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An Overlooked Benefit of Kaizen Events

Everybody sees kaizen events as an opportunity to make an improvement. Most people also see them as an opportunity to train teams. But few regard them as a way to identify the future leaders of the company.

Employees working in frontline production roles have limited chances to demonstrate their skills. Of course, there are some who will shine through and will be noticed by their leaders. But the potential of many goes unnoticed, especially when leaders don’t spend a lot of time on the shop floor.

Consider using kaizen events as a way to develop skills and identify the character traits that provide the foundation for strong leadership. Assign frontline team members as assistant team leaders, or simply give them some planning tasks that will put them outside of their comfort zones a bit. Observe how they convince others to do things when they have no real authority. Watch how they organize their efforts. See how they resolve conflict.

And when the team meets for the project, put the potential leader in charge of a sub-team. Watch how they overcome barriers. See how others respond to the observee’s instructions.

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Kaizens provide a wonderful chance for leaders to strengthen the future of the company. If you are a leader, here are a few tips to get the most out of this opportunity:

  • Have a list of people to evaluate. Prioritize this method of evaluation during kaizen events when you have a gap in information about a person’s potential.
  • Decide in advance if you are telling the person about the evaluation. If you do, you will be able to put your coaching in context. If not, you will be able to watch without the Hawthorne Effect seeping in.
  • Develop a plan about what you want to evaluate. The kaizen should focus on the things you can’t watch in other situations.
  • If you are not in the kaizen event yourself, work with the team leader to make sure someone is watching how the person responds to challenges. Try to be in the same event with the people you think have the highest potential.
  • Create a leadership funnel. Know where each team member is in his or her development, and whether they are likely to rise up. It will let you focus skill building where the talents are most likely to be used.


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Share Your Thoughts    |3 comments|


  • Bernadette says:

    Jeff i am working at ford motor company of south africa.i still need to learn more about kaizen,thanks alot for making my job more easyer

    • Jeff Hajek says:


      No problem. I love writing and talking about continuous improvement, and it is even better when I hear that I’ve been helping people.

      Good luck with you learning. Please let me know if you come across any topics you want covered in more details.


  • Jeff,

    This is an excellent point! I have seen this with Kaizen events and when launching 5S or TPM. You’ll often be surprised by who shines and disappointed with some who you think should do better. I can recall one operator who was placed in a Team Leader role for a 5S then Autonomous Maintenance (TPM) team. I was personally against putting him in that role and had to be talked into it because he was a bad apple. With some coaching he became pretty good in that role.

    As a more recent example, I started a 5S launch with a new client just this last Saturday. I’ve written an article on this which is scheduled to be posted to my blog tomorrow morning. The post is about the hidden benefits which include your point.

    Thanks for sharing.


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