The classic one-week kaizen event ends with a report-out by the team that outlines the improvements they have made, and the results they have achieved.
Actual results, though, are notorious for falling short of what was reported. Action items are left over, and things frequently peter out unless there is a huge effort to force sustainment.
Let’s look at this a little differently.
Typically what happens during the kaizen week is that a new process is designed, and some things are put into place to enable it – point of use, rearranging things for flow, etc.
The report out is describing expected results, and how the process must operate to deliver them.
In other words, a very common outcome of a kaizen event is a pretty well thought out target condition. This is how we want the process to operate, this is the result we are going to strive to achieve. It is all future tense.
What happens next will make or break things.
The next question that should be asked is “Great! When are you going to try it, and what do you expect to learn?” If the report-out does not directly address this question, then you can expect the typical result – steady erosion.
In fact, the process of seeing and addressing those problems must be embedded into the daily management process itself.
The report-out is the beginning of kaizen, not the end. The next phase is not “follow-up.” It is a natural continuation, if less intense, of the kaizen process. The report-out is describing an engineering prototype. Now it is time to test it and discover what we didn’t know during the design process.