101 Kaizen Templates

101 Kaizen Templates: Stand in the Circle

By Jon Miller Updated on October 31st, 2020

The 60-minute kaizen exercise we call “stand in the circle” originates in the teaching method Taiichi Ohno used. This involved a piece of chalk, a circle drawn on the concrete floor, and a manager left to stand in it for hours. Ohno would return to check on what the manager had learned through observation. Woe to the manager who answered “No problems here, sir!” That manager was sure to spend some more hours in that circle.

Thirty Minutes, Thirty Small Problems

In our method we ask the student to stand in one spot on the gemba and find 30 small things that bother them in 30 minutes about the area they are observing. Then they must eliminate at least one of these wastes, nonconformities or unsafe conditions within the next 30 minutes. It is a one-hour kaizen activity.

The Stand in the Circle Template

The stand in the circle template is useful in keeping track of where you are in your target of finding 30 things. It is also useful in reminding you of what the seven types of waste are. The important thing is that there is intense concentration on finding problems (seeds of improvement). The 30 minute and 30 items is an arbitrary selection which rounds out nicely to 1 hour when combined with the “one thing I will fix” and seems to work well, but feel free to experiment.

Small is Beautiful

The best ideas are the small obvious things that you can address right away. These are many, and the quicker these small problems are recognized and removed, the fewer complex and opaque problems there will be.

We have used the stand in the circle activity where the focus in on finding 30 improvements in one area such as safety, quality, environmental or energy wastes. This can be much harder when standing in one spot! Nonetheless the habit of standing in the circle and using this template is well worthwhile, both for developing problem awareness in people and for the practical kaizen result you will gain.

  1. Alex

    January 10, 2008 - 11:14 am

    I just did this exercise this morning and it really opened my eyes to many improvements. Great post!

  2. Chris Nicholls

    January 11, 2008 - 3:05 am

    Dear Jon
    Thanks for a great post I hope all the subsequent Kaizen Templates are as good and useful as this one. I have been standing in the Ohno circle myself for many years to good effect. Your blog motivated me inspire others to do the same and provided us with a very simple practical way to make this approach systematic and a useful source of potential areas for improvement. One of my Production Managers will create an “Ohno mat” to stand on instead of drawing a circle on the floor. The mat will be located in different positions in the Gemba it will be emblazoned with reminders of the 7 Muda’s, Production waste, Environmental and Health & Safety principles. All our line managers will be asked to stand on the Ohno mat for an hour and list up issues solve what they can there and then and seek help from others for problems they can’t solve themselves. We are sure that by encouraging all our line managers to stand on the Ohno mat will not only highlight areas for improvement but also develop their observation skills and recognition of problems.
    Thank you for the inspiration
    Best Regards

  3. Jon Miller

    January 11, 2008 - 10:54 am

    I love the “Ohno mat”! What a great addition to the kaizen toolbox to make stand in the circle more practical. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Rob

    January 21, 2008 - 10:10 am

    A wonderful example of taking a recognised tool and then adapting and improving it. You must be proud that your managers are thinking and creating at this level.

  5. Peter Wenninger

    February 18, 2009 - 7:45 pm

    I’ve been looking for a good way to re-introduce the 7 Wastes. I think the Ohno mat gives me a good tool! I’m going to introduce this in a factory tomorrow.

  6. Seci

    April 9, 2009 - 10:40 am

    I am looking for a way to engage our workforce and create a problem solving culture by the line employees. In all the discussions of this tool it is for lean leaders and production supervisors/managers. Do you feel this is an effective tool for the employees on the line?

  7. Jon Miller

    June 15, 2009 - 2:12 pm

    Hi Saci,
    Apologies for the late reply. Yes, I do think that stand in the circle is a good way to engage the line employees. It has to start with the leadership demonstrating the willingness to go to the workplace, observe the problems and listen to people’s ideas on how to solve them.
    Once the leaders are able to find the wastes themselves and correctly identify them they can begin teaching the employees what to look for. Having this common language or baseline agreement on waste will go a long way towards a problem solving culture. The point is that you have a high degree of agreement on what constitutes a problem.
    One the leaders have the habit of this type of regular “go see” activity it is good to expand it and include line workers periodically in stepping outside of the job and observing. Although for the most part, the line worker who does the job every day doesn’t need 30 minutes to tell you 30 things that need fixing…

  8. ahmed kordi

    December 12, 2011 - 6:38 am


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