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Kaizen system


Continuing my thoughts on Mechanisms & Systems, I am thinking about Kaizen. Where does Kaizen belong?

Kaizen requires a systematic approach. Yet, some implement the freedom of NOT doing Kaizen during such an approach. This freedom is not apparent confrontation.

Why did this happen?

  1. The mechanism can keep running without Kaizen

  2. The system does not have the capacity for Kaizen

Today we have many systems where the sub-systems are highly independent (not possible, but the design philosophy is). Under such a system, implementing another sub-system of Kaizen will fail.


You are sitting in a monthly Kaizen review. The team is reporting Kaizen activity from last month. They are talking about the top three issues from last month and Kaizen on them.

“Why three?”

No answer. The team of five goes silent.

“Do you have other improvements?”

None.

The team did present a good result, but something puzzled me.


In another company, Kaizen was about auditing. They audit each other all the time. Very systematic. But not much business impact. Only on audit scores.


There are strange rules in many Kaizen systems. As slogans, we might say, “Everybody, every day, continuously improves.” But when it comes to the actual activities, things change. So many people and organizations are exempt from the system. Why?


First, the mechanism on the shop floor can keep running without Kaizen. When the organization knows that the shop floor can keep going, why is it necessary to do Kaizen? This is why the mechanism on the shop floor must stop if something is wrong. The organization must share the pain of the frontline.


Second, the organization needs the capacity to improve. There is this notion that frontline operators should do Kaizen. I don’t entirely agree. The operators have standardized work, in which takt time is calculated by dividing total available time by demand. There is no time for Kaizen. This does not mean that they are not involved. We welcome their opinions and ideas, but the operators can’t be responsible. The managers are.

In today’s organizations, there are many places where managers sit in six-plus hours of meetings plus triple booking situations. Does anybody have a scheduling app that has a category called “improvement”? We should accept that “improvement” is a foreign object, and Kaizen is even more. And most meetings are necessary because the mechanism is poorly designed.


If we want Kaizen, we should design a good mechanism & system to be successful.

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