Kaizen events are team efforts requiring participants to perform certain roles. Thus, a key part of kaizen event planning is assigning roles for the kaizen event. In this article we introduce a few common key kaizen event roles and requirements necessary to ensure a successful kaizen event.

Kaizen Event Key Team Roles

  • The Waste of Defect:
    • Facilitates the kaizen event
    • Manages all kaizen team activities.
    • Ensures kaizen team remains focused on the objective.
    • Prepares the kaizen team for necessary reporting.
  • Process Owner
    • Responsible for the area where the kaizen event takes place.
    • Typically, management level or equivalent (e.g. production manager).
    • An integral part of the kaizen event.
  • Senior Manager (or equivalent)
    • Has complete authority to make final decisions about the given area being evaluated. Thus, this person may be a Chief Executive, a General Manager, Senior Vice President, or any other organizational role with the necessary scope of authority.
    • Must be deeply involved in the planning phase of the event.
    • Must be involved in execution and follow up phases of the event.
  • Kaizen Coach
    • The role of Kaizen Coach is often conflated and confused with the role of team Leader but is a distinct role that services a distinct function.
    • Teaches and coaches continuous improvement techniques during the event.
    • Challenges the kaizen team by relentless asking “why” and “what if” questions.
    • Assists the kaizen team in overcome hurdles and roadblocks by closely working with the Team leader, process owner, and senior managers.
    • Serves the Team Leader as a support system before, after and during the kaizen event.
    • May be an internal or external experienced kaizen expert.
  • Team Members
    • This includes both direct and indirect labor and are the most important part of the kaizen event. It is vital to choose the right team members who can work together and play a significant role throughout the event.

Kaizen Event Key Team Roles
Depending on how your organization is setup and the size of your company, you may decide to add in additional kaizen event roles.

  • Co-Team Leader
    • Works closely with and assists the Kaizen Team Leader.
    • Often, this role is also a development path to becoming a future team leader in the company.
  • Team Sponsor
    • Usually an executive level resource who can provide guidance and support throughout the kaizen event.
    • Is the point person for lobbying other organizational leaders for various resources.
  • External Team Members
    • Some companies also include people from other organizations to participate on their kaizen team.
    • May come from other business units, locations, customers, suppliers, community organizations, other stake holder groups, or even from companies in completely different industries and markets.
    • Including external team members on your team are a great way to gain unique insights from other people unconfined by organizational cultural bias. Sometimes, you need a different set of eyes to get meaningful views that you would never see since you’re so accustomed to the process.
  • Data Administrator
    • Increasingly, some companies assign a person to be responsible for ensuring proper documentation of everything that happens in the kaizen event.
    • Other variations of this role are Scribe and Recorder.
    • The goal is to be able to capture baseline elements as well as any post-improvement measures.
    • Although everyone is expected to document their own activities throughout the kaizen event, the Data Administrator’s key function is to ensure that the organization’s repository expands as a result of the event.

Keep in mind, that while some roles are often preferred to be kept separate, depending on the scale and scope of the kaizen event, may make perfect sense to combine some roles.

Ultimately, you should never feel constrained when planning a kaizen event as there are various ways to plan and execute them. Many factors such as your industry, markets served, and company size can impact the particular form any given kaizen event takes. Just remember that the goal of kaizen events is to facilitate improvement of your current state. Don’t feel boxed in by trying to accommodate unnecessary roles, prerequisites or other “rules”. Give yourself and your organization permission to experiment and adjust these approaches to your situation.