Rapid improvement events are an important tool in the Kaizen toolbox. They are great for ensuring energy gets focused on a particularly challenging problem or one that needs to be solved pronto. We’ve seen them produce terrific, long-lasting results. We’ve also seen them devolve into a disorganized mess. Without clear direction and effective communication, the event can become a demoralizing waste of time.
How can you ensure the success of your next rapid improvement event and avoid the pitfalls experienced by so many others? Here’s our best tip – use software to manage the project before, during and after your event. Here is how it can help.
The success or failure of a rapid improvement event depends very much on what happens before it even begins. Key steps in the planning stages are:
- Assembling the team
- Selecting or hiring a facilitator
- Determining the target process and scope of improvement
- Gathering and analyzing baseline data
- Defining success
- Communicating the planned event and its goals
Software can’t do all of that for you, of course, but what it does is provide a platform where all of this information can be stored and shared. Team members have one place to go to provide input and review relevant information prior to the event. Assignments for data gathering can be made and communication channels established. When the event begins, everyone is armed with what they need to be effective and efficient.
It is also important to validate that the event is aligned with one of the organization’s strategic goals. It is ideal if the same software is used for improvement management as well as for strategy deployment. This makes it easy to correlate the planned improvement event to the overarching objectives of the company. Everyone understands how this work will propel the organization toward true north.
Rapid improvement events are intense and focused, usually lasting only a few days. During the event team members:
- Define the problem
- Identify and document all parts of the current process
- Analyze the current process to identify risks, waste, and other problems
- Agree on the best plan for improvement
- Create a roadmap of the new process
- Determine how results will be measured
- Implement the plan
- Measure results
- Communicate the improvement and results
That’s a lot of moving parts with multiple stakeholders, often cross-functional, involved. Software designed to support improvement projects is the perfect way to make sure that everything fires on all cylinders. The best solutions include alerts and email notifications so that no assignments are missed. The facilitator can easily track the progress of every person on the team and make sure that forward momentum is achieved. Documents are centrally located and available to everyone. The executive team can also easily follow the progress of the event, jumping in to remove roadblocks or to congratulate milestone achievements.
Too many companies make the mistake of thinking that when the event is over, it’s over. Don’t let that happen to you. What happens after the event is crucial. Key activities include:
- Documenting the event, its results and any lessons learned
- Updating Standard Work documentation if needed
- Defining intervals for status measurement and reporting (30 days, 60 days, 90 days, etc.)
- Evaluating the rapid improvement event process and experience to determine if it could be improved
- Recognizing the achievements of everyone who contributed
Rapid improvement event software makes all of this painless. It is used to calculate the impact of the improvement over the short and long term. Reminders are set up that ensure updated reporting occurs at regular intervals. It also serves as the organization’s repository of knowledge so that the work done during this event can be used to inform the next. Best practices and lessons learned are identified to make each improvement event better than the last. Some solutions offer improvement broadcasting so that the whole organization can be easily notified about what was achieved and who made it happen.
Improvement software is also useful in terms of reporting the cumulative effect of all rapid improvement events throughout the quarter or year. Executives can easily tabulate what these events have meant in terms of cost savings, efficiency improvements, improved quality, better customer satisfaction scores, or whatever other metrics define success. This helps create a big picture view of why improvement matters and justifies future attention to this type of work.
A rapid improvement event should be considered a significant investment. People will be focused on a particular challenge, rather than the work they do on a daily basis. That’s not something that most organizations take lightly. You can do a rapid improvement event without software to support it, but why not give your team the tools they need to increase the odds of success?