the Toyota Production System. Later, Toyota adopted W. Edwards Deming’s concepts, which became Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA). PDCA appears in most Toyota methods of improvement. At its heart, PDCA is an approach to iterative learning; plan, run experiments, and learn your way through uncertain territory.

This paper discusses Toyota Kata and IT and how scientific thinking helps enable iterative proactive improvement in an unlimited range of domains and is especially relevant in adaptive learning organizations.

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