Wednesday, June 19, 2019

10 Steps For Executing a Successful Kaizen

An essential element in Lean thinking is Kaizen.  Kaizen is the Japanese word for continuous improvement or change for the better. It’s a tool to make work easier, safer, and more productive by studying a process, identifying waste, and applying small incremental improvements that ensure the highest quality. As no process can ever be declared perfect, there is always room for improvement.  Kaizen involves building on gains by continuing experimentation and innovation.

1. Find Problem. First look at your business and find an opportunity for improvement. Start by analyzing the productivity of each department within the company. Look for departments that struggle with missed deadlines, inferior quality or production bottlenecks. Once you decide on a department, try to find specific processes where small improvements can add the most value. Start out with something small that can be changed easily.

2. Find a Sponsor. Executive leaders aren’t always directly involved in the Kaizen event, but they should be enthusiastic supporters who understand the process and objectives. Their support is important because it makes it more likely that employees will fully engage. Leaders are often involved in removing roadblocks and providing necessary resources for the event.

3. Pick a Leader. Appoint a team leader to manage the Kaizen event. You should ensure that your team leader is positive about creating change and is fully aware of the business case for making improvements, a team leader that is unconvinced or feels threatened can restrict the improvements being made.

4. Select Your Team. Typically, team members should comprise of people that work within the area in which the event takes place plus various people from other support areas such as maintenance, administration, sales, etc. It may also be worth adding a few people from the next area in which a kaizen event is planned so that they have some experience for the next event.

5. Create a Charter. Clearly define goals and expectations of the Kaizen event. The main focus of the event should be an area or process in which it has been determined that an inefficiency is reducing value to the customer. The focus can be narrowed by analyzing KPIs, root causes, and other Lean metrics. Keep in mind that the end goal is to promote continuous improvement and reduce waste.

6. Perform Training. If your team has had lots of practice with Kaizen events, pre-event training might not be necessary. Otherwise, it is essential to take the time to provide guidance on what to expect during a Kaizen event and which improvement tools will be used. The team should be training on your improvement management technology and know how it will be used before, during, and after the event to support the effort and capture the knowledge generated. Everyone should be clear about their role and know how their performance will be measured.

7. Understand the Situation. Start by analyzing the productivity of each department within the company. Look for departments that struggle with missed deadlines, inferior quality or production bottlenecks. Once you decide on a department, try to find specific processes where small improvements can add the most value.

8. Implement Solutions. Now that you have figured out the problem it is time to analyze it. Try to figure out what different options you have available to solve this problem. Once you have figured out what solutions are available, decide which one is going to be the best for your particular situation. Then start putting your solution into action.

9. Check Your Improvement. Once the event is complete and the desired improvements are in place, it is essential to make a follow-up plan to measure results and ensure the improvement is sustained. Make sure that you monitor the progress of the improvements being implemented and review whether the implementations are truly improvements. You may find that additional adjustments to new processes are necessary or that some of the changes have not been fully applied

10. Repeat. Kaizen doesn’t stop when you’ve successfully completed your Kaizen event. You should see this Kaizen event as just in an ongoing series of efforts and improvements. The true spirit of Kaizen is in “continuous improvement” and “slow and gradual change”.


Kaizen keeps you reaching, stretching to outdo yesterday. The continuous improvements may come bit by bit. But, enough of these small, incremental gains will eventually add up to a significant, valuable competitive advantage. Also, if every employee constantly keeps an eye out for improvements, major innovations are likely to occur. Higher levels sometimes lose perception of what’s going on in the “trenches” because they aren’t in them every day. Good companies realize that and encourage feedback from staff. The spirit of Kaizen can trigger dramatic breakthroughs, whether it be redesigning a simple form or developing new company protocols.

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