Toyota Kata or Improvement Kata including the Coaching Kata can be said to be a method to coach people into discovering solutions for themselves rather than getting the final answer from someone else, like a manager. This way the organizational capacity for problem-solving and solution discovery is greatly improved. Using more technical language one can say that Improvement Kata is a meta-process for handling emerging situations in a complex world.

Can we improve the Improvement Kata? As a trained ICF (International Coaching Federation) personal coach here are some thoughts on that.

These are the coaching questions from the Improvement (Toyota) Kata. This is part of the Coaching Kata; the process used by the Improvement Kata coach.

  1. What is the Target Condition?
  2. What is the Actual Condition now?
  3. What Obstacles do you think are preventing you from reaching the target condition?
    Which *one* are you addressing now?
  4. What is your Next Step?
    (Next experiment) What do you expect?
  5. How quickly can we go and see what we have learned from taking that step?

I would call this Performance coaching. Performance coaching is historically a parent to the professional personal coaching we use in the ICF. Performance coaching is used in sports and business where we want to primarily focus on achieving results.

The grandfather of Performance coaching and coaching in general is often considered being Timothy Gallwey, author of the world famous book The Inner Game of Tennis. There is a famous video where Tim coaches students to learn tennis, without knowing much about the sport himself. When this was broadcast on TV it started the wave of change in teaching we now call ‘coaching’. There is an excellent book about performance coaching called Coaching for Performance by John Whitmore.

A performance coach will rarely use his/her own knowledge to give an answer to a less experienced person. Often the coachee even know the subject better than the coach. Instead the coach will use a process skill-set to guide the coachee to continually discover the answer him/herself. This way the coachee will in psychological terms “own” the situation. The results will be much better this way and much more lasting than if you simply give the person the final answer.

Performance coaching in general and Coaching Kata in particular does an excellent job of changing behaviour. Behaviour is what we can objectively observe in ourself and others. It is how we go about doing whatever we do.

In personal coaching we in addition work on the internal, subjective personal realm. We actively dig into how we think about what we do, what assumptions we have about the world, what drives us and what we resist doing, and how all this affects our current situation and the objective we want to achieve.

If I would use the Coaching Kata method in personal coaching I could use the same method but with the addition of working with the personal level:

  1. What is the Target Condition?
  2. What is the Actual Condition now?
  3. What Obstacles do you think are preventing you from reaching the target condition?
    Which one are you addressing now?
    <Here I would go pretty deeply into the internal, subjective personal realm, much deeper than most performance coaching>
  4. What is your Next Step?
    (Next experiment) What do you expect?
  5. How quickly can we go and see what we have learned from taking that step?

Why should we bother going all touchy-feely with our colleagues? Well it is pretty clear to me that Bill O’Brien, the late CEO of Hanover Insurance was spot on when he said that: 

The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener

With interior condition we mean the internal, subjective personal level we address in personal coaching. It should be a good business case for any manager to work on this as complement to the Coaching Kata, don’t you agree?

If you want to know more about personal coaching and how you can combine this with your Improvement and Coaching Kata, contact me.

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Emil Vikström

Emil Vikström

Agile management consultant at Avega Group
I work as advisor and coach to leaders and development teams.

My specialities are efficiency in IT, leadership, management innovation and people development
Emil Vikström

Copyright © 2014 Emil Vikström. All Rights Reserved.

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