Kaizen is a Japanese term that literally translates to “Change, Good”. As Masaaki Imai said (and he literally wrote the book on “Kaizen” in 1986): “The message of the Kaizen strategy is that not a day should go by without some kind of improvement being made somewhere in the company.”
The spirit of Kaizen is just what Imai-san alludes to in his quote:
Making changes, often small ones, that make things better. It’s also about employee empowerment and engagement – allowing them, the process experts, to make these changes without going through lots of red tape.
We often teach this methodology through a Kaizen event, which is an event focused on improving a process by eliminating the wastes that are present. Things like having too much Inventory, excessive Transportation and having people Wait for products or information are classic examples of waste that clogs flow, extends lead times and frustrates employees and customers. By properly scoping and staffing a cross-functional Kaizen team, we can often improve processes and systems without spending much, or any, money! <Insert link to case study/studies here>
Kaizen Events with New England Lean
Too often, Kaizen events are treated as separate projects, which ultimately leads to their ineffectiveness. We’ve seen it happen: the Kaizen team comes together, gets excited about making changes, make as many as they can in the event, then puts the rest on a list (often called a Kaizen Newspaper) for completion later. Only “later” never comes. Once the event is over, people go back to their “real jobs” and the momentum fizzles.
Other firms love this – it’s an excuse for them to keep coming in and facilitate more events, and keep you on the hook for more billable hours. If challenged about why Lean “hasn’t stuck”, they simply throw their hands up and say “Well, in our contract it says “…that the client shall have total responsibility for the implementation of (our) recommendations”, so it’s on you!”. That doesn’t exactly build a relationship based on trust and respect, does it?
That’s where we’re different. We don’t come in with the intention of selling you more services/more events/more reasons to become dependent upon us. We’re here to partner with you – to help guide you and your staff. We earn your business based upon our integrity and authenticity – and we’ve got the reputation to back it up <include link to customer testimonials>.
When it comes to running Kaizen events, we work with you to properly scope it out – what are the metrics we’re trying to affect? Who are the right people to be in the group? How long do we have the team for? We put all of this info into a Team Charter, and make sure everyone – team members, sponsors and management – are all in agreement with what we’re setting out to accomplish.
Along the way, we’re facilitating and teaching what Lean is and can do. We point out areas of waste, and show people what they can do about it. Although we start out in a conference room and use it as a “home base”, much of our time is spent “at the Gemba” – out in the area where the work is actually performed, so we can all see with fresh eyes what is happening and where the opportunities for improvement lie.
Our facilitated Kaizen events not only yield impressive gains in reduced cost, increased throughput and increased quality, but they also improve the organizational culture. By having a focused team event, made up of people from different departments and perspectives new bonds are formed that pay dividends well beyond the Kaizen close-out presentation at the end of the event.