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First believe, then see
Kata at Vogellanden


Kata opens up fabulous conversations with colleagues about their struggles in continuous improvement. A physiotherapist told me last week that he had difficulty completing his actions for a project. It dealt with a new measuring method for his patients that should help make a better rehabilitation plan. His first obstacle was a lack of overview of all his actions. When he finished the overview, he still hadn’t completed any of his tasks. I asked him what he had learned. He told me that while working on this project, he didn’t add as much value to the patients as he would have done in direct contact with them. His belief was that the project time was only important to himself. When I asked him to explain more. he discovered himself that his belief was false. It has become easier for him to actually find the time to do the actions. This discovery changed everything. Now he knows:
– If I finish these actions, I will help a lot of patients.

In 2018 I went to the Kata conference in Amsterdam. That’s when our Kata journey started. From Tilo Schwarz I learned at least one very important lesson over there: practise, practise, practise!

We decided to follow a training to get to know the Kata methodology a little bit better and from Marlies van Putten we learned two more lessons:

  • There is no coaching without contact
  • Always add one extra question: can you tell me about the ‘Why?’ of your challenge. This will connect the challenge to the coachees’ inner motivation and it helps to achieve results.

After we practiced a lot, we were still not satisfied and we looked for some more creativity. And we found it. Karyn Ross wrote a great book about coaching for creativity and service excellence. We learned from her that it’s alright to deviate from the script. There’s no Kata police that will come and get you.

And how do we continue learning? We do several things:

  • Half of our managers has a Kata coach, the others half has not. We are investigating how well both groups are doing on our ongoing  path to improvement. We will tell you more about the results later.
  • We connected Kata to several different topics in our organisation: our Hoshin Kanri is completely in Kata style and so are our performance reviews. We strive for a healthy lifestyle for all our employees.  Everyone who needs a Kata coach to help them with lifestyle issues can get one. We use Kata questions in all our project A3’s.
  • We started with Kata coaching with our patients as well. Especially for them, we are developing a Kata app.
  • We work with buddy-coaching and ran into some discipline-issues so we added 2nd coaching to help.
  • We will have our first open registration Kata training next week and we will ask all the participants to join our Vogellanden Kata community with our own short Kata practice sessions.  We will use role playing, a bit like Tilo Schwarz-style.
  • Our main challenge is that the goals of our participants are often very personal; and it is not easy to measure the results. They are noticeable, but not always measurable.

There’s a famous expression which says “First see it, then believe it”. We would rather turn this around. We believe in Kata and in sharing our experiences, in order to be able to learn together.


/Mariëlle Zwaga

LSSBB, LEANMaster, Katacoach Vogellanden. Vogellanden is a center in The Netherlands that offers specialist rehabilitation to children and adults. Adults can go to Vogellanden for clinical and outpatient rehabilitation. A team of professionals helps with the rehabilitation process after illness, stroke, trauma or a congenital defect. We coach rehabilitators towards a life as well, and as independently, as possible. Our management is based on the Lean philosophy.