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Mark R. Hamel


“Measuring” Kaizen Event Team Effectiveness

Seven points to ponder

Published: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - 16:37

Every once in awhile people will ask me to (discretely) evaluate a kaizen event team’s effectiveness. I don’t necessarily relish doing that when it is intended for the purpose of team comparisons, but it’s not an unfair request from senior leaders.

Someday, I should probably try to pull the mystical sensei thing and ask them first what they think—and why.

The criteria that I apply are less than scientific. I don’t apply weighting between the criteria, and I simply use a 1 to 5 score for each one, with 5 being the highest. The important thing is reflecting upon what’s meaningful—learning and then improving.

My measurement criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of a kaizen event team—which are in no particular order—are as follows (including links to relevant posts):

Waste elimination effectiveness. The notion here is about how well the team identifies, acknowledges, and then eliminates the waste within their target process. Waste elimination effectiveness (WEE) is driven as much by team aggressiveness as technical acumen. (Lean Metric: Waste Elimination Effectiveness)

Projected sustainability. Plan-do-check-act (PDCA) is one thing, and standardize-do-check-act (SDCA) is another. There’s nothing as painful as unsustained kaizen gains. They will sap the lifeblood out of a fledgling lean transformation. Gains must be “locked in” with standard work. Lean management systems are needed to drive process adherence and process performance and help facilitate further improvements. (Leader Standard Work—Chock that PDCA Wheel)

Degree of difficulty. Not much explanation is needed here. The scope, technical complexity, and change management challenges run the gamut. Some kaizen events are easier than others.

Kaizen rigor. Effective teams generally apply rigor toward:
• Pre-event planning (including link-up to strategy deployment, value-stream improvement plans, team selection, and appropriate prework)
• Event execution (including the event kick-off, team leader meetings, effective work strategies, and the PDCA-driven “kaizen storyline”)
• Event follow-through (ShowYourWork, How to Avoid Kaizen Event Malpractice)

Demonstrated application of lean principles, systems, and tools. It’s a wonderful thing to see the simple elegance of well-applied (and validated) standard work—and other lean tools, for that matter. System-level (or subsystem-level—hey, there’s only so much that can be done during an event) application is even more impressive (e.g., pull systems, lean management systems). More “transformative” application is something that goes beyond just the know-how of tools and systems. Principles encompass not only know-how, but also the “know why.” Teams that enter that realm are effective during the event and well beyond. (Everyone Is Special, But Lean Principles Are Universal!)

Value stream and business impact. Kaizen events are often more about kaikaku (rapid, radical change) than kaizen (small incremental improvement). Although we would be mistaken to believe that this is and should always be the case, value stream and business impact should be taken into account when evaluating kaizen event team effectiveness.

Learning and development. Kaizen events are excellent and intense laboratories for individual, team, and organizational growth. Growth opportunities extend to the technical, teamwork, leadership, and change management areas and serve as a training ground for daily kaizen.

A final point as we recall Taiichi Ohno’s insight that, “Learning comes through difficulties”: the lack of gaudy event results does not mean a lack of development! (Bridging to Daily Kaizen—15 (or so) Questions)

So, what did I miss?


About The Author

Mark R. Hamel’s picture

Mark R. Hamel

Mark R. Hamel is a lean Six Sigma implementation consultant and author. He is founder of GembaTales, a blog for providing insight into the application of certain lean concepts, and co-founder of the Lean Math blog—a tool and construct for thinking to integrate lean math theories with application. His book, Kaizen Event Fieldbook: Foundation, Framework, and Standard Work for Effective Events (Society of Manufacturing Engineers, 2010), received a Shingo Research and Professional Publications Award. Hamel can be reached at mark@kaizenfieldbook.com.