The true intent of Kaizen events is improvement. They are intended to be short duration improvement projects with a focus on improvement. Most often, they are week long events led by a facilitator. In addition, the facilitator would collaborate with a team from the work area the event is focused on, along with support services and leadership. This collaboration is crucial to the ultimate success of the event and further improvement processes. When events are conducted in an environment where they are not supported or understood, they quickly erode over a short period of time as people revert to their original ways of thinking.
As with any other initiative within an organization, leadership to a crucial element for success. Leaders must be open-minded and look at new opportunities in a different manner than ever before. Good leadership and careful planning will assure that a Kaizen event will be conducted in a thoughtful and productive manner. Successfully implementation of the Kaizen event by leadership typically generate 20% to 100% improvements in areas such as efficiency, quality and delivery performance.
Another crucial element of any Kaizen event is metrics. They are established to provide a guidepost for progress toward a goal. The use of metrics is non-negotiable. The collection of data does not signal the start of a Kaizen event. It lays the groundwork for the event. To start with, gathering a history of the relevant metrics to justify that the Kaizen event is even worth the time and effort is crucial. It will then allow the establishment of a baseline against which a goal can be defined and progress evaluated.
Research and collect historical data relative to the metrics of the planned Kaizen event. The amount of historical data that is needed depends on the frequency of measurable events and variation. Some metrics, such as space needed to produce a product or distance walked by operators, do not require much effort to gather. Understanding and appropriate use of data are often the foundation of a successful Kaizen event. Likewise, poorly planned and executed Kaizen events can often be tied to poor (or absent) data analysis starting with insufficient understanding of data history.
Kaizen events were never meant to be brainstorming efforts, unsupported by inadequate data analysis. Many times, organizations choose this route because they have the misguided belief that data analysis is costly and contrary to the Kaizen speed culture. This approach is indicative of laziness. Without data, there is no opportunity for the team to truly innovate. Their brainstorming sessions will simply confirm their bad habits.
In addition to a plan for the collection and validation of data, the Kaizen team leader will need to establish a charter. The charter will contain the scope and objectives for the event. This will provide the framework necessary to create a daily agenda for deliverables in the Kaizen event. The charter and agenda should be developed in concert with the leadership team, as it will dictate the planned resource requirements and the nature of the interruptions to the process.