By Jon Miller | Post Date: October 2, 2007 8:26 PM | Comments: 0
For better or worse, the 5-day kaizen event is a generally accepted and standard approach for rapid process improvement as part of a Lean implementation. There are both pros and cons to the 5-day kaizen event, of which more later. The more people learn about the broader definition of kaizen and other ways of doing kaizen as part of daily work and daily management, the more the limits of the 5-day kaizen become evident.
However, in the spirit of improvement we can kaizen those parts of the kaizen event that ought to function better. Just as kaizen experts will walk a process backwards, from end to beginning, shipping to receiving, or customer to supplier, let's start at the end of a kaizen event and how to make it better.
Half or more of the fifth or last day of a kaizen event can be largely wasted if you are not careful. The top three ways this last day of a kaizen event is wasted are:
1) Scheduling the wrap up time to accommodate the flight schedule of the visiting consultant (there are flights departing after 2PM on Friday)
2) Scheduling the wrap up time to accommodate the arrival time of the visiting senior manager (allowable for those managers with the genchi genbutsu habit)
3) Scheduling the wrap up so that you will finish by lunch (and be gorged on celebratory pizza and too sleepy for little more than throwing away pizza boxes in the afternoon)
Go easy on the pizza and spend some time before the end of the last day of the kaizen event coming down from the celebratory high by doing hansei. Hansei is Japanese for "reflection" or the critical "face the facts" session on what didn't work so well and needs improvement. Here are ten topics for hansei after your kaizen event:
1. How well did we select and scope this kaizen event?
What was the purpose of this kaizen event? Which customer-focused, financial and human development aims did it achieve? The aim is to answer the question "What should be a kaizen event?" versus what improvement themes should be tackled through other ways of doing kaizen, such as part of daily work.
2. How thoroughly did we grasp the current condition?
The answer to this is inversely proportional to the amount that you learned (also known as "surprises") about the process or problem during the kaizen event itself. There is always more you can learn, but the better prepared you are for the kaizen event, the more you can move from P to DCA and back through the PDCA cycle again rapidly, as opposed to getting stuck in P due to surprises.
3. How accurately did we define the problem?
If the grasp of the current condition was weak, your initial problem definition may have shifted during the kaizen event. Even if it was strong, you may have addressed one or more root cause versus the true cause. This is a question you can only answer in hindsight, and only if you were able to measure the effectiveness of the actions you took.
4. What processes did we use to identify countermeasures?
Regardless of whether you defined the problem well or poorly, everyone should understand and be able to replicate or improve upon the process of identifying countermeasures to the problem. Again, in hindsight your team members may say "We needed a better grasp of how to apply a particular Lean tool to this problem" or "We could have done more brain storming" or "The ideas we copied from the benchmarking trip were effective". Whatever works, do more of it and whatever did not work, plan to improve it.
5. How well did we implement?
Even the best ideas to fix a problem accurately defined based on a firm grasp of the current condition are nothing without execution. How did we do and how could we do better next time?
6. What were the specific results of actions?
This should already be documented in a summary presentation or as the new standard work. However it is useful to review this as a group (kaizen team, management, steering committee, etc.) so that there is consensus on what was actually achieved and how it is measured. Language can be ambiguous and storytelling can fool us. Use data, photos, and genchi genbutsu to confirm what was measurably and actually improved.
7. What actions remain?
I have yet to experience a kaizen project during which we ran out of improvement ideas to test and implement. Not having implemented enough ideas to get the results needed is a possible hansei finding from 5 and 6 above, in which case remaining actions may include further activities to generate countermeasures. The other possibility is that many more ideas were generated than expected, and this is a very positive thing. One could argue that the duration of the kaizen event could be extended, or that the scope could be narrowed, but the goal is not 100% implementation of all ideas. The two goals of kaizen are measurable progress towards SQDC improvement and better thinking. Many ideas is a sign of thinking.
8. How did we feel about this kaizen event overall?
Here you shift from objective to subjective and allow each person to say what they feel, good or bad. If everyone is satisfied and happy, you may have just experienced a successful kaizen event. Or you low problem awareness. Most likely the pace will have been too slow for some, too fast for others; the results were beyond expectations for some or below expectations of others; some felt their opinions were heard while others may have felt they had very little to contribute.
Break into small groups of 2 to 4 people and go through the five why process on for topics identified in 1 though 8 above. You may wish to group them first using affinity diagrams if this will effectively limit the number of items. Strive for a better subjective experience for all team members, and better objective process and results in the next kaizen event by identifying what needs changing.
10. How will we have a better kaizen event next time?
Based on 9 above, make a prioritized action list of improvements to how you will kaizen the kaizen event. Give yourself bonus points if your action list includes looking for alternatives to the standard five-day kaizen event.
Done properly, this hansei session can totally replace the typical Power Point display of kaizen event results by team members to the management that is standard fare for kaizen event day five. Hansei can be a tough process until people get used to facing the facts and talking about problems openly. Even then the hansei process isn't always a lot of fun. The results are certainly worth it.
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