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  • Bill Greider

"Kaizen": Don't fix other people's jobs without them!


"Kaizen" rolls off the tongue. Simple, right? Just buy some sticky notes, bring in a consultant, pull everyone in the conference room for 4 days. Buy some lunches.


Wish it was that easy. My favorite definition of "respect for people" is that it is disrespectful for ME to fix YOUR job. Oops, that means all improvements need to come from the process experts-the ones who do the job 2080 hours per year. if they've been there 10 years, that is 20,080 hours Or, I need to st the very least include THEM in the thinking!! If I really, truly want to know what the problems are, all I need to do is ask (and listen).


Leadership's role is to trust that the people you were smart enough to bring in are capable of making smarter and smarter decisions giving the opportunity. Micro-managing is simply a lack of trust because I have developed them, right?


I don't think it's possible to build a continuous improvement culture by doing periodic week long, all day kaizen activities and calling that lean. Unfortunately, the people enlisted for these events are pretty much plotting how to fix other people's jobs without them.


In nearly 100% of the cases, there is no "magic bullet" to significant improvement. Usually, a whole bunch of little things need to improve, maybe hundreds, maybe thousands. The only people that really know these opportunities are the people who actually do the work.


So how do I engage everyone? Start by asking them the magic question, "if you owned the company, what is the one change you would make to your job right now? Then, give people 20 minutes per day to work on that (using A3), and you spend 20 minutes helping them (leader standard work). If every single person spent just 20 minutes per day on improvements with discipline, a 100 person company would spend 480000 minutes per year working ON vs. IN the business. That's 8000 hours. I think of this as applying heijunka (load levelling) to my lean strategy. While making improvements, I can teach the 8 wastes and the lean tools that may apply. Once we establish this routine (it ain't easy), I can conquer anything.


As managers, can you pull this off? Can you afford not to? Lean can't be something that is assigned or something to do when we have time. Realists know there is NEVER time. We need to make it. Remember that if people don't see you spending the 20 minutes yourself, they will quickly conclude it isn't important!


"Busy" is the number one enemy of a lean strategy!>How many hours do you spend as a business now?

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