One of the guidelines to operating an effective suggestion system is to limit the scope of each person’s kaizen ideas to the work they themselves do. Sometimes kaizen ideas are generated and developed as teams but the same rule applies. The theory is that the person doing the job knows what the issues are and will be most motivated to solve problems that inconvenience them. But what should we do when we see problems with work in other people’s work or work areas? Walk on by as if we don’t see them?
One of the features of a lean workplace is regular job rotation. The frequency of job rotation depends on how repetitive the task is and also on the need for cross training. In a repetitive manufacturing environment people would rotate jobs every 2 hours or roughly every time there is a scheduled break. For non-repetitive tasks, processes that do not place a heavy strain on people or work with longer cycles to complete, the frequency of rotation may be increased. By rotating people through different jobs their skills are enriched, the workforce becomes more flexible and responsive to changes in customer demand. When both job rotation and a suggestion system exist within the same workplace people have the opportunity to contribute their kaizen ideas to a wider range of work areas and processes.
Another way to involve people in giving improvement ideas to areas other than their immediate work area or job scope is to use kaizen newspapers. This kaizen newspaper template should not be used to trap the problem solving information within a spreadsheet electronically. Instead please print or sketch out the kaizen newspapers on a large piece of paper and post them at the gemba. The kaizen newspaper is a visual management tool to engage people, communicate the state of problem solving activity in an area at a glance, and track the status of these actions visually.
The only responsibility of a non-manager or non-team leader is to identify the problem and write it down on the kaizen newspaper, number it, identify the type of problem (safety, category of waste, etc.) and take a stab at a cause or root cause. The kaizen newspaper frees people from bringing the solution along with the problem and in that sense it is very different from the kaizen idea suggestion system. While the person finding the problem may have a solution in mind, we do not expect them to since they may be identifying problems related to someone else’s work. It is up to the area leader or supervisor to review the problem with the team and conduct root cause analysis to take action.The kaizen newspaper is a daily management tool and should be read and acted upon each day.
The kaizen newspaper is also used during a kaizen event or other organized improvement activities with cross-functional teams. It can function as a parking lot for problems identified during such events, or even as a task list of things for team members to do during the week. It can also perform the function of an action item list for days after the completion of the formal kaizen event.