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Defining Kaizen Team Evolution
Kaizen applies to almost any process that involves functions that are amenable to improvement. This makes it a universally applicable philosophy. Its history goes back to the days after World War II when Japan was struggling to reestablish its manufacturing capacities. Kaizen activities required that an operation be standardized and the parameters in terms of time, inventory be clearly defined. The parameters so established are measured against the requirements and innovations that are made so that productivity is increased.
This can be done by reducing cycle time, controlling inventory or any other method to meet the requirements. These innovations are then again standardized and the process implemented. This cycle of innovations is continued as long as the operations are part of the cycle of manufacture or business or other process. To do this constantly requires the involvement of all the participants in the process with uninterrupted communication between them and the desire to make and accept changes. This requires teamwork, personal discipline, high morale and quality awareness. Promoting Kaizen team evolution thus becomes paramount.
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The Importance of Kaizen Team Building
Team building is the main ingredient of a successful Kaizen event. This can precede the Kaizen itself and needs to be given a lot of importance. So how does one help in Kaizen team evolution? For this, one must understand the various phases that a team has to go through that will enable it to suggest Kaizen events that will be self sustaining.
Initially a team has to be formed. For this a facilitator has to pick a small group of people from within those involved in the process being studied. This facilitator can function as a team leader for the brainstorming sessions that would follow detailed studies of the process. Alternatively a team leader has to be appointed. Once this brainstorming is done, ideas would be firmed up that would lead to the improvements that are desired. The team would then move to the performing stage where they would prepare an action list and communicate the same with their reasons for doing so to the rest of the people involved in the process. This is where communication is very important. Once the benefits are realized the team would have to continually repeat the process to look for further scope for improvement.
One of the most important things for every member of a Kaizen team is to realize that they are working for a common good and there is no place for any personal egos. Managements that are aware of the benefits of such Kaizen events would also strive to involve all members of a particular process in the Kaizen event. This can be done by rotating the people involved in the forming, storming, setting of new norms and final performance. This will encourage total involvement plus the constant inflow of ideas from new minds. Once such total involvement is guaranteed, there is almost no process that cannot be improved. This is after all the objective of the whole exercise.
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