Some people disparage the 5-day kaizen event as a driver for continuous improvement. When the kaizen even it the only way of putting creative ideas and lean systems into practice this can be a sign of fake lean. Roadmaps, tools and methods should be studied, benchmarked and thoroughly tried to fit the situation of each organization. The kaizen event remains popular because it is effective not only in delivering rapid business results but in fostering positive changes among people. Here are 8 reasons to love kaizen events.
1. Learn from an experienced instructor. Leading kaizen events remains a skill practiced by few, and the truly experienced and skilled instructors number only in the hundreds worldwide. It’s a pleasure to be part of a well-planned, well-facilitated rapid improvement event. In addition to lean principles and practical examples of how to do problem solving, kaizen event instructors can offer valuable lessons about leadership during a kaizen week.
2. Kaizen events are always different. To say no two kaizen events are the same is cliché. The team members and team dynamics, the target area and the problems in the area, the laughs and the awkward moments are unique to each kaizen event.
3. Receive attention within a limited group size. Every person on a kaizen team is there for a reason: to think and lend a hand in problem solving. The typical kaizen event team size of 5 – 8 people per theme or area makes it possible for everyone to contribute and feel productively engaged.
4. Gain help in implementing your ideas. Many people come to a kaizen event with no idea of what to expect. Some come to a kaizen event with firm ideas on the problem and the solution. Others are somewhere in between. This is all part of the plan. Those new to the area may have a lot to learn before they can offer suggestions, or they may ask an innocent question which leads to a breakthrough. People who understand the problem thoroughly may finally get the attention and help in trying their ideas.
5. Put lean concepts into real life application. The kaizen event is designed as a focused rapid improvement activity to enable the testing and application of a lean concept or lean system within one week. There is a preparation period as a run up to the kaizen event, but to see a lean theory work in real life application from concept to launch within 5 days is a glorious thing. It’s like an Amish barn raising in some ways, with power tools and less food.
6. Bond with co-workers. The kaizen event is a great team building activity. The shared purpose, goofy team names, challenges overcome through cooperation and persistence all help create a new sense of connection with team members and co-workers.
7. Tell the kids (or spouse) what you did at work today. How often are we able to go home and talk to our family or friends about some truly remarkable things we did at work? Even if doing remarkable things is daily work, such as fighting fires or saving lives, kaizen events offer something different. Whatever work you do, observing the process to identify waste and redesign it, with all of the daily ups and downs this adds new material to liven up the dining table discussion.
8. Rest well on Friday night. The kaizen event can be a long week or long days. The time flies and the rest earned at the end of the week is well deserved. May you not have to enjoy it this rest in the seat of an economy class flight.
A common but misguided question between lean professionals is “How many kaizen events..?” have you led, participated in, or sponsored. As with any craft there is a mastery that comes with practice and repetition. However the question that needs to be asked is “Why do you love kaizen events?” This question presupposes that one does not hate kaizen events, which some do. This is not a defense of kaizen events, which are neither good nor bad. It is what we make them. Feeding the wolf of hate doesn’t help us lead kaizen events more effectively.