Facilitating a successful kaizen event requires a sound plan and reasonable expectations. That way we can keep our team on task and be ready to recognize and address challenges as they arise. To assist in these efforts, following is a recommended schedule for ensuring kaizen event week success.
It’s important to realize that some or most of your team may react negatively or suspiciously in response to the kaizen event. Don’t expect everyone to be thrilled about the kaizen, especially if kaizen is new to your organization or has unsuccessfully tried kaizen in the past. Remember that you must lead by example. In doing so, with time and empathy you should see attitudes begin to change for the better. Whatever happens don’t get discouraged or lose heart.
One powerful tactic to mitigating negativity is to communicate early and often. A good way to proactively manage negatively, is to have an ice breaker or a short meet-and-greet designed simply to begin easing the tension. Help team members to connect the dots between improvement, their job, and their team participation. Understand that many people are defensive about their jobs because jobs represent their livelihood. Continuously remind the team, that the goal of kaizen (and lean) is not to cast blame on people, but to help people improve.
Part of the work prior to the actual kaizen event is training your team members. This is very important because developing people should be one of top priorities for the kaizen event. It pays even for seasoned teams to review the basics. Always ensure the team is given or has recently been given adequate training covering the basics of the 7 wastes, 5S, and kaizen.
Day 2 and 3
Go the Gemba
Once the team has received necessary training, it’s now time to go to the gemba or the actual place where work is done. About this time, is when team members should become deeply involved in the kaizen event. Additionally, as they see changes happen, their motivation should increase.
Although, some team members will be natural kaizen experts, often, others need occasional encouragement and guidance. For example, team members may require assistance when conducting time and motion studies or working through the 5S process. Regardless, it is vital for the team leader to coordinate kaizen activities with the kaizen coach.
An important facilitation task the team leader must do is documenting the kaizen team’s objectives and goals for each day of the event. The kaizen team should review this list at the start of the day, before lunch, and at the end of the day. Doing this consistently throughout the event not only helps to keep the team on track but makes the final kaizen event report out far easier.
There’s some debate as to how involved senior leaders should be at a kaizen event. That said, it is very impactful for team members to witness senior leaders participate in the kaizen event in a hands-on way. Senior leader participation is an invaluable way to develop a great deal of trust and rapport with employees both on and off the kaizen team.
Things to Keep in Mind
- You and your team may need to work extended hours during a kaizen event week to ensure that the event is a success. Thus, it’s vital that this expectation is planned for, and clearly communicated to everyone leading up to the event, and at the start of the event.
- The kaizen team leader should display a strong sense of urgency throughout the week, and especially during the first three days of the kaizen event. Failing to make sufficient progress in the first 3 days will almost certainly sabotage the team’s success. If you find yourself near the end of the kaizen event week and you haven’t met most of the objectives, it’s going to be a significant if not insurmountable challenge to make up lost ground and achieve the goals of the kaizen event.
- The final two days of the event should primarily focus on testing and tweaking new processes. This is also a good time to update work instructions and documents.
The report out is a critical process in the kaizen event, where the kaizen team reports their progress to the rest of the organization and receives recognition for all their hard work.
It’s strongly advised that kaizen team members conduct the majority of the report outs. That is, while, the kaizen team leader and kaizen coach should oversea the process, they should minimize their involvement in this process. That is, the team cannot be told what their results are. It is best for them to recognize and articulate the results themselves rather than leaning on leadership to do it for them.
While not required, a highly effective approach to conducting the report out is doing so at the gemba. Also, although you can create a digital presentation, it’s often just as or more effective to allow the kaizen team to simply outline their accomplishments on a flip chart
Figure 1. Kaizen event final report
In most cases there will still be action items yet to be completed. It’s also vital that these action items are also included in the report out in the form of a kaizen newspaper which should also document the task owner and expected completion date, and be visibly posted at the gemba.
Figure 2. Kaizen Newspaper
Typically, report outs last about half an hour, including time specifically set aside for questions and answers. Once complete, most organizations wrap-up the kaizen event with food, drinks, and a small celebration of the team’s accomplishments.
While that concludes the kaizen week in a nutshell, remember that each kaizen event will have its own characteristics. This is also exactly why it is always best to involve an experienced kaizen coach who can help recognize and overcome any obstacles that may be encountered, but easily overlooked or mismanaged by amateurs.