What is the Role of a Kaizen Promotion Officer?

Raghavendra asked, “What is the role of a kaizen promotion officer?”
I have never been in a kaizen promotion office (KPO) but have worked with and round them for many years. At worst the KPO is a coordination, preparation, basic training and follow up function that acts as a buffer between the consultants implementing lean and the management team. At best the KPO is a team of ever-learning teachers who practice what they preach, and bravely act as the proverbial thorn in management’s side.

The KPO gets a bad name when it is more Office than Kaizen, and the Promotion is more “rah, rah” than changing people’s lives in positive ways. What is the role of a kaizen promotion officer? Simply put, to promote kaizen. Here are 10 specific actions and behaviors to keep in mind when writing the job description of a kaizen promotion officer:

1. Follow standard work that includes frequent gemba walks on their own and with site leaders to see the reality and pick up the opportunities and important issues people face. Following standard work is also the most basic way of demonstrating that the KPO personnel practice what they preach.

2. Monitor and communicate the performance of kaizen to all stakeholders in the organization.

3. Encourage kaizen activity in all of its forms.

4. Do kaizen. This may seem obvious but some kaizen promotion officers believe or have been told that it is not their job to do kaizen. There are several reasons why this is wrong. First of all, it is everybody’s job to do kaizen, meaning we should make small improvements to their own work. Second, the KPO should not do all of the kaizen activity but enable others to do it. That is what the P stands for: promotion. This is best done by first demonstrating how kaizen is done. Third, the KPO needs to act as the last line of defense when other resources are not available to take countermeasure or in response to andon alerts and line stops.

5. Solve critical problems for the organization. This is a variation on the andon response, but rather by request from the management to quickly address a critical safety, quality, delivery or cost issue having a known cause and an appropriate lean tool as countermeasure. The KPO should be seen by management as an expert problem solving resource or a group that has the capacity to facilitate such problem solving.

6. Sit on committees to bring the influence of the kaizen mindset to topics such as capital expenditure planning, human resource policies, and annual objective setting.

7. Ensure sustaining systems are in place such as suggestion systems, team leaders and group leaders with appropriate spans of control and clear roles and responsibilities, and hoshin planning.

8. Benchmark organizations doing lean and build peer-to-peer learning networks.

9. Go learn form other peer organizations through benchmarking, conferences, seminars and training sessions, and bring this learning back to the organization for further promotion.

10. Eliminate the kaizen promotion office or at least minimize the need for all of the above by developing the next generation of leaders who can do all of these things as part of their daily work. As a first step make the KPO into a smaller core group with rotating members as part of a management development program.

How many of you work in a KPO, lean promotion office or equivalent? How would you answer Raghavendra’s question? What have you found to be the most important roles and responsibilities for yourself and other KPO colleagues?

5 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    July 7, 2009 - 11:02 am

    Dear Jon,
    Thanks for the eyeopening reply.

  2. Wei Wang

    September 5, 2009 - 6:46 am

    Hi Jon
    Just read this article,have many thoughts.
    I agreed with all your opinions, but a word i think can express the essence of the KPO-“Preacher”.
    If someone one is the Preacher, he or she must follow the standard, he should go to the side of the humans.
    If he is a preacher he should follow the other nine points you show us.
    I think if he is a preacher,he should know that his own power is limited, so i think he also should focus on how to spread the Kaizen culture to all the organization.
    In Chinese, people know a sentence:
    “People don’t like change especially be changed by others”.
    So In my opinion,the best and the easiest way is you preach the Kaizen thought to the Top management,then it will have a good result.

  3. Jon Miller

    September 5, 2009 - 11:27 pm

    Hi Wei Wang
    The preacher analogy is the good one. The preacher is supposed to live an exemplary life, demonstrating the values he wants to help others follow. The preacher listens to the problems of the people within parish or community and tries to help them work through their problems, following the principles and teachings of the community’s particular belief system.
    The preacher traditionally has less power than influence. This is another commonality with the KPO person as you pointed out.
    Thanks for your comment.

  4. Bharathi Baskar.B

    November 20, 2014 - 6:04 am

    Thanks For Your valuable posting, it was very informative. Am working in Erp Software Company In India

  5. Lemmy

    November 25, 2014 - 11:16 pm

    Hi all,
    Have worked in KPO but in our set up we used to call it Lean Office Team(LOT). Mr. Jon you are write , the 10 points totally apply.
    Thanks,
    Lemmy