Kaizen events are designed to tackle problems that can be addressed in short order (3-5 days), but they can also have a more profound impact on the organizations that use them. Most talk about Kaizen events focuses on the resulting process changes, but these rapid improvement events can do more than change processes. They can change people. When that happens, your Kaizen event becomes the gift that keeps on giving.
Here are a few ways that Kaizen events can have a profound impact on participants.
More Holistic Thinking
Most organizations are structured by function, which is convenient, but can also create a situation where no one understands the way work flows across the entire value chain. Everyone may be convinced that their piece of the process is perfect, without understanding how it contributes to problems downstream. Kaizen events give participants the opportunity to explore processes more broadly and gain a better understanding of how value is delivered to the customer. This may have the immediate benefit of resolving a particular problem, but it also changes the way people think and may lead to the identification of more opportunities for improvement, increased collaboration, and better decision making that last long after the event.
Better Meeting Management
A well-executed Kaizen event requires a great deal of pre-planning. The right people must be involved. The objectives need to be clearly communicated, and it is essential to start and end on time. They are facilitated by someone who ensures that all of the stakeholders have a voice and that consensus is reached before action is taken. What if all of your meetings were run that way? Because Kaizen events are so condensed, focused, and high-profile, they force people to develop excellent meeting management skills that can be conscripted for regular use.
Improved Collaboration and Problem Solving Skills
To solve a problem in the course of only 3-5 days, people must learn to focus, listen to each other, ask insightful questions, and compromise. The team quickly builds a “we’re all in this together” attitude and solving the problem in question becomes more important than individual egos or fiefdoms. Effective communication is essential to success and a common language emerges. This collaborative spirit doesn’t end when the event is over. Participants gain a new appreciation for each other and for the power of cooperation.
A lot can be accomplished during a Kaizen event, but the particular improvement is only the tip of the iceberg. Improving processes is valuable, improving people is priceless.