College Dean Concludes: Kaizen Best Learned by Doing

E. Alan Hartman, Dean of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh College of Business, has been rolling up his sleeves and doing gemba kaizen. He first wrote about his experience with kaizen at the Ariens Co. in the Appleton Post-Crescent in February. Yesterday he concluded “Kaizen best learned through participation” in the same newspaper.
It never occurred to me that kaizen could be learned any other way than hands-on. Learning gemba kaizen, or how to see waste, identify the root cause and find a way to fix it, is like riding a bicycle. Nearly impossible to learn from a book but impossible to forget once you learn how it’s done.
The first step is to become aware of the 7 types of waste that are all around you in every process. Mr. Hartman writes that an experienced Lean leader at Ariens observed half a dozen things that he missed. Spend a day on the facotry floor observing and documenting the 7 wastes and you will never forget what they are.
One of the challenges, Mr. Hartman points out, was how kaizen could be done for processes at the college that were done only once or twice a year.
Another thing about kaizen is that it is easier when you try it first and then think about it afterwards.
Mr. Hartman concludes “Our college staff will be doing a Kaizen event. I will let you know how that goes.” We’ll be waiting eagerly to see how the University of Wisconsin College of Business applies Lean principles to its processes.