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The Kaizen Process

The first thing management must do is to provide a road map, that is, a list of potential kaizen events. That's easy enough. Are there any processes or departments where you think there is the potential for improvement? Next rank them in order of where you feel the most gain can be made. This is the order your events should follow.

One word of caution here. Your first event should have a very high probability of success. When going over your list of potential kaizen events, select one that is not extremely complex. Remember the momentum you establish with your first event will provide the catalyst for future excitement among your employees. Once you have made your selection, you are ready to begin.

The first step is to select a facilitator. This selection is critical. It is suggested that an experienced kaizen fa­cilitator be selected. There are consulting groups that are available with vast experience in the field. If you do not want to use an outside source, then proceed slowly with your first event until your internal candidate can be properly trained. To train your internal kaizen facili­tator it will be necessary for him or her to take part in several kaizen teams held at other companies. There are many public kaizen events taking place all the time. Once again, you may find it easiest to employee a consultant to help you get into the loop. However, professional organizations like APICS may be able to put you in touch with participating companies.

Many companies train one, two, or more of their as­sociates to become full-time kaizen facilitators. They attend several events outside their own company and participate in every event that takes place at their com­pany. After partaking in approximately 12 events they will be ready to facilitate an event on their own. This amount of training is required. The high energy level that takes place during an event together with the vari­ety of tasks being carried out requires an experienced facilitator to maintain group focus.

Once your facilitator is selected and trained, you may proceed. Management and the facilitator, knowing the area to be attacked, should agree on a team captain. This person should be someone who has a stake in the area being addressed during the event. It could be a supervi­sor of the area, a group leader, or an employee from that area. Whoever it is, they need to have the respect of their co-workers, they need to have an understanding of the overall process being studied, and, most important, they need to have a vested interest in making it work. When the event is over, this person will be expected to enforce the changes that have been made and must be able to solicit the support of the entire department. This person will conduct follow-up meetings to ensure any homework assignments (to be discussed later) are completed.

Now the time is right to select the remainder of the team. A team should contain no more than 12 people plus the facilitator and no fewer than 8. These team members should be selected for several reasons. It is best to have at least a couple members from the area being studied. If you know the location of your next event, this is the time to introduce a couple of people from that area to the process. Get them charged up before hand. If any internal or external suppliers will be im­pacted by the changes to this area they should be asked to be members. If your suppliers are a part of the solu­tion and have had a hand in developing your process, you can expect a high degree of willingness to provide their service or product in accordance with your require­ments. They will have bought in to the changes in ad­vance and will have a complete understanding of the changes you are requesting. You may find it useful to approach their management with the prospect of a free four-day training course for their associate. Also they will be developing a skill they can bring back to their own organization.

Part 1  Part 2    Part 3   Part 4   Par 5

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