A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.
– John Wooden
We all dislike the traditional performance review. Employees hate going in for them and managers hate writing them. Traditional performance reviews are 90% rearview mirror and 10% (if you’re lucky) discussion about the future. But feedback is still critically important, so what should take the place of the traditional review?
Instead of using traditional reviews, many Lean organizations use a technique called coaching kata, which Mike Rother describes in his book, Toyota Kata. A kata is a small routine that you repeat over time until it becomes a habit. In his book, Rother focuses on two types of kata: improvement kata and coaching kata
The first step in implementing kata is identifying the target condition(not the same as a goal). The target condition is the behavior or capability that is ultimately desired; therefore, it is more than an intermediate improvement point or goal—even if that point represents a significant improvement. The next step is to identify the actual condition which is the person’s current behavior or capability. Once those two end points are known, the person imagines what obstacles might impede achieving the target condition. The obstacles are not ranked or prioritized, but are simply identified.
Once the obstacles are identified, the next step is to create an experiment to overcome them, one at a time. The experiment could include some form of additional training, a tweak to some behavior, and so forth. If the experiment is successful, it becomes part of the new standard. If not, the learner analyzes what went wrong and tries a new one. Each of these experiments should be fairly small and rapid, creating ongoing forward movement withlittle downside risk of failure.
These experiments are monitored by the team member’s supervisor in a process known as coaching kata. The coaching kata activity creates ongoing improvement opportunities for both team leaders and team members. Managers, acting as coaches, ask their employees a series of questions to help them understand how their actual condition compares to their target condition. Then, the team member identifies—with coaching support from the leader—small experiments to overcome the next obstacle. The team member evaluates the results of the experiment and creates a conclusion, which is then reviewed with the leader to identify the next experiment for improvement. This process helps managers reinforce the patterns that workers learn from their improvement kata.
Instead of the once-a-year ordeal that is common with performance reviews, coaching kata creates an ongoing coaching relationship between managers and workers. It helps them continually improve while pursuing an agreed-upon target condition. Expectations are clear for everyone, which shows respect for the employees and produces better results for the company.