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9 Tips to Running a More Effective Kaizen (+Video +PDF)

If you are in a Lean company, you probably already have a fairly well defined kaizen process. After all, an effective kaizen is one of the most powerful continuous improvement tools in your Lean kit.

Like all things, though, your kaizen process probably has room for improvement. I’ve compiled a list of 9 tips to make your kaizen process more effective.

After you have finished reading it, I’d love to hear any other ideas you have to get more out of your events. Just leave a comment and share your wisdom with the rest of my readers.

9 Tips to Make Your Kaizen Process More Effective

  1. Get people back into the meeting room on time. The number one cause of waste in a kaizen is that the team rarely arrives on time. Use an incentive to get people back when they are supposed to. For example, I’ve used a ‘time bank’ that ticks down when people are late. Whatever is left over is how early the team can leave at the end of the day. I’ve also passed out lunch coupons right at the start of the meeting-anyone who was late didn’t get one.
  2. Put a printer in the kaizen room. You’ll save a lot of time by not needing to run out of the room to get printouts. (Thanks to Karen Martin for this tip.)
  3. Use life-sized simulations. In my last newsletter, I talked about modeling your ideas. You should also consider using full-sized simulations. What looks good on paper doesn’t always work in real life. Find a big open area-an auditorium, empty work area, or even a parking lot, and tape off the layout of your new floor plan. Push material carts through and stand like you are working to see if there really is enough space.
  4. Act with facts. Make sure you have solid information before making changes. Facts and data will substantially improve your kaizen process, not only now but in the future. In new Lean implementations, or ones with considerable resistance, every mistake acts as an indictment of Lean. Minimize the ammunition for the naysayers.
  5. Don’t force a tool where it doesn’t fit. Not every tool works in every area, and some processes just aren’t ready for the advanced tools. Chaku-chaku lines, for example, are great, but won’t work without jidoka and Standard Work already firmly in place.

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  1. Right-size and JIT your training. There are many ways to train. Seminars and long-duration training are great tools when people are thirsty for knowledge about Lean, but for most people, they just need the information to help them with the task at hand. Package your training to provide that training right when it is needed.
  2. Refuel your team. The kaizen process can be draining because it is usually time consuming and it uses different parts of the brain than the daily work does. I’ve noticed over the years that people seem to stay sharper when they eat healthier, so provide nutritious options in addition to the standard box of donuts. And, of course…kaizens run on caffeine!
  3. Have tools and supplies available. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how often people show up for kaizen events with nothing to write with. Have paper and pens available. Teams also waste a lot of time tracking down Velcro, scissors, laminating material, clay, label makers, and the like. Have a kit set up for your kaizen teams to use, and have them refill it after each event (with kanban cards, of course!).
  4. Require responses to invitations. Don’t settle for just a ‘Yeah, I’m coming’. And certainly don’t just assume a team member received your charter via email. Have them fill out specific information to show they have read the instructions. Make them fill out the time and location of the event, any safety equipment they may need, what they should wear (office workers often aren’t dressed appropriately for production areas), and what the purpose of the event is. Basically, have each team member give you a quick briefback.

Try these tips in your next kaizen event and see if you can squeeze a little improvement out of your kaizen process. And please, leave a comment and let me know your suggestions on how to make kaizen events more effective.


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  • Organisations that are continually productive and profitable incessantly strive for quality and excellence. Acknowledging that your customers are not prepared to accept an attitude of “that’s good enough,” how does your organisation’s quality standards rate as against its competitors..

  • […] 9 Tips to Make Your Kaizen Process More Effective dal blog Gotta Go Lean di Jeff Hajek: Tutto quello di cui avete bisogno per avere un evento kaizen di successo (traduzione automatica) […]

  • Brian Buck says:

    Jeff – Great tips. I really like your point about refueling the team. Usually by Wednesday morning, you can tell the team can be pretty tired! I need to be better about planning on this and be proactively prepared to refuel them!

    • Jeff Hajek says:

      I always tell teams that they are going to get tired, and they never believe me. They are all used to working hard and working long hours, so a kaizen week doesn’t seem like much of a stretch.
      It works different brain muscles, though, so it wears them out.
      Thanks for the comment.

  • Mark Welch says:

    Great practical stuff, Jeff. I really like your time bank idea. I’m going to use that one.

    There is just one thing I’d do differently… I’d try to wean them off the doughnuts in a politically correct way. Where I work we found that many of them weren’t being eaten – a big waste. And, they didn’t really fit with our wellness program, so we dropped the doughnuts and included healthier alternatives. All that starch makes the team sleepy and lazy. I don’t know if you’ve read Steve Hoeft’s new book, “Stories From My Sensei,” but he tells of one of his senseis telling him, “In kaizen events Americans always get glue in seat and eat the doughnut. Always eat the doughnut. Need bias for action!” I don’t know if you’ve met Steve. I met him last summer at the U. of Michigan Lean Healthcare Certification course. He instructed about 2 of the days. His stories weaved throughout the Toyota House Model are as entertaining as they are educational.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Jeff Hajek says:

      It is interesting. In all weeks I worked with Japanese consultants over the years, I don’t think I ever saw one eat a donut.
      No-I haven’t met Steve. I’ll have to look into his book and get it loaded up on my Lean store.
      Thanks for the comment.

  • Wilson says:

    In any event I participate or conduct the first thing it is broke the ice. After a brief presentation of the participants I used to ask how many year have they been working in the company. After that I sum all the year and it is impressive in a group of 8 people they arrive at almos 100 years. So my question, with all this years of experience you don not think that it is possible make any change?
    And as always do not forget have some fun. To do this have some short funny cartoon to start and after every break without loose the real focus and truck.

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