Monday, October 29, 2007

Picking a Kaizen Team

Over the past month, I have worked with four kaizen teams focused on shop floor improvements, quality issues and office processes. As always, despite our struggles, improvements are put into place at the end of the kaizen week long event. Everything seems normal however I noticed a recent trend that points us in the wrong direction on our lean journey.

The problem is the composition of the Kaizen Team. All of these teams were mainly comprised of management personnel with little representation from the shop floor level associates. One of the kaizen events was divided up into two teams made up of only 1 shop floor associate and 15 management representatives. This is a major mistake and is one of the factors contributing to failure on the lean journey.

When picking a kaizen team, the majority of the team members should be from the shop floor associate level. Depending on the circumstances, I would at least hold to a 50/50 ratio of shop floor associates to management level team members. This can present a challenge since we tend to easily free up management resources for kaizen events but want to keep the shop floor associates working in production. Don’t list all the reasons that you can’t have more participation from the shop floor associates and focus on how to get more shop associates involved. You can always find a way!

With the inclusion of more shop floor associates on the kaizen teams, we eliminate the problems of management only driven projects, increase buy-in and help employees improve their own work methods. More importantly, we follow the respect of people principle by developing all of our employees in the foundation of lean thinking.

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