Kaizen Event Fait Accompli

The title may throw you for a moment, with French, English, and Japanese all in one. The phrase ‘fait accompli’ is French for “an accomplished and presumably irreversible deed or fact”. I realized during a recent kaizen event that fait accompli is a good phrase to explain a key reason that kaizen events are still one of the most effective ways to implement rapid change.
A kaizen event is typically held over 3 to 5 days depending on the scope of the project. A cross-functional team of between 5 and 10 people focus on observing, analyzing, redesigning, and testing a new work flow. It is very hands-on. By the end of a successful kaizen event you should have a new, improved process functioning.
While the improvement need not be 100% implemented or working perfectly smoothly without any hitches or hiccups, it should be “ready for Monday morning” so to speak (assuming the kaizen event ends on Friday).
One of the biggest questions we hear about kaizen and Lean implementation is “how do we sustain the improvements?” The key is to make the improved process a ‘fait accompli’. That means it is stable enough by the end of the kaizen event for the managers, supervisors, and workers to feel comfortable working in the new method. There is no time for debate and complicated analysis, since the proof is there for all to see.
The kaizen event fait accompli also helps make the concern of getting ‘buy-in’ for proposed changes a non-issue. First it must be said that kaizen events must have a certain level of permission to make changes within the scope of their project, or have the decision maker be on-site each day to give the nod. If the new process is in place and functioning by the end of the week, there is no time for the changes to be debated in a committee or for management attention to wander to the next crisis, leaving the team to wait for an answer. It’s a fait accompli.
The art of running effective kaizen events is 80% in the preparation, scoping, team selection, and communication. Just as you ’till the soil’ to make it ready for planting the seeds (new ideas and change) you have to make sure the environment is right for rapid change (kaizen) to succeed. The kaizen event itself, where facilitation skills and knowledge of TPS come in are the remaining 20%.
Most organizations focus on building up the skills in the 20% area, and this is fine as long as the low-hanging fruit is hitting you on the head. Apply Lean principles throughout your organization, particularly in non-production processes where the flow of work is less visible and the improvements are less intuitive requires a higher degree of pre-work. Sustained long-term improvement comes in a series of short bursts of improvement – kaizen events, fait accompli.