Using the Coaching Kata in Sales?


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We over complicate most things, and when I think about Sales and Marketing, they certainly have their share of complications. I was reminded of how tough we seem to make things while reviewing Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata Website. It really can be rather simple.

Kata seems to be the hot topic in Lean right now, and I will have my share of Kata information this spring on the Business901 website. The reason is that the Kata and as Rother describes resembles nowaday sales cycles pretty well. When you think of Rother’s Four Key tools for the improvement and the Coaching Kata they resemble the tools I use in practicing sales and marketing. The four key tools are

  1. Learner’s Storyboard Format
  2. 5-Question Card (for the coach)
  3. Obstacle Parking Lot (for the Learner)
  4. PDCA Cycles Record (for the Learner)

They are part of the download at the above site and contained within the Improvement Kata Handbook on that site. The two simplest tools are the Storyboard and the Obstacle Parking lot, and I think you will see how they could be used with little effort. The PDCA Cycles Record also needs little explanation as it is just a log of what you learn from the five questions. The five questions are where the gold is to be found.

The Coach is instructed to ask:

  1. What is the Target Condition?
  2. What is the Actual Condition?

The Learner reflects and replies:

  1. What did you plan as your last step?
  2. What did you expect?
  3. What actually happened?
  4. What did you learn?

The Coach replies with the remaining three questions:

  1. What obstacles are preventing you from reaching the target condition?
  2. What is your next step?
  3. How quickly can we go and see what we have learned from taking that step?

This is repeated and documented in the PDCA Cycle Record or as we might call it in our sales call report. How much better would our sales be if we treated each sales call as an experiment? If we simply completed the steps above and documented in our learning cycle based on our prediction before the sales call, evidence of actually what took place and evaluated what we learned.

The difference in treating sales this way is that we are not looking for a derived outcome, we are really looking for a learning experience. Would this be a better way to create sales opportunity? Would this be an easier way to work with your salespeople?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


  1. Joe,
    My boss and I were just talking about this very same item, that there are a lot of possibilities in this process.

  2. Joe, I view the process as immensely strong for growth of the individuals and to strengthen the process. I wonder though at motivation. Typically a sales manager also performs as a salesman and therefore may have his remuneration tied to his sales performance. How does such a person stay clued in to spend the time enhancing the sales staff at potentially losing his sales performance? It may not be always possible to have the appropriate formula to keep both properly incentivized?

  3. Pat,

    I agree with you. It is always tough to wear 2 hats but if that is the hand you are dealt, you get to play it. I think if you accept the dual role than you should understand the commitment you are making.

    As a Sales manager, you have to provide proper coaching and improvement methods for others without competing with them. You get a great opportunity to practice what you preach and acquire first-hand knowledge. The difficulty as I see it is that you are without a coach which to me is the worst thing about situation. This means that you star performer, more than likely the reason you got promoted, is left with limited feedback.

    So, though there are challenges in this situation, I do not think it is the norm. I have typically seen sales people and sales managers as distinct roles. This is where I think the greatest value lies.


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