Posts Tagged kaizen team

“Measuring” Kaizen Event Team Effectiveness: 7 Criteria

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?

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Kaizen and Chemistry

I recently experienced  the pain associated with coaching a team with poor chemistry. It was a kaizen event team, so the pain was finite. But there are team formulation lessons learned – whether it be a kaizen event team or any other continuous improvement oriented team, kaizen circle activity teams, mini-kaizen event teams, project teams, etc.

Teams need to be built around the mission, not the other way around. So, for example, when selecting kaizen event teams, our criteria should encompass a number of things. At the risk of being way too brief and broad brushed:

  • Representation. I usually like the “1/3 rule” – roughly a third of the members from the target process, 1/3 from upstream and downstream of that process and a 1/3 “fresh eyes.” We also need to ensure that representation includes more than a couple of folks who actually DO the work within the target process, etc. Keep the team multi-level and avoid putting the manager of the target process in the team leader role (and sometimes on the team at all).
  • Size. 6 to 8 folks is a pretty good rule of thumb. Less than that is fine if the scope is really heavy on analysis (i.e., kanban sizing), otherwise we most likely need to reduce the scope or expand the duration of the event or activity. More than 8 people and we risk losing team effectiveness.  In such a situation we should be thinking about sub-team strategies.
  • Technical competencies. A team should include folks who know the technical aspects of the target process. We also need at least several people, including the team leader, who have a good measure of kaizen expertise (process, forms, etc.).
  • Core competencies. Teams should be selected such that there is a good nucleus of work habits, attitudes and behaviors that are conducive to team effectiveness – for example, group facilitation, change leadership and self-management.
But, What About Team chemistry?!?

Chemistry is critical and, at the same time, a elusive. It’s something that we often “feel” our way through. Much of the time though, it really is not considered in an explicit way.

We’re going to get a little scientific here, but know that this is just to provide some insight into things we should be considering when selecting a team for continuous improvement activities. I’m going to refer to the DISC model of behavior, mostly because I think that it’s pretty straightforward…and I am familiar with it (but NO expert) .

The DISC behavioral model is based upon the work of the late psychologist, William Moulton Marston and provides insight into people’s work styles (within given situations). Again, basic knowledge of the model  and an understanding of different styles can be helpful when we consider how to optimize team chemistry, or at least try to avoid BAD chemistry, for a given team. I am NOT proposing that we have team candidates or teams take one or more of the DISC assessment tools that are on the market.

So, what does DISC stand for? It’s an acronym for a four-dimensional model with the following “pure” dimensions. No surprise, most people are usually a combination of dimensions. For example, a high D, low C.

  • Dominance. High D’s try to shape the environment by overcoming challenges. They generally seek to get immediate results, cause action, accept challenges, make quick decisions, take authority, solve problems, etc. They desire power and authority, prestige and challenges, opportunities for individual accomplishments and direct answers. They need others who are more likely to weigh pros and cons, calculate risks, use caution, research facts and the like.
  • Influence. I’s shape the environment through influence and persuasion. Their tendencies include networking, making a favorable impression, being articulate and creating a motivational environment. I’s like popularity and social recognition, freedom of expression and positive feedback. They can use the help of others who concentrate on the task, seek facts, speak directly and take a logical approach.
  • Steadiness. High S people achieve stability by supporting and cooperating with others to achieve goals. They typically perform in a predictable and consistent manner, demonstrate patience, help others and show loyalty. S’s desire an environment that includes maintenance of the status quo, consistency and predictable routines and clear goals and expectations.   S people need others who react quickly to unexpected change, stretch toward the challenge of an accepted task, become involved in more than one thing, apply pressure to others, etc.
  • Conscientiousness. C folks work conscientiously to ensure quality and accuracy. They tend to follow key directives and standards, concentrate on key details, think analytically, weigh pros and cons and check for accuracy. They like environments that have clearly defined goals and performance expectation, policies and SOP’s and, of course, value quality and accuracy. They benefit from others who delegate important tasks, make quick decisions and move toward action and use policies only as guidelines.

Now, of course people can have different styles in different environments and if stressed they can modify their styles. For example, stress a high C and they can move into high D territory, stress a high D and well, they can become more D (that can be scary), stress a high I and they can move toward the C quadrant. As a team leader or facilitator, inducing the right stress can be a useful strategy to improve team effectiveness.

A Quick Test for You

So, given the characterization of the DISC styles, take a look at the two team DISC “circles”  (A and B) and reflect on which team, all things being equal, would be more effective kaizeners. Each of the dots represent a team member. The star represents the team leader.

Now reflect on some your past teams. Is there anything that you would have done differently to improve the chemistry? Different team member selection? Perhaps induced more or less stress on the team?

Just trying to get you to think…

Related posts: Of Team Size, Social Loafing and Lack of Direction, Kaizen Event Team Selection – No Yo-Yos Needed


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Kaizen Event Supplies – Basic Stuff for Effective Events

airdrop picThe kaizen pre-event planning phase is critical to event effectiveness. It includes the obvious – event definition from the perspective of scope and targets, team selection, communication and certain acceptable pre-work, but sometimes the simple stuff gets missed. The simple stuff includes kaizen supplies – well organized, in a 5S way!

It’s definitely muda if a kaizen event team(s) is hamstrung, mid-event, while they’re waiting for a handful of cheap stopwatches to get picked up from the local giant box store or waiting for someone to track down some standard operations forms because they were all consumed during the last event and never replaced. The list of possible annoyances is pretty long.

Kaizen events are finite in length, typically three to five days in duration. If it’s a mini-event, it may be a day or so. Time is of the essence! Lost time means delayed or lost improvements and frustrated team members.

So, while we’re trying to implement lean, doesn’t it make sense that the kaizen event supplies are designated, sized, stored, presented and replenished in a lean manner? Of course it does. It just happens that it’s important, but not urgent. At least until that uh-oh moment, when a team determines that they’re missing a necessary supply item.

Sometimes, the reason for this phenomenon is that the organization is just cheap (penny-wise and pound foolish), there is no KPO to worry about this stuff or the KPO isn’t quite up to speed. The kaizen principle of “bias for action” is not an excuse for sloppiness.

See below for a basic list of kaizen event supplies. (Here, I am not talking about the typical 3P-type supplies – cardboard, PVC, plywood, Creform, etc.) Most should be specified, stored and presented point of use in the team’s break-out room. Some things, like laminators, may be shared amongst multiple teams. The KPO should make use of a kaizen team supply list which specifies the standard quantity of each item, item description, a field for an end-of-event inventory count and a field to reflect the quantity which needs to be replenished before the next event.

Of course, some things are difficult to anticipate that they will be needed for the event. For example, a 3X4′ magnetic dry erase board is usually not inventoried. These non-“supermarket” items will have to be bought-to-order during the event.

Stored within Plastic Storage Bin
  • 6 clipboards
  • 1 set of laminated copies of standard forms (5S audit sheet, time observation form, standard work sheet, etc.)
  • 6 stopwatches
  • 1 pedometer
  • 1 25′ tape measure
  • 1 box of pencils (pre-sharpened)
  • 3 white erasers
  • 1 box of pens
  • 1 box of flip chart markers (multi-colors)
  • 1 box dry erase markers (multi-colors)
  • 1 dry eraser
  • 1 18″ ruler
  • 6 8.5X11″ legal pads
  • 2 calculators
  • 1 stapler
  • 2 rolls of scotch tape in dispenser
  • 2 rolls of masking tape
  • 1 box blank overhead projector sheets (for us dinosaurs)
  • 1 box paper clips
  • 1 box rubber bands
  • 3 pkg of yellow sticky notes 3X3″
  • 3 pkg of orange sticky notes 3X3″
  • 3 pkg of green sticky notes 3X3″
  • 1 scissors
  • 1 pkg 8.5X11″ multi-color paper
  • 1 pkg 11X17″ multi-color paper
  • 1 pkg 8.5X11″ laminating pouches
  • 1 pkg 11X17″ laminating pouches
  • 1 box Sharpies (multi-colored)
  • 1 box push pins
  • 1 adjustable 3-hole punch
Not Stored within Plastic Bin
  • 3 flip chart pads
  • 1 box flip chart markers
Shared among Teams
  • 1 digital camera
  • 1 video camera
  • 1 label maker
  • 1 laminator
  • 1 measuring wheel
  • 1 roll 36″ wide kraft paper or white plotter paper
  • 1 LCD projector (located in presentation room)
  • 1 overhead projector (located in presentation room)
  • 1 color printer (11X17″ capable)

Am I missing anything?

Related post: The Kaizen Promotion Office Does What? 8 Critical Deliverables.

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Kaizen Event Team Selection – No Yo-Yos Needed

Yoyo pictureKaizen event team selection is a critical driver of event effectiveness. Selection criteria includes team representation (to promote diversity, perspective, ownership, and development opportunities), size, chemistry, kaizen experience, and behavioral and technical skills. In short, the team, typically six to eight members, should be picked around the event, not vice versa.

So, every member counts. The expectation is that team members are dedicated during the event. Truth of the matter, the team leader should be an integral part of the pre-event planning, execution and follow-through. Similarly, many team members must also support the follow-through phase of the event.

Team members often have specific roles to play, above and beyond “participant.” There is typically a team leader and co-leader and often there are, officially or unofficially, other roles:

  • “Navigator”  – one or more kaizen event veterans who are competent with the kaizen process, forms, etc.,
  • “Fresh eyes” – those who are not from the target area and are unencumbered by allegiance or intimate exposure to the process. They’re free to ask the “dumb questions,” like “WHY?,”
  • Operator or associate – stakeholders from the target area who have first-hand knowledge of the process and its people and who will (hopefully) help evangelize others and sustain the gains after the event,
  • Builder or technologist – multi-skilled maintenance person, machinist, IT person, analyst, etc. who will help the team safely make, modify, move and test things and/or serve as liaison with other support functions,
  • Compliance officer – typically someone who is product/service knowledgeable and will help the team comply with the various regulatory requirements.

So, where does  the yo-yo concept come into play? Team member commitment must be full time for the kaizen event, with only very rare exceptions. “Yo-yos” are team members who are repeatedly pulled out of the event for “important” meetings and projects by their supervisors. These in-again, out-again folks accomplish little other than to distract and demoralize their fellow members. They must constantly be brought up to speed relative to team progress and direction and do not deliver on their assigned countermeasures  – how can they, they’re never there!?

Yo-yos take a valuable spot on the team roster that would have been better filled by a dedicated member. Furthermore, effective lean leaders don’t tolerate yo-yo’s and don’t pull the string themselves.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Related post:  The Human Side of the Kaizen Event – 11 Questions for Lean Leaders

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