Kaizen Exercise: Stand in the Circle

By Jon Miller Updated on May 18th, 2017

Class dismissed. Your assignment for today is to go stand in the circle. Waste never sleeps. We have an hour. Let’s go see.

The assignment is simple: find a spot to observe the process silently. Stand and observe for 30 min. Write down 30 small problems such as wasted motion, energy, safety concerns, or abnormalities of any kind. That’s 1 thing per minute, including writing time, so the key is what the Japanese call kizuki or the ability to notice.
Just observe and write – don’t comment or discuss with others, other than within necessity of being polite. Describe what you see and why you think it is a problem. Stay in one area and look deeply. It’s easy to find 30 things if you flutter around like a butterfly to the big obvious wastes. Don’t do that but plant yourself like a tree and really see.

Afterward review findings with team members. Identify with them the type of waste or loss for each item you wrote down. Have a “5 why” dialog to learn the reason for the situation and identify countermeasures. Make sure to put them at ease, let them know that you are doing a learning exercise, and want to understand their process better.
That’s half of the exercise. You still have 30 minutes. Personally resolve at least one issue in the next 30 minutes. Prioritize safety and environmental issues first. Share findings with the area team or area leader as improvement points.

What you will need to get started:

  • Worksheet, or lined paper on which you can trace out as below
  • Pencil or pen
  • Clipboard or firm writing surface
  • Comfortable shoes to stand in for 60 minutes
  • Just over an hour of time

What did you learn from this exercise? Please write your answers below. You have from when you read this until however long you feel it is okay to let problems go unaddressed to complete this assignment. I will be disappointed if nobody does their homework.

  1. James

    March 23, 2009 - 10:56 pm

    I tried this today in the shipping area. Wow. It was hard to come up with 30 things. The first 15 things were pretty fast. Then I kept seeing the same things, or needing to ask people to understand what they were doing. The workpace there was slower than in production, maybe that is why? Or should I expect to find 30 or more things nomatter where I stand? The area supervisor gave me an improvement and said “Make yourself useful” so that was the one thing I implemented;)

  2. Venkatesh Srambikal

    March 26, 2009 - 9:21 am

    Excellent post!
    This excellent method is so profound and integral to the “go and see” philosophy. Dr.Spears has addressed this very well in his HBS paper “Learning To Lead From Toyota”
    My experience has been as follows: the first time it took me 3-4 hours to prepare a list of 50 non value adding activities (aka wastes). As I did the “circle activity” more often, my senses got better at recognizing wastes that were not that obvious at first.
    I recommend this method to everybody especially readers currently preparing for their LBC.
    Best Regards,

  3. TheFingDay

    April 24, 2009 - 2:46 pm

    Great class exercise. Teaching students by presenting a real world situation that they can actually affect.

  4. Mike Swan

    May 12, 2009 - 6:46 pm

    Worked like a charm. Thanks for the information

  5. Berry

    July 14, 2009 - 2:02 am

    Thanks alot for this useful article

  6. Safety Man

    November 27, 2009 - 10:43 am

    Great post, I apply similar principles when undertaking health and safety risk assessments.

Have something to say?

Leave your comment and let's talk!

Start your Lean & Six Sigma training today.