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When to Use a Kaizen Event vs. Daily Kaizen

Posted by Matt Banna

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Mar 12, 2018 11:06:34 AM

Kaizen eventWe get the chance to talk to leaders implementing the Kaizen approach to continuous improvement on a regular basis. One of the questions people who are new to the Kaizen way often ask is, “Should I do daily Kaizen or Kaizen events?”

The short answer is, “Yes.”

Daily Kaizen is essential for tackling small problems before they become big ones and for sustaining improvements that have been implemented. Making continuous improvement part of everyone’s job forms the basis of Kaizen culture.

However, some challenges require a more focused approach. Kaizen events require a significant investment of human capital. The team puts their other work aside for three to five days to focus on the target process or problem. That’s not trivial, so Kaizen events aren’t always the right tool for the job. But here are some situations where they make perfect sense.  

There is an urgent problem that needs to be fixed quickly

Hopefully, you don’t run into too many of these, but once in a while, you may be faced with a problem so serious that an all-hands-on-deck response is required. This may be a spike in defects, a sharp increase in customer complaints, a failed inspection, or some other business risking issue. A Kaizen event is a reasonable response in these types of situations. Your team should be able to get to the bottom of the problem and resolve it right away.

There’s big potential impact to KPIs or strategic goals

Some process improvements are done not to solve a problem like the ones described above, but to achieve a strategic objective or make a big difference to your key performance indicators. In those cases, a Kaizen event can help you move the needle on your metrics in short order. Of course, it is essential in this situation to document the current state and results and decide how you will measure the impact of any improvements that are implemented.

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Repeated daily improvement cycles don’t achieve results

If you’ve been using improvement cycles like PDSA or DMAIC as part of your team’s daily improvement effort against a particular process, but aren’t seeing results, a Kaizen event might be an effective way of getting unstuck. During a Kaizen event, the participants will have time to explore many potential solutions and evaluate which will be best to address the root cause.

Successful improvement is a reasonably expected outcome

You don’t want to invest the effort of a Kaizen event for small problems or those with little impact, but the opposite is also true. Some challenges are too complicated and widespread to be addressed in the tight time frame of a rapid improvement event. Rather than set the team up for failure, try another approach to those complex problems.

Cross-functional collaboration is necessary

Most organizations find that the biggest opportunities for improvement occur when one process or team hands work off to the next. These cross-functional challenges can be difficult to solve with daily Kaizen because different teams or departments have different priorities and leadership. A Kaizen event is an effective way to break down organizational silos and get folks from different functional areas working together toward a common goal. This is particularly effective when everyone is using a common set of tools for managing rapid change.

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It’s been a while since your last Kaizen event

People get good at what they practice. If you use Kaizen events only rarely, your team won’t have the opportunity to hone and develop the problem solving and collaboration skills necessary to deploy them successfully. Kaizen events can be used to achieve desired outcomes beyond the obvious process improvement. They also give people the opportunity to demonstrate leadership, documentation and teamwork skills.

You have new team members

Kaizen events are a great way to introduce new members of the team to continuous improvement and to the tools and techniques used to achieve it. Kaizen training is essential, but there’s nothing quite like doing something as you learn it. In addition to learning how a Kaizen event should unfold, the intensity of rapid improvement will help your new employees integrate with existing ones. Ideally, everyone will learn how each other works and how best to communicate.

Perhaps one of the most important and challenging responsibilities of leaders in an organization that practices Kaizen is knowing when to use which improvement technique. Hopefully, this guide has made it easier to determine when a Kaizen event is in order.

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Topics: Kaizen

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