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Why and How
The purpose of a Kaizen event is to find workable solutions to problems within an organization or to find new opportunities for a company. Usually, these events are several days long, but some can be as short as 12 hours. The participants of a Kaizen event are key to its success. They need to be engaged, thinking and interacting throughout the entire event.
Another part of the success of a Kaizen event is to have leaders who are willing to listen and act on the suggestions of the team. While ideas can be rejected if there is definitive proof that the proposed solutions won’t work, no idea should be outright rejected. Proposed solutions should always be investigated.
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Kaizen events should be aimed at major problems--and no more than just a few. Always choose your problems wisely so that you have time to work on those problems thoroughly. The most important part of a Kaizen event, however, is the team and its participants, and you need to get as many of your team members to participate as possible. Here are some thoughts on how to facilitate a Kaizen event.
Set up a structure for your Kaizen event that you will follow for all subsequent events. Elect a facilitator, or, for larger events, elect several facilitators, especially if different teams will be working on different problems.
Always precede the Kaizen event with a pre-event meeting. Facilitators and teams will quickly discuss the problem and discuss what the objectives of the event should be. Then they will plan how sessions should be broken down to meet the chosen objectives.
For most Kaizen events, your objectives will be similar to the ones below:
- Discuss a problem and come up with a solution or solutions.
- Figure out how you will measure and keep track of solutions for the discussed problems.
- Pick who will be the leader/facilitator of the subsequent Kaizen event.
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During the Kaizen Event
At the start of the session, there will generally be an assembly to welcome everyone and discuss the problems. But, the main work will be done within the breakout sessions. Small teams will discuss the problem and offer solutions. A moderator will direct the event and meetings, and he/she will keep everything in order.
Either the moderator or someone else should be designated as a record keeper of ideas and possible solutions. Another possibility is to write all proposed solutions on a whiteboard and have participants vote on their favorites to narrow down the possibilities.
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After the Event
Once the event is over, leaders should reward the team members who participated in the event to ensure that they will participate in future events. Next, the event facilitators need to figure out where improvements can be made. For example, were there areas that could have been shorter? Did the entire event need to be as long as it was?
Leaders should also survey event participants to see what they would change. Ask them what worked and what didn’t. This will also be another way to engage your participants and make them feel like they’re an integral part of the event.