Every once and a while someone will ask me to (discretely) evaluate a kaizen event team’s effectiveness. I don’t necessarily relish doing that when it is intended for the purpose of team comparisons, but it’s not an unfair request from a senior leader.

Someday, I should probably try to pull the mystical sensei thing and ask them first what they think…and why.

The criteria that I apply is less than scientific. I don’t apply weighting between the criteria and I simply use a 1 to 5 score for each one, with 5 the highest. Really, the important thing is reflecting upon the meaningful stuff, learning and then improving.

My measurement criteria, in no particular order, with links to a handful of relevant prior posts:

  1. Waste elimination effectiveness. The notion here is about how well the team identified, acknowledge and then eliminated the waste within their target process. “W.E.E.” is driven as much by team aggressiveness as technical acumen. Lean Metric: Waste Elimination Effectiveness
  2. Projected sustainability. PDCA is one thing and SDCA (standardize-do-check-act) is another. There’s nothing as painful as unsustained kaizen gains. They will sap the lifeblood out of a fledgling lean transformation. Gains must be “locked in” with standard work. Lean management systems are needed to drive process adherence and process performance and help facilitate further improvements. Leader Standard Work – Chock that PDCA Wheel
  3. Degree of difficulty. Not much explanation needed here. Scope, technical complexity and change management challenges run the gamut. Some events are easier than others.
  4. Kaizen rigor. Effective teams generally apply rigor around:1) pre-event planning (including linkage to strategy deployment, value stream improvement plans and the like, team selection, appropriate pre-work, etc.), 2) event execution (including event kick-off, team leader meetings, effective work strategies, and the PDCA-driven “kaizen storyline”), and 3) event follow-through. Show Your Work, How to Avoid Kaizen Event Malpractice
  5. Demonstrated application of lean principles, systems and tools. It’s a wonderful thing to see the simple elegance of well applied (and validated) standard work…and other lean tools, for that matter. System-level  (or sub-system-level…hey, there’s only so much that can be done during an event) application is even more impressive, for example pull systems, lean management systems, etc. Still more “transformative” is something that goes beyond just the “know-how” of tools and systems. Principles encompass not only know-how, but the “know why.” Teams that enter that realm are effective during the event…and well beyond. Everyone Is Special, But Lean Principles Are Universal!
  6. Value stream/business impact. Kaizen events are often more about kaikaku than kaizen (small incremental improvement). While we would be mistaken to believe that this is and should always be the case, value stream/business impact should be considered when considering kaizen event team effectiveness.
  7. Learning and development. Kaizen events are excellent and intense laboratories for individual, team and organizational growth. Growth opportunities extend to the technical, teaming, leadership and change management areas and serve as a training ground for daily kaizen. And a final point as we recall Taiichi Ohno’s insight that, “Learning comes through difficulties,” the lack of gaudy event results does not mean a lack of development! Bridging to Daily Kaizen – 15 (or so) Questions

So, what did I miss?