Why Doesn’t Daily Kaizen Happen?

More than one organization gets stuck in kaizen events. By "stuck" I mean that kaizen events are the only mechanism for improvement. A good indicator of this is "waiting for a kaizen event" to make an improvement that everyone agrees should be made.

At the same time, I see leaders who understand that these kinds of improvements should be made on a daily basis, but those leaders are frustrated because that doesn’t happen.

So why does this happen?

There are a few things that have to be in place, but even with a workforce that understands improvement and where this is going, even with shop floor leaders who understand how to do it, that doesn’t seem to be enough.

So here are some things to think about.

You block out time during the day for your start-up meeting, end-of-shift cleanup (a different topic). You block out time for preventative maintenance (you do, right?). You block out time and resources for the things you expect to get done.

Do the low-level work groups capture, in real time, the little issues that disrupt smooth work? Those are your daily kaizen opportunities.

Do you block out time for daily kaizen? If you don’t, then you are saying "Do kaizen when there is nothing else to do. Your daily kaizen time should not count as "available minutes" when calculating your takt time.

Do the Team Leaders and Supervisors expect the work teams to work on those problems during the kaizen time?

The bottom line: Don’t just wish it would happen. Look at what is necessary for success (skill, time, leadership, tools, expectations), make sure those things are available. If actual events are not what you planned, then study and understand why not and fix it. Daily kaizen is no different than production. You have to plan for it.

8 Replies to “Why Doesn’t Daily Kaizen Happen?”

  1. Some improvements can be done while the production lines are running. There is so much to improve and some things can be done on the run, too; we don’t need to always plan, just do it as we have a few minutes. Surely, if it’s more involved, we need to carefully plan for it.
    I think sometimes we talk/plan too much and do too little.

  2. Hi Gabriela –
    Thanks for commenting!

    Yes, some improvements can be done while the lines are running, but who is supposed to do them? If there is good takt / cycle balance, then the production workers do not have time during the course of their regular work. SOME office / administration tasks are just as busy, others have more slack in them, so in those cases, this is less of an issue.

    The main thing is that the workforce cannot become engaged as long as someone else is making all of the improvements on their work.

    To be sure, I would fully expect a supervisor or a team leader, if there is an opportunity, to make an improvement when there is time. But if they do so at the expense of missing an opportunity to teach the production team member how to improve their own work, that team member is disempowered in the process, and the number of people who make improvements is reduced by a factor of 5 or 10.

    Planning need not be elaborate or cumbersome. It is acknowledging that if I expect someone to do something (in this case, the production workers to make improvements to their own work), then I need to make sure they have the time, resources, skill and guidance to succeed vs. simply telling them “they are empowered” and wishing they would find the time I haven’t allowed them to have.

  3. Mark:

    Your right on the button with this.

    I have created 20 6S teams and 20 team leaders. Everyone in the plant is on a team. I have asked them to have a team meeting every two weeks to discuss improvement ideas. I go around every two weeks to collect the ideas.

    I asked for a stop work time for 15 minutes every other week for team meetings. Managemant said no. Currently the teams have to find the time to meet on their own.

    Guess what; I have three teams that are actually having the meetings and coming up with ideas.

  4. Mark, you are sooo right. My mantra for my own work and for those I coach is ‘what gets scheduled gets done’. And I find this works 95% of the time. I recently started coaching a team who do prepare healthcare claims for processing. While 80% of claims are received electronically that still leaves a lot of paper to enter sort and enter in the system. If they don’t get them in system in a timely manner the rest of the processing cycle doesn’t have any chance of making expected processing times. They were routinely running a backlog of several thousand claims (some weeks old). So we started by calling any claim they were waiting to process that was over 5 days old a defect. Every day the team took time to work on the causes of the defects and eliminating those causes. We started in July and as of today that team is consistently processing 99.9% of their receipts within 2 days. Thanks for your suggestions. This stuff works when you actually DO it. The ‘Knowing-Doing Gap’ is alive and well in most organizations.

  5. I agree with all the conversations. Could any one please suggest me is it possible to provide kaizen’s when we are doing a routine work, like we are in to mechanical design there is no production dept in our office.

    1. Praveen –
      Though I think it is still quite relevant, this post was written in 2008.
      Take a look at this recent one:

      That may answer some of your questions.

      Based on your comment, it seems you are in design engineering.
      Your office produces SOMETHING – likely designs and design drawings.
      There is some kind of ideal fluid process required to produce those designs and drawings.
      There are likely things which disrupt that fluid process, and cause people to get out of their train of thought, or interrupt their work.

      The simple act of collectively understanding there IS an ideal fluid process; and then beginning to capture disruptions, is a good first step.
      Following that, is to carve out a little bit of time periodically to pick one of those disruptions, create a theory about what is causing it; and what you could do to eliminate it; and then try that out with a small change.

      Lather, rinse, repeat and you are doing daily kaizen.

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