Kaizen Events – Why and Why Not… continued

The other day I wrote about the situations where I felt a 5 day kaizen event was actually useful. I want to add one more.. sort of. Actually I want to elaborate on “education.”

Sometimes in the early stages of an implementation, there are influential people who need to be won over. Now for those who are cynical, there is not a lot of hope of that, at least not now. But for the people who are honest skeptics – meaning they will take in what information they have and assess it – those first few kaizen activities can have a high emotional impact.

Here is where you, the change agent, have an opportunity to make this “sticky.” Back in August I wrote a couple of posts that suggested that deliberately applying the elements of “stickiness” outlined in the excellent book “Made To Stick” would go a long way in building and sustaining an initial momentum. An initial kaizen event that is specifically structured to be high-impact can go a long way to do that.

In this special case you are producing a “reality show.” You are building a structure and a situation that will give your participants a specific experience. You want to create the six elements of “stickiness” that are covered in the book.

Simple. You want to send a simple and direct core message, a take-away, that everyone involved will be able to relate to. They have to understand experience just how much waste (and therefore opportunity) exists in the operation. They have to experience for themselves the power of engaging the people who do the work, of seeing for themselves, living in the conditions that exist in the work area every day. They need to experience the drag that is put on effective operations by all of the short-sighted decisions that are made every day.

Unexpected. You want to structure this kaizen event so that there is a big change in the performance of the operation, preferably in a way that was thought to be impossible. The highest-impact thing you can do is to create flow across several previously isolated process islands. This will typically crash inventory levels by one, and sometimes two, orders of magnitude, with a relative increase in velocity.

Concreteness. Same as above, actually. By participating directly in something that produces tangible, and real, results they immediately begin to learn application vs. academic theory.

Credibility. Again – direct participation in seeing the problems, clearing and solving those problems, brings credibility to the message – that a dramatic performance improvement is something we can do if we just pay attention to the right things.

Emotions. The purpose of the report-out at the end of these events is to allow the team that did the work to get.. and take.. credit for what they did. The report-out also emotionally engages the team in their work and their results.

Stories. If it is done well, the experience starts to be shared. People inevitably talk about the improvements they made, and how they solved this or that problem. People love to solve problems, and they like to talk about what they have done and what they learned in the process. When the General Manager starts telling these stories from her personal experience, people tend to pay attention. Hopefully they begin to say: “I’ll have what she’s having.”

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