toyota and employee empowerment

Keynote: Kata Talk: The Chutes and Ladders of Continuous Improvement

Building KQ – your ability to improve through deliberate practice

Meryl Runion and Mike Rother join forces for a dynamic keynote or breakout you will remember and talk about.

Mike Rother Toyota Kata

You’ve known about IQ – Intelligence Quotients – from grade school. You learned about EQ – Emotional Intelligence – in the 90s.

But how about KQ – Kata Quotients?

Do you even know you have one, let alone how high it is? Welcome to the next level of continuous improvement.

Presented by communication author and researcher Meryl Runion and Toyota Kata researcher and author Mike Rother, this session was the hit of the Lean conference NEShingoPrize.

Why? Because in its lighthearted and entertaining way, it walks you through

  • the kinds of conversations and phrases that can inspire brilliant insights
  • the kinds that can suppress them

And you thought emotional intelligence in business was cutting edge!

Yes, emotional intelligence in effective communication makes significant difference. But that’s not the real secret of Toyota and employee empowerment.

Your KQ – Kata Quotient – takes your improvement efforts to the next level

This keynote or breakout session combines Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata and Meryl Runion’s SpeakStrong Method to give deep understanding of the unseen mechanism behind Toyota’s improvement successes – of Toyota and employee empowerment. Learn how to empower others: what to say and what not to say to develop your own and other’s ability to learn through practice.

Plus, you’ll get insight into your personal KQ when you navigate the Chutes and Ladders of Continuous Improvement. This session both tests and enhances your ability to navigate the chutes and ladders of continuous improvement. 

You’ll learn how to stay in the “kata corridor” to reach new levels of excellence. 

You’ll have choices at every step of this journey

Will your response lead you to climb the Ladder of Learning toward your next target condition? Or will you slide down the Chute of Conjecture toward terminal mediocrity? Will the pull be with you, moving you up the path? Or will force foil you and send you sliding? How does high KQ turn even the worst slide into a learning opportunity to guide the next step?

Get the on-the-ground guidance you want and need to practice continuous improvement Toyota Kata and SpeakStrong style.

Key takeaways from this session include:

  • What the adaptive thinking underlying Toyota Kata is
  • How to know if you’re inside or outside the kata corridor
  • How to develop inquiry skills
  • What phrases move the Toyota Kata discovery process forward and what phrases inhibit it


By the way, Dwight Bowen of GBMP said it was probably the best session he had ever attended.

Could your next event use an infusion of deep learning that’s fun? Contact Meryl about KataTalk. 

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Training: The SpeakStrong Method for Continuous Improvement with Lean

Phrases, formulas and kata for continuous improvement

continuous improvement

Are your effective communication skills as strong as your challenges are difficult? 

Do they continuously improve along with your processes? 

Communication is culture. As your improvement journey evolves, are your best practice communication skills keeping up?

Leadership and management communication are challenging enough in the simplest circumstances. The challenge increases multi-fold in the dynamic environment of a continuous improvement culture where leaders, managers, operators, educators, deep researchers and others strive to make improvements happen every day.

You can’t coerce continuous improvement. Your words need to inspire pull and prime the pump of collaborative excellence. It takes new language to communicate new ideas. Precise wording can inspire people to accept challenges and create new ideas and guide them through their challenges without triggering defensiveness and resistance. The SpeakStrong Method can support your lean journey.

The SpeakStrong Method is lean-aligned and kata-based

The SpeakStrong Method is founded on kaizen principles very similiar to the principles that underlie Lean, or Toyota Production System. The lean and quality industry were among my best clients before I recognized the alignment of my methods and their communication challenges. Fortunately, they figured it out before I did, and eventually I became a student of lean thinking, Toyota and employee empowerment, and a researcher of Lean communication. 

The Lean community is going through a process of evolution to the incorporation of kata – or practices. Researcher Mike Rother was the first to detail the mechanics of the kata behind Toyota and employee empowerment.

The SpeakStrong Method also recommends kata to promote continuous communication improvement.

It systematically develops communication skill at every level by providing phrases, formulas and practical kata to develop your ability to practice lean. Communication standards provide concrete, shared targets to guide each step of communication PDCA cycles. A series of formulas, phrases and practices helps you eliminate communication waste, overload and inconsistency as your communication develops flow, effectiveness and efficiency.

The SpeakStrong Method provides a communication foundation for your lean and continuous improvement efforts

This program begins by describing and applying The SpeakStrong Method. We’ll practice a shared vision exercise to inspire a shared vision of what communication perfection is in a lean/continuous improvement culture. We’ll contrast that to our current communication reality, and create action steps toward target communication states. 

Then we’ll look at the specific communication challenges of continuous improvement cultures, as well as how to talk effectively about lean and continuous improvement.

Some specific take-aways will be: 

  • The vital role of humility, what it looks like and how to turn “teacher syndrome” and other forms of rankism into reciprocal learning relationships
  • The fine distinctions in word choice that make the difference between tired old ideas and expressions of a dynamic new reality
  • How to apply a PDCA cycle to your communication development
  • How to identify power-based language that blocks the open sharing of ideas – in yourself and others – and to replace it with collaborative, peer-based language that creates flow
  • Why getting simple is difficult and what to do about it
  • Phrases to talk about and practice lean and continuous improvement at every stage of the lean journey including how to…
    • share the depth and significance of your own lean journey
    • get people to stay open long enough to identify the root cause before prematurely jumping to solutions
    • defuse defensiveness
    • inspire creativity that is grounded in reality and aligned with mission
    • create standards of communication and affirm commitment to them
    • elevate “either/or,” false choice objections into new options

Discover ways to add impact, clarity and effectiveness to your message to bring lean principles to life. 

The SpeakStrong Method for Continuous Improvement with Lean will give you all the tools to stay on the high side of every conversation and to keep your communication developing as dynamically as your processes are.

Contact Meryl  to bring your lean practices to life with continuous improvement communication.

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