Giving Kaizen Away: "Kaizen is the plants' business, not corporate"

One of the most common mistakes when lean six sigma initiatives are launched is that kaizen, and its cousin, kaizen events become ‘corporate business’ instead of the plants’ business. Corporate lean six sigma initiatives usually start with a team experts visiting sites to DO kaizen instead of TEACHING kaizen. I have seen and I have been one of the well-intentioned corporate LSS or CI experts routed to plants around the world to identify projects, set priorities and push kaizen with great success at first. Improvements are visible and waste is eliminated. What is wrong with this approach? While it can work based on the tenacity and leverage you could gain from corporate; at the end, kaizen does not stick and die out very soon after. How many of us have seen, when visiting plants within your corporations, storyboards with to-do lists that were never completed or old value stream maps never updated after the corporate kaizen event set to create them? They are reminders that the command and control kaizen approach led by experts to solve problems would face initial success, but failing to create a permanent transformation. What alternatives do we have? Consider to give kaizen away. As the old saying “give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for his lifetime”, teach the plants to run their own kaizen event. Measure your success by the participation and learning of the local team not only by the results. Let the local team leaders to lead the kaizen event stead of you. Push for experimentation by the local leaders and, most important, be a coach not a player. As a coach your job is to give kaizen away not to do kaizen.

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