Kata as authentic order

This is a post in my series on organizing “between and beyond.” Other posts are here.

A common assumption is that you can control human behavior with rules, policies, and processes. The objective of the CMM, PSP, and TSP is to achieve a disciplined, measured, and statistically managed process.1 And in Holacracy the power is in the process, which is defined in detail.2 Both these cases are examples of processes as input. This is why the CMM, PSP, and TSP emphasize the importance engineering (CMM), personal (PSP), and team (TSP) discipline. This is also why Holacracy emphasizes the importance of the Holacracy constitution,  which acts as the core rulebook for the organizations. Its rules and processes reign supreme.3

An alternative is to view processes as outcome, or output. An organization’s processes and practices are then viewed as an outcome that springs from people’s thinking and behavior. So, if processes are an outcome, how do you influence people’s behavior? How do you accomplish continuous improvement, adaptiveness, and superior performance? The answer is through the way of thinking itself. In Japan, a kata is a way of thinking and conducting oneself. Toyota, for example, has two particular patterns of thinking and conducting oneself — an improvement and a coaching kata.4

The key point is that if you want to understand Toyota and emulate its success, then the focus should be on the kata and not the company’s processes or techniques. The competitive advantage of a company doesn’t lie in the processes themselves but in the ability of the company to understand the current situation and create fitting, smart solutions. A kata is a means for keeping your thoughts and actions in sync with dynamic and unpredictable conditions.5 A kata doesn’t specify content, but only the form that thinking should take.6 In a kata, thoughts and actions belong together by being in sync with the dynamic and unpredictable situation. Authentic order enables the kata, while counterfeit order disables it.

1 Watts S. Humphrey, Technical Report: The Team Software Process (TSP) (SEI, November 200), p.53 (accessed 2016-08-13).
2 Brian J. Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy (Penguin, 2015), p. 21
3 Ibid..
4 Mike Rother, Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results, p. 18.
5 Ibid., p. 16.
6 Ibid., p. 19.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Published by Jan Höglund

Jan Höglund has over 35 years of experience in different roles as software developer, project manager, line manager, consultant, and researcher. This is his personal blog where he shares his reading, book reviews, and learning.

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