Lean Consulting Tips - Are You Improving or Counting?
Has a measure of success of your Lean Six Sigma initiative become the number of Kaizen events?
Steve Engelman explains why it may be a big mistake to focus on quantity rather than results:
As a reader of Operational Excellence Insights, there is a high probability your organization, or at least one you are familiar with, has launched one or more initiatives focused on achieving perfection, delighting customers and reducing costs.
Whether known as Lean, Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, Business Process Reengineering, Cycle Time Reduction, or some other philosophy, each is built on a common foundation - continuous improvement
Continuous improvement should be just that…ongoing, incremental, consistent and never-ending change for the better, supporting your organization’s goals and objectives. Of course, these goals and objectives need to be driven by the desire to improve safety, quality, cost, and delivery. Improvement of these key metrics will result in enhanced customer satisfaction, employee engagement and financial performance.
Translated, the commonly referred to Japanese term kaizen provides a simple philosophy of changing for the better. This philosophy, in many instances, has evolved from a concept of daily continuous improvement to a specific team activity. As Lean Six Sigma consultants we frequently hear of organizations that are going to “do” a kaizen event (or “blast” or “blitz”) this week.
Ideally, these kaizen events will be laser-focused on achieving organizational goals and objectives with an emphasis on fundamentally changing the way business is performed. Furthermore, they should link to well-defined, high level organizational objectives. Unfortunately, and in too many instances, performance measures impede progress, and thus, real improvement.
It is no secret that people perform how they’re measured. In traditional organizations a buyer rewarded for achieving favorable purchase price variances is incentivized to order, and subsequently retain in inventory, larger quantities. A production supervisor rewarded for maximizing utilization, efficiency and productivity is biased towards producing the largest lots possible. All of this is done with the best of intentions but without consideration for providing what the customer (internal or external) wants, when they want it, and with minimal resources.
Similarly, we have experienced organizations measuring continuous improvement by tracking the number of kaizen events conducted. This type of metric ensures a most predictable reaction by those responsible…the quantity of events increases but the quality usually decreases.
Such an approach seldom sustains organization-wide improvements and typically leads to the demise of cultural change initiatives. This results in a significant amount of resources being consumed without providing a return on investment. Quite honestly, we have seen numerous Lean transformations fail for this very reason.
How can you overcome and avoid such obstacles...
Read the full article: Are You Improving or Counting?