A common misconception is that the kaizen event ends with the actual event. Many find it a surprise that there are post-event activities following a kaizen event that is necessary to ensure the kaizen event’s success. In fact, the two to three weeks following the event week are designated for post-event activities meant to serve that exact purpose.
One of the most important post-event activities is to immediately publicize the initial outcome of the kaizen event. In that effort, it is always best to publically and prominently post the results at the Gemba for anyone to casually read. Typically, this is the same information used in the report out. Likewise, the kaizen newspaper containing the actions yet to be completed should also be in the work area, visible to all.
Figure 1. Kaizen Newspaper
- Week 4
At the start of week 4, it’s vitally important for management to begin a regular review of all posted information and pending action items while also holding people accountable for all pending activities. Remember, skeptical employees will be closely watching to see if management is truly serious about facilitating change or not. Managers must lead by example. That said, to help in this effort, during week 4 it’s important to form a post-kaizen team. This team should consist of people who were part of the kaizen event as well as a few employees who weren’t. The central purpose of this team is to ensure challenges are promptly recognized and sufficiently addressed.
- Week 5
During week 5, execution continues, while longer-term action items are added to the kaizen newspaper with due dates and owners. Updated actions are completed, and new actions added. Remember, the kaizen newspaper is a dynamic document that should always be changing and evolving.
- Week 6
Finally, week 6 any financial gains that were a result of the kaizen event will be audited with the results posted in the work area, so everyone has visibility. Additionally, week six is the week where associates receive any new cross-training. A skills matrix can come in very handy at this phase of the kaizen event process. Finally, the lean concept known as Yokoten or horizontal sharing should be practiced in the final post-event week. It should be expected that at least one other area of the business replicates some of the key ideas or best practices discovered or implemented during the kaizen event.
Ultimately, it’s most important to recognize that the single most important objective of the three post-kaizen-event weeks is to ensure the improvement cycle is continuous, never ceasing. That is, the end of every kaizen event should actually be the seed of future improvements, elsewhere in the business. A successful kaizen event can then can also be measured by the number of improvements it inspires.