Posts Tagged PDCA

Respect the Process

We’ve all undoubtedly had the notion of respect for people drilled into our heads. Of course, it’s easy to speak about such a principle. Much  harder to live it.

In any event, let me humbly add another recipient of our deserved respect.

Process.

First, a distinction, it’s not THE Process, meaning we are not talking about one single, special process that is elevated above all others. We’re talking about ANY process within our value streams.

OK, you may be thinking, why would we respect a non-person or non-entity? And how would we render such respect?

Why?respect process 2

  • Every process, standardized or not, should be respected at least to the extent that we must grasp what it is (admittedly difficult if it is not standardized) and the reason for its very existence. How many times have folks eliminated or changed a process without understanding what problem it was trying to solve in the first place, only to find that their rash “improvement” was counterproductive?
  • Basic respect is extended to people because of their inherent human dignity. A standardized process has a certain inherent value in that it provides, if nothing else, a starting point for improvement. Think back to your last time you (improved and) standardized a previously non-standardized process. Hard work, but it established a critical foundation for the next kaizen activity. As Taiichi Ohno (and Henry Ford, previously) is credited with saying, more or less, there is no kaizen without standard work. Implicit with this concept is that the proper use of standardized processes readily reveals abnormalities, which is the feedstock for problem solving.
  • Standardized processes, until improved yet again, represent the best way for the organization to do things easier, better, faster, and cheaper. Why wouldn’t we respect that?
  • A standardized process represents, if established properly, the genuine PDCA and SDCA (standardize-do-check-act) efforts of a number of folks. We need to respect their hard work, courage, and creativity.
  • And then there’s the slippery slope of inconsistency. If we pick and choose which processes receive respect and which are casually disregarded, the discipline and scientific thought that is so necessary for effective lean transformations goes up in smoke.

How?

  • PDCA. It’s difficult to respect what you do not understand. Good old fashioned PDCA requires the lean practitioner to grasp the situation. The plan portion of PDCA calls us to understand and compare what is happening versus what should be happening and what we know versus what we don’t know. In other words, we should not willfully further process ignorance.
  • SDCA. SDCA is about ensuring, via audit, that standardized work is being adhered to and is sufficient. This assumes an organization-wide discipline to follow the standardized work and a leadership obligation to reinforce adherence and, in the event of lack of adherence, determine the reason why and the help develop and deploy an appropriate countermeasure. Sometimes lack of adherence is driven by one or more of the following: the process is insufficient, a better way has been adopted (and should be reflected in updated standardized work), insufficient training, willful disobedience, etc.
  • Patience. Standardized work needs to be lived with for some measure of time before changes should be experimented with and/or instituted. I’ve witnessed folks “trying” standardized work that was SDCA’d in an identical process from another location immediately dismiss it as insufficient (compared to their organic, non-standardized work) and then desiring to change it or just plain ignore it. Here, we suggest reasoned “tasting before seasoning.”
  • TWI. If we truly respect the process AND the person, we will effectively instruct the worker so that he understands the how and why of the process and we will verify that he can consistently execute the process. TWI’s job instruction program, for example, provides a time-proven approach for doing just that.
  • Andon. Workers must be empowered and expected to pull the andon when they cannot maintain the process and/or the process is deemed insufficient. In turn, workers must expect lean leaders to respond to the andon pull, escalate when necessary, and ultimately facilitate problem solving.

In short, respect the process and it will respect you.

Related posts: Standard Work Is Like Food – Taste before Seasoning, Leader Standard Work Should Be…Work!

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PDCA – So Simple, It’s Child’s Play [Guest Post]

I was recently working in Indonesia at one of the largest pulp and paper mills in the world. One evening we were invited to the company’s continuous improvement awards ceremony.

On a quarterly basis they recognize kaizen teams that have excelled.

Halfway through the ceremony, two girls from the local grade school took the stage to present the results from the kaizen event that they had led at their school…

GRADE SCHOOL!

In a simple and logical manner they explained how they followed Plan, Do, Check, Act.

The problem was congestion in the hallways between classes. This caused students to be late for the next class, damage to property on shelves, and, in a few cases, injury.

Through direct observation they documented the current state with “noodle” diagrams and time observations. They identified a solution and tested it. They made a few modifications and implemented the final solution with standard work and a method to measure results. The results were no one was late for class, and damage and injuries were eliminated.

Talk about humbling! GRADE SCHOOL!

I think of the excuses that I routinely hear; it won’t work for our problem/business, we do not have the time, it is too hard, no one wants to change.

Blah, blah, blah….

Remember that even kids are using PDCA.

Stop making excuses and go and fix something.

John Rizzo authored this blog post. He is a fellow Lean Six Sigma implementation consultant and friend of Mark Hamel.

Related posts: Guest Post: Beyond Toast Kaizen – Lean Breakfast Concepts, Circa 1937, “Do” Only Gets You Half the Way There, or…“No Pie for You!”, Want a Kaizen Culture? Take Your Vitamin C!

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Tattoos, Lean, and Regrets

A friend and colleague provided me with this tattoo parlor photo. He was passing by and just couldn’t resist the irony of it all.

The lack of permanence around the sign construction makes the whole thing even more entertaining.

My friend and I share the same passion for lean as well as an often bizarre brand of humor. He thought the photo was blog worthy, although he wasn’t quite sure of the exact subject.

Well, I’m not one to waste a good picture.

______________________________________

Lean, by it’s very nature, is not permanent. Certainly, if a transformation is not progressing, then it’s not transforming.

If it’s stagnant, it is decaying.

But, I digress.

I’m no expert on tattoos. In fact, I don’t have any.  Although, there were several “near misses” in my younger days.

Other than the stick on variety or henna types, there is very little PDCA around them. Sure there is “plan”, which sometimes doesn’t get the proper rigor before it quickly turns into “do.” Note that tattoo plan and do is best done without the assistance of alcohol and peer pressure.

The “check” part, other than the review of the stencil before the needle, seems to happen largely after the artwork is complete. By then, “act” or “adjust” options are pretty limited.

Lean is a lot more forgiving. Real PDCA, especially within the proper culture, is freeing. Renewable in may ways.

But, as I think through my modest career thus far, I have to ask myself whether I have any lean regrets.

Unlike in the song My Way, my regrets are not too few to mention. So, here are some of my own, along with regrets that I think others should have (based upon my observations over the years).

  • Bending or compromising on one or more lean principles
  • Being too rigid on a lean tool and missing the point (a.k.a. the principle)
  • Not using open-ended questions enough
  • Making technical changes without corresponding management system changes (i.e., leader standard work)…and seeing improvement gains evaporate over time
  • Getting into useless arguments about whether folks need to adhere to standard work. Sure we need to understand the why, but following standard work is a condition of employment. End of story. Improve it if the standard work is not sufficient.
  • Assuming (a.k.a. not validating) that folks understand key lean concepts
  • Not aligning leadership at the very beginning of the lean transformation
  • Not acting quickly enough to remove the saboteurs (after a genuine effort to convert them)
  • Forgetting that people development is as important as business results
  • Giving someone a fish because it’s more expedient than teaching them how to fish
  • Basing leadership assignments more on technical skills than core competencies/behavioral skills
  • Not fixing (or at least containing) problems immediately
  • Prematurely moving from pilot to full scale deployment
  • Ruminating about stuff while sitting in a conference room rather than going to the gemba and personally conducting direct observations
  • Short-cutting problem-solving

The list could go on and on and on.

Of course, unlike in a tattoo scenario, we can reflect and adjust. We can turn our regrets, assuming that we can grasp the root cause(s) and apply effective countermeasures, into strengths.

And, in a form of yokoten, we can share our hard-earned learnings, so that others may better avoid some of our mistakes.

What “lean regrets” do you have?

Related posts: Want a Kaizen Culture? Take Your Vitamin C!, Lean Listening, 12 Narrow Lean Gates

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Animated Cartoon: “What’s the Problem?”

A couple of weeks ago, a Wall Street Journal article covered how many folks are creating computer-generated cartoons. I thought, “Hey, I can do that!” Whether or not I should is a different matter altogether…

Well, I took a shot at a hopefully instructive animated cartoon around problem-solving and what I see as one of the biggest challenges to effective problem-solving.  Let me know if any of this seems familiar.

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Lean Space – Some Thoughts and 10 Questions

Lean is applied within time and space. That’s where we “live” and add value, or not. Organizations often don’t rigorously consider critical lean implications when designing new spaces – whether brand new buildings, additions or modifications to existing structures.

The fact is that spaces need to support and facilitate a leaner value stream. Too often we design new spaces to accommodate old, waste-laden, value-inhibiting ways…because the architectural and construction process often has its own inertia. Lean thinking can end up taking the back seat. This is a big fail!

So, whether we: 1) believe (careful of that) that we have squeezed out much of the improvement opportunity within a given value stream and now anticipate that an improved space will bring us to the next level, or  2) have just begun our lean journey and think a new or redesigned space will give us some serious performance lift, or 3) are somewhere in between, there are some fundamental considerations before the architects design, the demo guys demolish, the contractors…you get the point.

Few things go together as well as value stream analysis and new layout development. It’s an opportunity to define a leaner future state, at both a conceptual and physical level. Of course, these activities are what we would call paper kaizen. While we can challenge one another on how to get to continuous flow, apply supermarket pull, incorporate new/improved standard work, etc., it’s still just captured on paper. It’s not real yet.

This is where 3P (production preparation process, or perhaps, more appropriately 2P – preparation process) is powerful stuff. Within the context of certain weighted design criteria (see below for some questions that might help identify key criteria), 3P facilitates: 1) the formulation of many different design alternatives, 2) down-selection to a critical few design concepts, 3) trystorming/PDCA of the critical few using open space, chalk lines, cardboard, PVC, etc., sometimes aided by 3D design, and ultimately, 4) the selection of a final design.

Now, that may sound too easy, and often it is. If the new space is supposed to accommodate a bunch of “improved” flows, standard work, visual controls, etc…heck, a brand new system, the likelihood that it will all work without a bunch of real PDCA, applied over many weeks, is about ZERO.

So, you need to evaluate the risk of going too fast and perhaps spending lots of money and then determining that the new space is far from what is needed. Most times, depending upon the depth of change, it may make sense to live the new system, as best you can, in your old space and do PDCA. While you do this, PDCA the design of the space.

To spur some thought around lean space design, here are a handful of questions to consider. In no specific order:

  1. Will the new space facilitate the least waste physical flow of the material, information, person, supplies, scrap, equipment, tooling, etc.?
  2. Will the new space facilitate and even enhance visual management by means of clear line of sight – no obstructions (high features, corners, stairs, etc.)?
  3. Will the new space have desirable acoustics to facilitate audible communication (musical andons, team discussions, etc.) and provide sufficient quiet/privacy to do the job (like in a call center)?
  4. Will the space facilitate 5S and work place organization? For example, how can we better accomplish the 4th S, standardized clean-up, by keeping things from getting messy in the first place?
  5. PDCA is forever and business dynamics evolve – is the space flexible enough to accommodate improved layouts, forecasted growth, normal demand variation? Avoid “roots or vines” so that equipment, furniture, workstations and even walls can be easily moved.
  6. Will the space facilitate tiered team meetings and accommodate the related performance metrics boards, suggestion boards, task accountability boards, etc.?
  7. Will the space be something that you would be proud to show you customers, something that your employees will feel makes their job easier and more satisfying?
  8. Will the space facilitate standard work and, with that, avoid isolated islands while promoting appropriate multi-process operations?
  9. Will the space generate a sufficient ROI?
  10. Will the stakeholders “own” the new space, because they were appropriately engaged in developing it?

What are your space design considerations?

Related posts: Telling “How” Removes Responsibility, Without Defined Criteria, (Almost) Everything Looks Good

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Want a Kaizen Culture? Take Your Vitamin C!

Among other things, vitamin C boosts one’s immune system. That’s pretty important, especially around the cold and flu season. But there is another type of vitamin C. One that is critical to the formation of an effective kaizen culture.

The Toyota Way, as defined here by Toyota, is founded upon two main pillars: 1) continuous improvement , and 2) respect for people. The following “three building blocks” shape their “commitment to continuous improvement:

  1. Challenge – we form a long term vision, meeting challenges with courage and creativity to realize our dreams;
  2. Kaizen – we improve our business operations continuously, always driving for innovation and evolution
  3. Genchi Genbutsu – we go to the source to find the facts to make correct decisions, build consensus and achieve goals.”

The first building block contains vitamin C in a threefold dose:

  • Challenge. Constantly be ready and willing to question the status quo and look for better ways. The challenge can be fomented by the envisioned ideal state and/or a specific target condition. It’s about closing the gaps. Challenge should provide the “pull” dynamic for improvements.
  • Courage. Be ever willing to test improvement ideas and learn from trial and error. This is foundational to PDCA (they don’t call it “PDC”).  Lean leaders must actively nurture an environment within which people fearlessly (not recklessly) apply scientific thinking and trystorming.
  • Creativity. Trystorming without creativity is a sterile exercise. We must think and act differently – “Keep on doing what you’re doing, keep on getting what you’re getting.” Unleash the inner MacGyver!

So, take copious amounts of vitamin C and, as an effective leader, ensure that your folks do the same. Boost that organizational immune system and foster a kaizen culture.

Related posts: Telling “How” Removes Responsibility, Kaizen Principle: Be like MacGyver, use creativity before capital!

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Telling “How” Removes Responsibility

click to enlarge

Over the years I have learned to be more patient. In the not too distant past and in the interest of quick results, I frequently told people how to solve problems – which countermeasures to apply as well as where and when. I do that a lot less now, but admittedly I still sometimes lapse.

Telling is fine when time is short and the real risk to life, limb and financial viability are high.  But, if we were to honestly reflect on the frequency of these types of situations, we would see that they’re pretty rare. Unfortunately, it’s normal to make a false choice between urgent and important.

So, what’s important? Certainly, building a lean culture, part of which is an organization of effective problem solvers, is eminently important. Effective problem solvers know how  to apply PDCA and take responsibility for solving their assigned or adopted problems.

How powerful is an organization of engaged and empowered problem solvers? A lot more powerful than a handful of puppet masters pulling the strings of a bunch of disenfranchised folks.

Think about it. If someone tells you “how” to solve the problem, then you do not, and cannot, really own it.  You essentially end up being an un-invested robot. You also end up with very limited (felt) responsibility, because the leader took the P, C, and A away from you and left you with just the D of PDCA. When you execute what someone has told you to do (and you have little insight into the “why” ) and it doesn’t work…well, it’s that do-telling bozo’s fault. Just following orders! I’ll wait for the next set of orders. Not good.

So, what to do? Try coaching your people on the why and the underlying methodology behind PDCA. Surely, make certain that they never violate lean principles – for example, observe reality, takt, flow, pull, etc. Coach them by asking them penetrating questions that will force them to think and hopefully adjust when required. Hold them accountable, but allow them to fail…and learn. In short, respect them and gain a fellow lean thinker, lean doer and lean owner.

Related posts: Lean Leadership – Lessons from My Dog Obedience Sensei, Stretch, Don’t Break – 5 ways to grow your people

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Guest Post: 5 Reasons You Need to Do a DMAIC

John, the Production Manager of a food manufacturing plant is having a good day.  At least until the Quality Manager bursts into his office:  “John, I can’t believe that your operators can’t put a seal on a jar.”

John is surprised and replies, “What are you talking about, Steve?  We haven’t had to put product on hold for seals for months.  I told the team that they better be careful when adjusting the sealer during the change-overs after the last issue.”

Steve isn’t patient with John, “Well, where have you been?  Everything you made last night is on hold.  First shift found it when they did their first quality check this morning.”

John replies, “Just when I thought I could get some work done” and wonders what went wrong this time…..

John and his team have been down this road before.  The team has a major quality failure and goes into crisis mode.  Someone has a great idea on how to solve the issue and it is implemented right away.  The trouble is that the solutions are often superficial.  Other times it only addressed one issue when in fact there are several root causes.  In any case, the idea really is not adequate.  Everyone pays extra attention at first and they don’t have any repeat issues thanks to everyone’s extra diligence.  People forget in time though and start to focus on more pressing matters.   Before you know it, the team has another major quality failure.

“Hey, Steve.  Why don’t we do a DMAIC to solve this seal issue once and for all?”

John has learned from the school of hard knocks that superficial answers don’t solve complex issues. He knows that it takes time and resources to do a DMAIC properly but is starting to see the value of such an investment.

So what is a DMAIC?  DMAIC is part of a Continuous Improvement process known as Six Sigma.  Bill Smith, a Naval Academy graduate, formulated Six Sigma at Motorola. Motorola won the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award just two years after implementing the new Six Sigma process.  Smith was inspired by the work of Dr. Edwards Deming and other pioneers of the Quality movement.  Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle clearly influenced the DMAIC process.

Plan-Do-Check-Act Deming circle, also known as...

Image via Wikipedia

The DMAIC process consists of the following steps:

  1. Define
  2. Measure
  3. Analyze
  4. Improve
  5. Control

The PDCA and DMAIC cycles are very similar in practice.  The Define, Measure, and Analyze steps of the DMAIC process fit nicely into the Planning step of the Deming Circle. The DMAIC Improve step is virtually the same as Do and Check of the PDCA.  The Control step of the DMAIC overlaps with both the Check and Act steps.  The DMAIC includes doing a risk assessment to prevent backsliding at this point.

There are several benefits to the DMAIC process:

  1. DMAIC’s can solve complex issues. It is very difficult to solve complex issues with simple problem solving tools.  It is unlikely that you would solve each root cause of as such an issue without a process like PDCA or DMAIC.
  2. The DMAIC process is a structured and proven process. Would you rather use a process with documented results or go with your gut feeling?
  3. The structure is good for high risk issues. Without structured implementation, you are likely to have the issue return when an operator decides to do it their way or a new operator doesn’t get the word on the new procedure.
  4. The process will find the root causes and effective countermeasures when done properly.  The process uses Pareto Diagrams, Cause & Effect Analysis, 5 Why Root Cause Analysis and other proven tools to identify the root causes.
  5. The DMAIC process is designed for sustainable results and makes improvements part of how we do our work.  The DMAIC process calls for written documentation of the standardized improvements.  The process also calls for a risk assessment to determine what could prevent the improvements from being sustainable.  Armed with that information, the team develops countermeasures to ensure the long-term success of the process.

John and his team are ready to tackle a DMAIC to solve their issue with improper seals. Is the DMAIC process what you need to solve issues in your process?  If you are willing to invest the time required to really solve your complex and high risk issues, then the answer is yes.

Go to So What is a DMAIC Anyway? to learn more.

Christian Paulsen, an Executive Consultant with a passion for Continuous Improvement, authored this blog post.  Christian’s experience includes the use of Lean principles and tools in Food and Beverage manufacturing plants. Prior to consulting, Christian served as an officer within the US Navy, followed by key roles within Frito-Lay, Unilever (Lipton), and Nestle USA as well as smaller private manufacturers.

You can read Christian’s blog at http://christianpaulsen62.wordpress.com/ or connect on LinkedIn.

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The War Room – More than an Interior Decorating Statement

Several weeks ago, a client mentioned that they were planning on establishing a “war room,” but did not especially like that name. I suggested “transformation room.” It’s a little less militaristic (not necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps a little over the top within healthcare) and more descriptive relative to its purpose.

Here are a few things to think about when contemplating a war room.

Purpose. In a nutshell, the war room’s primary purpose is to establish and sustain effective organizational focus on the stuff that’s required to transform its performance and culture.  The focus must be intense, specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bounded. By definition, it must encompass both PDCA and SDCA, meaning breakthrough improvement, daily kaizen and sustainability.

Audience. The notion of “room” infers that its users are small in number…maybe elite. Well, the war room should be worn out by the executives, but it shouldn’t necessarily be an exclusive place (unless a war room is dedicated to working out some especially sensitive issues, like organizational design decisions). In fact, if at all pragmatic, the room should be in a high traffic area. Hence, the “room” for some lean companies has become a “glass wall” – a physical, transparent wall, which sports the information for all to see and demonstrates leadership’s competent and credible commitment to the lean transformation.

Contents. What’s in the war room? Charts, graphs and solemn statements that drive/share:

  • clarity in the enterprise’s vision, mission and purpose,
  • the identification and recognition of the current condition,
  • articulation of the desired future state and the gaps between current and future state,
  • the execution (and the adjustment, as required) of detailed gap closure plan(s),
  • safety, quality, delivery, cost, innovation, and morale performance,
  • countermeasures, their ownership and status, and
  • recognition of victories, large and small

We’re talking about strategy deployment matrices, bowling charts, A3 reports, current and future state value stream maps, value stream improvement plans, top tier performance metrics, posted top leader standard work, task accountability boards, etc.

Context. The war room, by itself, is just a room with lots of paper on the wall. Its value is derived by the structured engagement of the lean leaders in and around that room – the focus, application, execution, learning, and adjustment within frequent strategy deployment checkpoint meetings, daily tiered meetings and the like. The war room represents the top tier within a multi-tiered lean management system.

The war room is clearly more than an interior decorating statement. What’s your take on the room?

Related posts: The Post-Value Stream Analysis Hangover, Why Bowling Charts? Trajectory Matters!

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Of Team Size, Social Loafing and Lack of Direction

Maximilian Ringelmann was a 19th century French agricultural engineer. I’m guessing there’s not too many of those around right now – both from the engineering discipline and  country of origin perspective. Anyway, Ringelmann discovered that as more folks pulled on a rope, more force is exerted. However, the increase on the force is NOT commensurate. Maximilian measured a type of “social loafing” – the individual, per capita effort lessens as people are added.

As we select teams for continuous improvement activity, we must be mindful of the team size. Large teams, more than eight or so, increase the probability of two types of team muda: 1) social loafing, and 2) lack of direction. Social loafing, or the Ringelmann effect, reflects the inclination of participants to slack and hide…because they can.

If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, the size of the team is too large. – Jeff Bezos, Chairman, CEO and Founder of Amazon.com

Lack of direction can befall team members who outstrip, because of sheer number or perhaps industriousness, the aligning and facilitating capabilities of team leaders and coaches. (Here, we’re not talking about problems that are generated by ineffective team leaders and facilitators.) We know that kaizen activity – the identification of opportunities, the countermeasures identified and assigned, the learnings and adjustments that occur throughout the trystorming process, etc. can make the process a little less than orderly and predictable. Added to that chaos factor, if the team is too large, team members are  more likely to experience the waste of:

  • Waiting. Nothing like hanging around for someone to assign another task for you after you just knocked off a countermeasure.
  • Over-processing and over-production. Virtually all participants want to do value-added work. So, if there is an absence of direction (and alignment), there’s a decent chance they’ll do something, perhaps more than is required (scope creep!!) or do it prematurely – like developing visual controls before the “system” is defined, which can lead to…
  • Defects. Redoing stuff when it’s not part of the normal PDCA cycle is demoralizing. Sometimes it does not require rework, but rather scrapping – like when two people or sub-teams end up doing duplicate work. Not good.
  • Opportunity. Well executed kaizen is an opportunity for folks to improve the business. It’s also equally about improving the worker’s PDCA skill-sets and developing a lean culture. When teams are too large and they suffer the above described dynamics, we end up squandering these transformative opportunities. We then give people a good reason to call into question our competency and credibility as lean leaders.

So, how do we avoid the Ringelmann effect and the lack of direction trap? First, don’t pick a team that is too large… and always employ effective pre-planning (inclusive of clarity in scope, measurable targets, best practice team selection, required pre-work, a solid initial strategy, etc.), proven work strategies (prioritization of countermeasures, assignment, frequent status checks, etc.), promote and enforce proper team behaviors (focus, shared leadership, candor, bias for action, etc.), all while empowering the team members to figure out much of the “how” (as long as it’s consistent with lean principles) and providing them with the necessary encouragement, training and resources.

When a large team is required either by virtue of the scope/work that needs to be done or the need for multi-level and cross-functional representation, then (after you’ve decided that you can’t reduce the scope), consider the opportunities for sub-teams, load up the team with folks who have strong kaizen experience, ensure that you’ve got an ace team leader and facilitator and make sure that you’ve done a heck of a pre-planning job.

I’m sure I missed some things. What do you think?

Related post: Kaizen Event Team Selection – No Yo-Yos Needed

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