How to Lead a Successful Kaizen Event

May 21, 2009
Follow certain procedures and processes to increase likelihood of success.

Kaizen events, which are short-term continuous improvement events designed to improve an area or a process, are key to many manufacturing plants' lean efforts. At the recent IndustryWeek Best Plants annual conference, Will Franks, vice president of production at Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co., shared some thoughts about how to increase the chance for successful outcomes of kaizen events. Outlined in this article are a few of his ideas.

Critical to the success of a kaizen event is the makeup of the team performing the event. Franks suggests that the team:

  • Be cross-functional
  • Include members from various levels of the organization
  • Include hands-on associates
  • Consist of both leaders and followers
  • Typically include eight to 12 people
  • Include support functions
More successful kaizen events include a team dynamic in which there is balanced participation by all team members and conversations occur one at a time, Franks said. He provided additional team guidelines, which state: be on time; focus on the process, not the people; be sensitive to the process owner or creator; and importantly, have fun. Also, make the team a full-time commitment for the duration of the kaizen effort.

Also imperative to a successful kaizen event is the event facilitator. Franks outlined five facilitator prerequisites. The facilitator should be:

  • Knowledgeable on the overall business
  • A lean tools expert
  • A kaizen process expert
  • A team dynamics expert
  • A teacher
Of course, critical to the success of the kaizen event is the project itself. Franks says to pick a project that is manageable in scope and which has a high probability of success. Choose one that will make a measurable impact and that is tied to business goals. Also, pick a project with high visibility. High visibility will show a greater number of people the impact a kaizen event can have on improving operations.

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