While lean managers know that it is important to have approval from upper management, they often make the mistake of thinking that Kaizen implementation is limited to just the front line workers. What is worse, is many people in executive management positions often hold the same view, so they will simply sign off on a Kaizen initiative and then forget all about it. Organizations with this type of belief system about Lean concepts, and specifically about Kaizen will often end up failing at the vast majority of their projects.
While it is true that most Kaizen projects are going to impact the front line workers, that is really only because the vast majority of things that go on in any facility are done by the front line workers. This doesn’t mean that the managers and executives don’t need to be aware of what is going on and keep up to date on the progress of these projects. In many cases the ability of lower level employees to succeed with their portion of the Kaizen initiative is entirely dependent on how involved the members of management are.
One of the things that is required for a successful Kaizen is the support of not just the lean manager, but also the entire management team. When a new program is being put in place, for example, people at all levels need to follow the instructions in order for it to become a success. If the managers expect the front line employees to stay focused on the Kaizen initiative then they need to participate as well.
Allowing time for training is one important way managers can encourage the success of a Kaizen project. If they attempt to push out a new initiative, but don’t allow sufficient time or resources to get everyone up to speed on how and why it is being put in place, it is bound to fail. Having management involved with the training is another great way to help encourage the adoption of Kaizen at all levels.
Custom Kaizen Programs
In addition to being supportive of the Kaizen projects which are going on at lower levels, executives should also be running the business using the Kaizen strategies. Using Kaizen for a business planning project is one great way to not only get an excellent business plan, but also to show people throughout the company just how important using Kaizen strategies is to the success of people at every level.
When people on the front line see that the executives are going through the same processes to help improve their work it will be much easier for them to accept these types of changes. It will also help the management team understand the difficulties everyone else is going through during particularly challenging Kaizen projects. The bottom line is that when everyone is adopting Kaizen together it has a far greater chance at successfully improving the way the company is run and the work is done at every level.