By Jon Miller | Post Date: December 9, 2005 9:27 AM | Comments: 0
During a Kaizen Blitz a cross-functional team makes rapid improvements in a focused scope of work over a short period of time. This is done based on observing processes, trying new things out and measuring the results. This is very applicable in making project teams more effective. There are many types of kaizen, a few of which we've covered this week, so first let's put them in perspective.
The Kaizen Blitz in Perspective
Projects you may not think of as a type of kaizen, but in that the goal of most projects is to improve something or create something new and better, I think of them as a type of kaizen at the macro level. They tend to last weeks or months. Six sigma projects would fit in this category.
Jishuken are a type of Kaizen Project Team that we did not discuss this week. Jishuken are kaizen projects that are conducted by a workgroup or a self-directed team. They focus on one topic such as productivity improvement, and typically last 3 months or so. This could be done by a workgroup but would most likely involve people who are not workgroup members also. A Kaizen Blitz can be part of a jishuken activity
Kaizen Blitz is described in this post by Norman Bodek which captures the spirit of a 5-day event in a factory as conducted by Japanese consultants. Call it a kaizen event, kaizen workshop, or kaizen blitz for project teams, the common elements are:
#1: A cross-functional team
QC Circles are small groups of individuals who do similar work (workgroups) who meet on a regular basis to discus and analyze problems, consider solutions, and test them in their daily work. The kaizen focus originates from, but is not limited to Quality Control (QC). These are perpetual teams, though the membership changes as workers transfer in and out of the area.
Kaizen Suggestions are the small and local. They are most often ideas you can implement yourself. As a rule, in an effective suggestion system the team leader or supervisor will review and approve (or provide coaching to improve the suggestion) within the same day that it is submitted.
Out of these the Kaizen Blitz is the most high profile type, and it is perhaps the most familiar to many companies involved in Lean manufacturing, Lean healthcare, or Lean transaction activities today.
Challenges to the Kaizen Blitz for Project Teams
The unique challenges for the kaizen blitz for project teams are elements 3 and 4 above.
Challenge with element #3: The Project Gemba. In explaining the kaizen blitz for a project team Hal Macomber proposed, "In the project setting it is the opportunity to work on the whole of the project" but I disagree. It's important that the scope be well-defined and actionable within the 5-day (for example) duration of the kaizen event. The important thing is to define the project gemba which are the places where actual work gets done and where improvement is meaningful. The scope of a Kaizen event should not encompass an entire project or an entire value stream, but by nature the entire project may be considered the gemba. That is the challenge.
Challenge with element #4: Direct Process Observation. In my definition of a project, I said that projects take longer than a day. This can be a challenge for a Kaizen Blitz for Project Teams. In kaizen, you have to go to where the work is done (genchi or gemba) and observe the facts with the gembutsu (actual elements of the process). At the gemba, you need to observe the actual work being done to get the facts of the current situation.
You need to be able to observe the process, identify the waste, make improvements, observe the results, measure the impact, and document the new process and remaining action items. All in one week. The risk of not doing this is that your changes to one observed part of the project may have unintended consequences on another part of the work of the project. In manufacturing terms this would be like observing only one section of an assembly line and doing kaizen to it, without understanding the effect this will have on the next process immediately downstream.
So unless you have a very large team, or a very short project, this can be difficult to do and you will need to limit your scope or run multiple kaizen events to enable genchi gembutsu for a kaizen blitz for project teams. To have a kaizen event on an entire project may be possible if the project is a very short one. It may also be possible a similar project is in progress and you can observe this in a stage-by-stage fashion and use this to design a new method for a similar project.
How to do a Kaizen Blitz for Project Teams
There has been a lot written about how to manage kaizen events in a step by step fashion. The way to conduct a kaizen blitz for project teams would not be any different from how you do kaizen in any other type of work environment. There are three basic phases:
The main aspects of kaizen preparation phase involve setting targets and defining a scope, selecting the team members by following guidelines to make sure you have a good cross functional mix, coordinating resources to make sure the process can be observed and that supporting data is available, and communicating with stakeholders.
The Kaizen week phase is when you come together as a team to observe, redesign and test new methods following the PDCA cycle and applying various Lean tools to get rid of waste.
1. Go to the gemba where each member of the project team does the actual work
To set standards in the case of a project team whose work is not as easy to fix into a process with a set time, you may revisit the promises you made and renew them as "standards" for the work you are responsible for, as Hal Macomber points out.
Kaizen follow-up phase phase which includes continuing to monitor the new process until it is stable, completing action items required to implement all kaizen ideas, and handing over the day to day sustaining and continuous improvement of the target process to the area managers.
Seeing Waste During a Kaizen Blitz
Project team members may not be used to thinking in terms of waste and value in their individual work, their workgroup, and workstream so an emphasis on understanding the 7 types of waste in the project setting is essential. Examples of wastes within the work of a project team include:
Overproduction due to unclear requirements from the upstream process, waiting time for information from another project team member before work can be completed, inventory of projects or project tasks that are in process, motion of switching from one multi-task activity to another, defects and rework loops, and transportation and the delays and loss of information caused by hand-offs.
Then there is processing waste (which some call over-processing) is illustrated nicely in Mark Graban's post on Tuesday with the example of his team of consultants doing redundant work in developing training materials, not using each other case studies and not sharing knowledge to make each other more effective. Whenever you are using a crude tool to accomplish a task rather than the best available that may exist somewhere else in the workstream of the project, this is processing waste.
Advantages of Kaizen Blitz for Project Teams
Experience has shown that during a Kaizen Blitz, a team gets more improvement done in 5 days with 8 people than you can with the same people putting in the same 50 hours extended over 2 months, as they would in a project.
Decisions are made in real-time based on observed facts and new methods are tried during a kaizen blitz, taking the place of many useless meetings that are conducted away from the gemba in a typical project.
The cross-functional team aspect of a kaizen blitz allows you to look at things from a new perspective rather than just your own specialist perspective or role within the project, which can be powerful in a project team environment where these functions are working together already.
A Kaizen event complements project teams well because projects team typically lack speed and a bias for action, while kaizen events can fail due to a lack of follow up and structure, which the project management can provide.
Kaizen events are a good way to give a "boost" to a traditional project by rapidly accomplishing some core section of work as a team in a short period of time while improving communication and clarifying customer-supplier requirements.
In the long view all organizations are temporary. Project teams are created with a termination date in mind. A kaizen team is by nature temporary, forming to solve problems, set standards and to disband typically after a week. Temporary organizations such as these need to learn to be effective quickly within their short lifespan. The Gang of Seven bloggers have written this week on this topic from various perspectives and we have tried to lay out some of these principles. Learning and applying the principles that make kaizen teams successful can help make temporary organizations such as project teams more effective also.
The Kaizen for Project Teams blog entries on Panta Rei are Making the Case for Kaizen for Project Teams, Workgroup Kaizen for Project Teams, Workstream Kaizen for Project Teams, Quick and Easy Kaizen for Project Teams, and Kaizen Blitz for Project Teams.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.