Kaizen teams are an extremely effective way to produce great results, come up with excellent ideas, and foster change in just about any organization. Most people who are a part of these teams will attend Kaizen events and come away feeling energized, motivated and ready to improve the workplace. The problem often comes when they get back to the office and find that very little is actually changing.
There are several key mistakes that are made with Kaizen teams which can reduce the long term effectiveness of the teams and their events. Learning about these mistakes, and how to avoid them, is absolutely essential for any individual, team or company using Kaizen.
Mistake #1 – Clearly Explaining Objectives
When a Kaizen team gets together for an event, everyone should know exactly what the objectives are. This doesn’t simply mean mentioning a broadly defined problem which needs to be solved. It means explaining to everyone exactly what the focus of the event will be. When this isn’t done, the event may start off on the right track, but people will keep introducing or expanding the scope until the team has lost their focus.
To avoid this mistake, the Kaizen leader needs to help ensure the team remains focused on the objective of the event. This starts by clearly communicating the objectives, and will continue throughout the event through updates and suggestions. If people start to lose focus, the leader must reign them in.
Mistake #2 – Training on the Changes
When a Kaizen team comes up with a great solution to the clearly communicated objective, they will almost certainly be happy with it. When they get back to work after the event, they will likely be ready and willing to implement the changes successfully. The problem, however, is that those who weren’t involved with the Kaizen team aren’t excited about the change, and aren’t going to be driven to see it succeed. They may go through the motions, but real success requires more than that.
To prevent this from happening, the Kaizen team should host training as soon as possible. This training should focus not only on showing people how to implement the changes, but also show why these changes will be beneficial to everyone. Building passion and excitement for the change will help ensure the implementation is successful.
Mistake #3 – Follow-Up Tasks
Everyone in the Kaizen team, as well as those who are trained on the new processes, agree that the changes are good and necessary. They often even agree to implement them properly within a set amount of time, which is great. The problem is that while they may have had the best of intentions, people get distracted by the day to day activities of their job. Over the course of days, or weeks, people will lose focus and let the improved processes from the Kaizen team get neglected.
The solution is to have regularly scheduled follow-up activities to check on the status of the implementation. Checking up on all the groups involved, and offering support to ensure they are staying on track is essential. When people know that the Kaizen team will be following up with them, they are much more likely to complete the tasks they have been assigned.