Updated: May 15
The word Kaizen comes from the Japanese words; Kai (which means change) and Zen (Which means good). Put together, the meaning of Kai Zen is to Change for the Better. In English, the word Kaizen is used as another term for Continuous Improvement. The term Kaizen – just like Continuous Improvement – is used in many ways. It can refer to a type of organization, a project, or even a personal endeavor.
The Kaizen event is focused on a specific issue that can be resolved in a short amount of time. It involves a small team who devotes 100% of their time over a few days to analyze and improve a narrowly defined targeted problem or opportunity.
Many people are under the impression that – because a Kaizen Event lasts from 2-5 days – that it’s easier than leading a more complicated project, like a root cause analysis project. That’s just a big myth! Whatever the type or size of the improvement effort, the execution requires skill, tenacity, and structure. Without it, project results will be mediocre at best and a big waste of time and resources at worst.
For Maximum Rapid Improvement Punch, Structure is the “X” Factor
The discipline of a well-run Kaizen Event will set you free! This may seem like it makes no sense. It can be hard to imagine how structure can result in the ultimate goal of allowing the “freedom” to make things better – to truly improve. When we speak about freedom in the organizational sense, we are not referring to everyone doing whatever they want, how, and when they want to. That’s just chaos and breeds a million bad behaviors (like firefighting, heroism, favoritism, anxiety, frustrations, burnout…). We are talking about the freedom and the space to create truly innovative solutions.
When an environment lacks good, solid structure, people in the process are overly vulnerable to distractions and impulses. Direction and focus change with the wind. Even processes that start out strong, will eventually collapse when they are ruled by whims.
Many organizations and individuals within the organization have the desire to make things work. And they work hard every day to try and make things better. Their resourcefulness and energy are often thought of as the “X” factor. But we have experienced time and time again that the “X” factor is the structure.
Four Steps to achieve real results from your Kaizen Event
Learn the structure: Leading a Kaizen Event means that you understand how to lead a team through the major milestones to Identify Opportunities, Select the Team & Project Kickoff, Preparation, Run the event, and Event Follow-up. This structure follows the DMAIC method of problem-solving, which is very familiar to any Lean Six Sigma Green or Black Belt.
Use the templates: Our courses come complete with simple and clear templates for every step along the way. Don’t waste time creating your own tools and templates… spend your time on your actual event!
Clarify Roles and Responsibilities: It’s important to understand…as the Kaizen or RIE Facilitator, it’s not your job to do everything. Be very clear (for yourself and everyone involved) on your own role as well as the role of the Process Owner, Sponsor, Team Members, and Stakeholders.
Practice (start small): Once you have the knowledge of how to run a Kaizen Event, it’s time to practice. Participate in events run by strong and experienced facilitators, or start out with some smaller projects before jumping into the big ones.
The skill of rapid problem-solving is more important now than ever!
Recent Changes and Challenges Require Even More Discipline and Structure
Almost everything has changed in a big way, and it’s happened fast. Our customer’s needs, how we get work done, how we collaborate, our mechanisms to solve problems, the way we communication, our work-life balance has all changed.
And not just for us, but for everyone. Even more now than ever, we live in a world of infinite distractions. Everything on this planet is fighting for your attention.
A powerful way to reduce distractions and to see great results materialize quickly is a meaningful structure, which is the way that you can easily stay on track. If we regularly practice structured problem-solving, especially with the great problem-solving method of the Kaizen Event, it will become second nature, and we will be able to quickly adapt and flex to anything that comes our way!