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Kaizen in Action


Following Up the Event

As I have said, the Kaizen event is not just about process improvement, it is about engaging, energizing, and enabling people. Therefore, my co-leader and I ended the event by consolidating the experiences of the team and informing all stakeholders about what happened in the event and what it produced. Finally, I mined the learning from my experience in leading the event.

Close the Kaizen Event

The first task in closing the event is to complete the documentation of the Kaizen event. This produces the information we need to lead the close-out meeting with the team and brief the stakeholders about the results. A helpful tool in this regard is the Kaizen Summary. This document, which is contained in the Kaizen Tool Kit, summarizes the essentials of the event—namely, its focus, direction, results, and follow-up actions. The Kaizen Summary for this event is presented in Exhibit 26 (next page). The team uses this information plus the photographs taken during the pre- and post-process observations to prepare a storyboard. This storyboard is approximately three by five feet in size and includes the mission, goals, and do's and don'ts for the event; before, during, and after photos; a team photo with names; and a copy of the Kaizen Summary. While the team prepared the storyboard, I prepared certificates of recognition for the team members.

I then led the team in its close-out meeting. I began by summarizing for the team what it had accomplished. I returned us to the scope request and covered the mission and goals undertaken by the team. I summarized how the team members worked together to uncover the sources of waste in the workplace, generated ideas for improvement, and made those improvements. I briefly reviewed the results the team achieved. At this point, I sought the team's perspective about the critical factors that produced success; the barriers, if any, encountered during the work; and what the team members learned from this experience. The key success factors for the team were everyone working toward the same goals and the excitement and satisfaction of being able to make change and see its results.

The key worry of the team was sustaining some of the changes, since these required that people change their habits. The lab technicians and the maintenance workers especially needed to incorporate new ways of doing their work, and they would need support and encouragement to adhere to the new approach. A big plus was that representatives of these departments participated in making the changes and saw for themselves that the changes were effective.

Exhibit 26. Kaizen Summary

Kaizen Team Members

Mission Statement

Joseph V., Kaizen leader

Mark G., Kaizen co-leader

Reggie B., Fill Operator

Thomas C., Fill Operator

Vincent L., Supervisor

Nathan H., Maintenance

James L., Fill Operator

Clarice T., Lab Technician

To increase profit without increasing price and elevate customer satisfaction with on-time delivery by reducing the cycle time and cost of the nonflammable blending work process for ABC Gases and its stakeholders.

Operating Measure

Cylinder Preparation

Nonflammable Blending

Monetary Measure


Pre-Event Post-Event Pre-Event Post-Event Labor Savings $215,378.38
Cycle Time 02:19:30 01:30:14 02:25:14 01:40:15 Non-Labor Savings 0.00
Value-Added Ratio 0.00 0.00 0.08 0.22 Dollar Gains 0.00
Labor Productivity 5.16 7.98 2.48 3.59 Less New Costs $9,310.00
Throughput 17.20 26.60 20.00 35.90 Total Dollar Benefits $206,068.38
Charge #: 20-2001 Dates of Event: 8/06-8/10 Total Cost of Event: $14,500



Action Item


Date Due


Cylinder Preparation Process
1 Reduce wait time by 25% Down 100% None      
2 Reduce setup by 20% Up 157% Do a follow-up Kaizen event focusing on travel/transport and setup Team 10/15/01 Open
3 Reduce travel/transport by 25% Down 4%
4 Eliminate all hazard items Eliminated None      
Nonflammable Blending Process
5 Reduce setup by 20% Down 23% None      
6 Reduce travel/transport by 25% Down 20% Install oxygen pump switch in the blending booth Reggie 9/15/01 Open
7 Reduce wait time by 50% Down 96% None      
8 Reduce unnecessary processing by 50% Down 56% None      
9 Eliminate all hazard items Eliminated None      
10 Reduce unit cost Down 28% None      
11 Reduce cycle time Down 31% None      

The team developed three basic learnings: (1) the company has, in its people, the intelligence it needs to continuously improve its competitiveness; (2) using a systematic approach that guides people in applying their intelligence—such as Kaizen—turns that potential into a reality; and (3) given the way most companies still operate, it takes someone in management to understand and act on these first two learnings if a company is to benefit from the people within it.

Once we concluded our discussion, I asked the team to complete the Kaizen Participant Feedback Form. This evaluation provides quantitative information about how the team experienced the event. The evaluation is completed anonymously, and the results computed after the event is finished.

With the evaluation done, my co-leader and I recognized the performance of individual team members and distributed their certificates of recognition. At this point, we also distribute a token gift from management to each team member for his or her efforts and contributions to advancing business success. In this event, each team member received a department store gift certificate for $10—not much, but appreciated nonetheless.

Our last order of business was to prepare for the briefing of the stakeholders. As usual, each team member assumed responsibility for covering some element of the presentation.


Communicate Results to All Stakeholders

The meeting of the stakeholders was arranged prior to the beginning of the Kaizen event so that we could be assured of a place for the gathering and presence of the employees, supervisors, and managers. We held the meeting on the loading dock, which had sufficient room to accommodate us all. The team used flipcharts and the storyboard to help with its presentation. Reggie reviewed the scope of the event and ended with the mission and goals for the event. Vincent picked up by reviewing what waste is and sharing examples of waste observed during the event. Clarice and Nathan reviewed the brainstorming ideas the team came up with, crediting to the employees the ideas the team got from them. Finally, Thomas and James reviewed the results achieved by the event, using the Kaizen Summary as an aid. The team then opened up the discussion to the group for questions.

We expected that people would focus immediately on the spike in setup time that occurred in the cylinder preparation work process as a result of our work. They did not. Instead, they focused on the change ideas they heard, recognizing the ones they had contributed. They credited the common sense in the changes made—such as having the battery charger in the blending areas; dropping out the unnecessary vacuum, purge, and vent cycle in blending; and moving the cylinder prep activities in the blending process into cylinder preparation.

Once discussion of the changes and their results was done, the group quickly identified the need to transfer these improvements to the flammable blending process; management endorsed this action. Sandra assumed responsibility for contacting Mike Fellows and sharing with him the results of the event and proposed transfer of the improvements to the remaining three plants producing blended gases. She also said she would make sure that the work standards for both the cylinder preparation and blending work processes were modified to incorporate the improvement ideas.

Our last order of business was to discuss "leave-behind" measures that the workers could monitor to verify that their improvements were sustained. For each work process, cycle time was the agreed-on measure. For the blending work process, we added on-time delivery. Sandra said that since she was already checking these measures, she would provide the Kaizen team weekly updates on each. We suggested posting the measures and current status in the work area so that everyone could participate in monitoring the work process's performance and feel good about its improved performance. The Kaizen team members also agreed to get together each Monday and check where they stood with respect to each measure and, if problems existed, discuss ways to resolve them. Sandra committed to be available to the team should it need her support.

We concluded the event by the close of business Friday, five very busy days from when we began.


Mine Learning From the Completed Event

After the event, I had one more task to complete: to extract my learning from having led the event. For this, I used the targets against which we evaluate our performance of Kaizen (Exhibit 27) and applied the SRLD™(Status, Reason, Learning, Direction) method. This method is delineated in R.L. Vitalo and P.A. Bierley Status, Reason, Learning, Direction (SRLD™) (Hope, ME: Lowrey Press, 2003).


Exhibit 27. Targets Used to Evaluate the Performance of a Kaizen Event

  Task: To eliminate waste in a work process by empowering people to use Kaizen to uncover improvement opportunities and make changes


  1. Documentation of the event completed
  2. Measurable business and work process benefits accomplished as defined in the mission and goals of the event
  3. New learning about the Kaizen tool, its application, and the Kaizen leader's capabilities generated
  4. New opportunities for Kaizen events identified
  5. New or improved work standards developed during the Kaizen event applied to work process (or submitted for approval)
  6. Performers elevated in their business participation, ownership, teamwork, confidence in their ability to make change, and capabilities to achieve success
  7. Sustained or improved safety

Status of Achievement

The results of the event indicated that the team had achieved its mission as specified. Specifically, it improved the nonflammable blending work process by reducing the cycle time and unit cost for ABC Gases and its stakeholders. As a consequence, the team enabled the business to increase its profit without increasing price and elevate customer satisfaction with better on-time delivery. At the time I completed the SRLD™, I did not have the final information about on-time delivery, but the reduced cycle time and increased throughput clearly positioned the business to achieve it. With respect to the goals of the event, the team met or exceeded 8 out of 11 goals (Exhibit 28). This is less than expected. The team did comply with the do's and don'ts of the event, produced new work standards for each work process, and elevated the safety in both work processes. Both the level of participation exhibited by the Kaizen team and the results of the Kaizen participants' feedback indicated that team members were engaged, energized, and enabled in contributing to the improvement of the business by the event. Every team member indicated learning from the event, and the team overall rated the event an 8.5 out of 9.0 with respect to its collective satisfaction. One new opportunity for a Kaizen event was identified. This is a follow-up event on the cylinder preparation work process that focuses on reducing travel/transport and setup. Both of these types of waste offer significant opportunities for additional improvement. In summary, I judged six out of the seven targets listed in Exhibit 27 achieved at or above expectation. The first target was achieved below expectation, as we failed to accomplish every goal.


Exhibit 28. Summary of Goal Achievement





  Cylinder Preparation Process  
  1 Reduce wait time by 25% Down 100% Exceeded  
  2 Reduce setup by 20% Up 157% Not met  
  3 Reduce travel/transport by 25% Down 4% Not met  
  4 Eliminate all hazard items Eliminated Met  
  Nonflammable Blending Process  
  5 Reduce setup by 20% Down 23% Exceeded  
  6 Reduce travel/transport by 25% Down 20% Not met  
  7 Reduce wait time by 50% Down 96% Exceeded  
  8 Reduce unnecessary processing by 50% Down 56% Exceeded  
  9 Eliminate all hazard items Eliminated Met  
  10 Reduce unit cost Down 28% Met  
  11 Reduce cycle time Down 31% Met  
  1. Status may be met, not met, or exceeded.

Reasons for Results

The factors that enabled the success we experienced seemed to be the following: (1) we followed the Kaizen process; (2) we took time to explore and understand the work processes we were trying to improve; (3) the team was open to challenging the way things had been done and to using ideas developed by employees not on the team; and (4) the team was ready to let the facts drive their decisions, not their biases. One factor that hindered achieving even greater success than we experienced was my failure to identify the Engineering Group as a stakeholder to the event and to ensure that its personnel were informed and on board with the event. As a result, a change that would have significantly reduced travel/transport in the blending work process (installing a switch for the oxygen pump in the blending booth) could not be made.


Two key learnings emerged for me, each of which reinforced current guidelines. The first is the importance of getting the work standards for the target work process prior to the event and having it available during the event. Once again, we saw that practice had acquired a necessity that was more folklore than fact when we were able to check the work standard and see precisely what was required behavior. The second learning was the importance of understanding who the stakeholders are and connecting with them up front so that they are aware of and aligned with the purposes of the event.


My direction coming out of this event was to reinforce my execution of the guidance in the Kaizen Desk Reference Standard and to devise an approach to inquiring about stakeholders that would better uncover all who exist with respect to a given event. One idea is to add a question during my interview with the event coordinator prior to the event that focuses on decisions in the workplace, asking who would have to comment on each or approve. I could structure the decisions around people; operations; physical layout; modification of infrastructure (e.g., utilities, wiring); and types of tools and equipment used.



During the two months following the event, I kept in touch with the team to stay abreast of the status of the changes we had made and to offer any support the team might need in sustaining improvements. The team reported that the changes were sustaining at Oakland and the improvements were being realized. A conversation with Sandra confirmed this information. She was especially pleased that the on-time delivery rates for blended gases had gone up from the pre-event level of 84% to 98% given the same volume of demand. She reported that both Mike and she felt that the event was a big success. However, getting the results replicated in the remaining plants, she reported, was still under discussion. "We are solid here, and I am eager to see what we can do as a next event. But we have had a culture in this business where managers have had the latitude to run their shops their way. Mike hasn't wanted to take that culture on. Maybe seeing what it is costing us will trigger some action. I can't say." In the end, as the team said, given the way most companies still operate, it takes someone in management to understand and act if a company is to benefit from the people within it.

Kaizen Desk Reference Standard Excerpt: Kaizen In Action  
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