Know Your Kaizen Events

Kai – “rapid change”         Zen – “for the better”


Masaaki Imai CEO of Kaizen Institute also says that Kaizen means Continuous Improvement.

Many organizations practice kaizen and that is good, especially when kaizen is practiced daily. But sometimes the scale of problems and the complexity of solutions become unwieldy to manage. Let’s have a quick look at the 4 types of kaizen events as a method of more effectively managing them and simultaneously sharpening the saw of your CI efforts. Imagine if each person could save just 2 seconds a day by removing waste from the process. what impacts that would have on both internal and external customers!

Type 1 Kaizen- The “Just do it”

A wonderful condition where the solution to a problem is clearly known and impact to upstream and downstream process is neutral or minimal. An example might be the simple modification to a tool or document that a small work team utilizes within their process. All that is required to manage a type one is a simple action register with concern, cause, countermeasure, names, and dates for completion

Type 2 Kaizen- “The Simple Solution”

A motivating condition again where the solution is needed to address a problem that is well known and agreed upon, but more than 5 people are affected. It will likely require more than 5 hours to accomplish the improvement and there are impacts to upstream and downstream processes. An example could be to “5S” the case packing machine line or a shared drive in Engineering.  Type 2 Kaizen events are most effectively managed by creating a simple project charter that clearly states the purpose, scope, current condition, target condition, a team that will work, other non- team members people involved- such as maintenance, IT. It will clearly state time boundaries for the event and should include an action register.

Type 3 Kaizen “The Problem Kaizen”

A common good condition where the solution(s) to a problem is unknown. The use of an A3 is essential and will help keep a team focused on correct methods to approach problem-solving, data analysis, and a formalized accountable action plan to get things done. Note that there is no global standard for an A3 form and there are many to be found online. The best examples will show 7 or 8 boxes for a team to move the problem through as a method for putting countermeasures and solutions with standards in place.

Type 4 Kaizen “The Project Kaizen”

A fairly common type of event in administrative or service environment work. This type of Kaizen is typically hallmarked by being longer, needing more than 5 days to accomplish. Examples include improvements to IT systems or more difficult, intermittent problems with a process condition requiring that a team utilizes methods of 6 Sigma. Additional data gathering or studies in Gemba are required. Type 4 is similar to Type 3 in that the solution is often unknown and needs to be created by team members as a standard tool or supplement to process and procedures.

Of the four types of events, the Type 1 “Just do its” are the ones that provide the most nourishment to the organization through practice. What we choose to work on daily, becomes our routines, and strengthens our behaviors which ultimately shapes the culture of our organization. Organizations armed with the routine practice of problem-solving via kaizen own the day and are pulling toward the future! Type 2 “Simple Solutions” require only that we organize to get important work done. It is a challenge every organization is capable of with motivated leadership and diligent management. Type 3 “Problem Kaizen” is where the need for kaizen originated. Challenging problems that require patience, diligence, intellect, creativity, and a spirit of discovery wrapped with the practicality of data-driven results and robust standardization to hold and keep the gains once found. It is a condition that requires servant leadership and effective management that recognizes that having no identified problems, is a big problem.

May you find ease with managing continuous improvement activity within your place of work and May you find reasons every day to “Just do it” turning seconds into success.


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