Monday, August 6, 2012

The Power of Quick & Easy Kaizen

By Al Norval,

I often run across organizations that have adopted a kaizen workshop methodology to problem solving. They follow good standards for 5 day kaizen with good problem definition, good process descriptions and well trained teams. And they generally make great improvements in their processes and achieve excellent results.

While this is admirable, they are missing out on much of the power of kaizen. That’s not to say we don’t need to run kaizen workshops, of course we do, but we need to do more. We need to find a way to engage all of our Team Members in making improvement every day.

In the words of Taiichi Ohno “Every day a little bit higher”

Slow and steady, relentless continuous improvement. This is the true spirit of kaizen. Team Members making small improvements and solving small problems every day. While kaizen workshops are great for solving larger problems, there are many more small problems we face every day. Rather than ignore them or develop short term workarounds for them, I’d suggest a better process is to solve them through engaging Team Members in Quick & Easy Kaizen.

Quick & Easy Kaizen are improvements driven by front line staff. These are things that come out of the andon pulls, ahead/ behind boards, shift takeover meetings, and daily huddles.

The problem solving still follows the scientific method but due to the small nature of the problems, they can be solved in a few hours. This allows more Team Members to be engaged in more cycles of problem solving and build more capability. Results are achieved quickly and more importantly the confidence of Team Members grows along with their capability enabling them to solve even more problems.

Many organizations believe these problems are too small to work on but when added together often equal or exceed the results obtained through a kaizen workshop. Don’t underestimate the power of the many.

Used in combination with Kaizen workshops, improvements are greatly accelerated. Kaizen workshops lead to a huge step forward but then lock in the gains by stabilizing the improvement and building on them using Quick & Easy Kaizen until another kaizen workshop and another huge step forward. The cycle repeats and every day the organization gets a little better.


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