Lean Roadmap Newsletter
Becoming a World Class Enterprise 
9th Edition
This edition continues our discussion on How to Prevent Lean Implementation Failures - 10 Reasons Why Failures Occur. We will discuss, from the least critical (Reason #10), to most critical/fatal (Reason #1) why Lean implementation failures occur. Today we will discuss Reason #9:
  • Using Kaizen Events as Your Sole Lean Improvement Mechanism

Additionally we will give Executives some advice on how to communicate with teams in:
  • Team Killing 101

Using Kaizen Events as Your Sole Improvement Mechanism

Lean is a System, not an Event
by Larry Rubrich
Kaizen events are a powerful, team based activity for making rapid improvements in an office or manufacturing process. Kaizen events can be focussed to improve all the typical company measurables as shown below.
Technique Impacts 

In review, kaizen is a Japanese word that means to "change for the good." Doing "little things" better everyday defines kaizen - slow, gradual, but constant improvement - continuous improvement in any area that will eliminate waste and improve customer satisfaction.

The Definition of Kaizen
Kaizen is what the Japanese did to the ideas they picked up from American manufacturers in the 1950s. The Japanese combined employee empowerment and kaizen and then had everyone in their plants doing "little things" better everyday. Kaizen is the most powerful tool in the Japanese business improvement arsenal.
The target of kaizen is cost reduction through the elimination of waste at all levels in the business process.
The definition of kaizen has grown to mean something different in American manufacturing. Most American companies do not recognize the potential of employee empowerment. American culture, in general, struggles with techniques that are gradual and produce small improvements - even if these small improvements occur daily! Americans are innovators and that means "giant steps." Home runs, not singles!
The difficulty is that some companies that are in a "quick fix" mode inaccurately see and try to use kaizen events as the vehicle to make them World Class. Kaizen events may be the tires on that vehicle, but they are not the engine. All of the company's associates working together are the engine. Their knowledge, skills, ideas, and understanding of why the company is doing a World Class Enterprise implementation keep the engine running.
Events must be combined with the "Japanese kaizen" method of everybody making small improvements everyday if the WCE implementation is to be successful.
What Can a Kaizen Event Accomplish?
Rapid improvement in the performance of a specific project process, production process, office process, or manufacturing cell.
What a Kaizen Event Will Not Accomplish
- Long term change at the event work site. If events are used as the sole improvement strategy, backsliding will occur as soon as the event is over. Someone from the event team or the company's kaizen facilitator must monitor the work site on a daily basis and must continue to coach and counsel the team on the improvements and why they are necessary.
- A significant increase in the understanding of World Class Enterprise tools, techniques, and business reason for doing Lean by the people who work daily in the event area. This applies when events are used as the sole improvement strategy.
- Changing the culture of the people who work daily in the event area or in the rest of the organization. 
When Do You Use a Kaizen Event?
#1 Priority - Pre-Project/Process Planning
- Lowest cost time to make changes
- Goal is to eliminate/reduce engineering or process changes after project/process begins
- Opportunity to orient and train all associates who interface with the process
- Does not add to project time
#2 Priority - When Project/Process is Operating
- Americans always seem to have time to do things over
Lean as a System
A Kaizen Event is a powerful business improvement tool but it will just add additional waste to your organization (improve with a Kaizen Event and then backslide) if it is not used as part of the "Lean System" by which a business is run. Lean as a system must include:
- Top down management leadership comittment and support
- Policy Deployment and Lean Implementation Planning
- An organization-wide communication plan
- Associate empowerment and participation
- A customer focus  
Team Killing 101
How Executives ask questions during presentations can leave their teams demoralized and defeated or positive and motivated.
by Mattie Watson
The team members were nervous as the conference room filled with the executives coming to their presentation. Looks of thinly concealed dread etched on their faces were accompanied by pacing and knee bouncing. The good news: They were prepared.
The value stream mapping project had gone predictably. There was lots of discussion about what is currently being done and even more debate on what was wasteful in the process. Passionate approaches to eliminating the waste and meeting the defined goal were presented and refined. It was frustrating, slow, scary, and different. It was also fantastic. If you have ever participated in a Value Stream Mapping (VSM) Event, you can relate. Everyone in the event knew the process they were looking at was broken. Now they had a proposed future state that had the folks who work in the process excited and eager to get started. They wanted to share their findings and their enthusiasm for the improvements with the leadership team. 
The meeting began. An overview of the project was provided so the executives could put the coming information into context. The team provided their current state findings and moved into their recommendations for improvement. Then it happened. "I don't see how this will work." The team froze - literally - at this statement from a senior manager. Then questions came about the validity of the suggestions, the time frame, expected results. Meeting over.
Nothing can kill a team faster than a negative comment from an executive or senior leader - especially when the comment is made without taking the time to understand the facts. Leaders have the right and an obligation to ask questions and express his or her opinions. It's what they do and it needs to be done. Unfortunately, I often cringe at how a question is asked or an opinion is stated. It more often comes off as an indictment of incompetence and with that the communication process comes to a screeching halt. 
So how does one ask questions or make comments that do not come across negatively? First, start by using "I" statements that don't blame. "I'm confused. Can I ask a clarifying question?" The "I" statement by the executive above judged the ideas as bad - and quickly. 
Second, let the team get through all their information before peppering them with detailed questions. The answers to your questions may be coming.
Third, watch your body language, especially facial expressions. A grimace or frown may be interpreted as disagreement rather than your gout kicking up.
Finally, if you have serious concerns about the team's approach, suggestions, or findings, speak with the team leader or facilitator privately after the meeting. Arrange a time to meet with the team to ask your questions. Start with "help me understand" rather than "this won't work and here's why." Chances are you still need this team to resolve the issues. Your approach will either keep them positive and motivated or demoralized and defeated.

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Next Issue Articles:

  • Why Lean Failures Occur - Reason #8: People Measures not Aligned with the Organizational/World Class Enterprise Goals                       
  • Team Facilitator - An Essential Role
Policy Deployment 

The Most Powerful Lean Activity Your Organization Will Ever Accomplish!


    Don't forget to register for our free seminars!

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Concurrent Sessions:  
July 14th - Introduction to Lean Healthcare - South Suburban College (IL), Oak Forest Campus, 9-11 am
July 14th - Policy Deployment & Lean Implementation Planning for Healthcare - South Suburban College (IL), Oak Forest Campus, 9-11 am
Concurrent Sessions: 
August 4th - Introduction to Lean - South Suburban College (IL), Oak Forest Campus, 9-11 am
August 4th - Policy Deployment & Lean Implementation Planning - South Suburban College (IL), Oak Forest Campus, 9-11 am
To register, please call 260-637-8064, or e-mail kelly@wcmfg.com. 
Larry Rubrich
WCM Associates LLC
2009 WCM Associates
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