Updated: Oct 3, 2022
“The Japanese term for continuous improvement is kaizen and is the process of making incremental improvements, no matter how small, and achieving the lean goal of eliminating all waste that adds cost without adding to value.” By Jeffrey K. Liker
Kai-zen is a Japanese term that means continuous improvement as per Jeffrey’s quote above. Today’s world you cannot go into a company without hearing the words “continuous improvement.” In fact, many are starting to use another term, “Kata” alongside continuous improvement. Kata means “way of doing” which is another way of saying habit. The result is establishing in your workplace a Kata Continuous Improvement mindset.
In this blog, I’m going to share with you the secrets on how to plan and conduct a successful kaizen event at your workplace. Making it a habit to workout things through kaizen events will develop your kata. Keep in mind, only certain problems can be solved in this fashion.
Planning for a Kaizen event
1. The process needs to exist; you cannot improve something that does not exist. So, if you are trying to improve a process that all five employees in your department are doing differently, STOP. Get the team together first to produce a process everyone agrees to follow consistently. Then, after a month or so of using the process, you can think of conducting a kaizen to improve it based on the team’s feedback.
2. Leave the “I know the answer” at the door. You want to be open-minded or think creatively when solutioning so narrowing it down to only the one thing you know and not listening to your team is going to limit your success.
3. Always challenge the status quo. Continuous improvement means that you never reach the perfect process that won’t need to be changed. As you use the process, you learn from it and this is how you continuously think of ways of making the process easier, faster, or better.
4. Don’t do kaizens in siloes. If the process you are trying to improve includes people from other departments, include them in the solution-brainstorming. You don’t want to think you fixed something in your department just to have it thrown over the fence to the next department that will take care of it. Go to see what is happening, never assume you know the process. Decide whether the kaizen you want to do is a quick hit or whether you need more time, so you turn it into an event. We will be going through both types of kaizens later in this module so keep that in mind. Make sure you are setting yourself up for the right kaizen type.
5. Always have the SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) in the room. You cannot make a decision to change a process when you’re not the one actually using it. Get the right experts in the room so you can come up with the best solution.
6. The scope needs to be narrow and usually focuses on one process, cross-functional issues, or both. The focus is to reduce waste and remove defects or breakdowns in the process. The people in the event need to be those who deal with the process and are the decision makers, so that if a solution is to be implemented, the right manager will give the go ahead in the room. There is no action list of going to ask for permission outside the walls of the event. All decisions should be made during the event.
7. Set up your logistical needs as a checklist. Use a checklist to cover all the logistical points of the event. Where you will be conducting the event, what you will need, locations you plan to go-see the process, etc. This will help you prepare for a successful event. If interested in a checklist, contact us at www.azconsulting-sp.com and we can supply you with a sample.
Conducting a Kaizen event
1. Experienced facilitator: For a successful event, you need the person leading it to have expertise in Lean Six Sigma methodology as well as facilitation. It’s important because you need someone that can guide the team when solutioning the gaps and defects they find during the event. There are endless problems that arise in an event so having an expert guide the team in problem-solving methods depending on the type of problem found is essential for solving the problem.
2. Have an Agenda: to keep the event focused, the facilitator needs to have a breakdown of the day or days ahead. It gives everyone a heads-up on all the work to complete in order to solve the problem at hand. If interested in a sample agenda, contact us at www.azconsulting-sp.com and we can supply you with an example.
3. Focus Focus Focus: the team members need to refrain from bringing into the event their computers and mobile phones. They need to be able to disconnect from day-to-day operations in order to focus on the event. Since they were chosen to be there because of their expertise, they need to give the facilitator their undivided attention.
4. Decision-making: a successful kaizen is one where all the decisions are made during the event. You don’t want to place any “to be approved” tasks on a flipchart because it defeats the purpose. With the right people in the room focused on fixing the issue at hand, you want to get their expertise to figure out the solutions and try them out while in the workshop. This way at the end of the event there isn’t a long action list of things that were not tested out. You want everyone to put the new improved process in place the next day when they all get back to work.
5. Communicate Communicate Communicate: you have established a new way of working and don’t want to keep it quiet. You need to tell everyone what was decided, and the improvements made. In fact, sharing the benefits of the new process promotes the hard work done by the team.
With COVID, you may need to conduct the Event virtually. If that is the case, you will need to ensure the process can be seen through the computer. Needless to say, it is difficult to conduct a kaizen virtually but it’s not impossible. It adds complexity where the team mustn’t multitask but participate exclusively in the live Event online. It is also wise not to conduct the Event in full days but in two-to-four-hour slots in order to keep everyone focused.
Do you have a problem at work that can be solved using a kaizen event and need a facilitator to guide you through the workshop? Contact us at www.azconsulting-sp.com and we can help you grow into a kata continuous improvement mindset, one step at a time.
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