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Kaizen Teams


Kaizen Teams : Selecting team members

First off, thanks for all of the info available on your site. A lot of valuable info. I have a question about kaizen teams. More specifically do you have any suggestions for selecting members for a kaizen team?

Submission June, 2006: Posted with consent

Cross-functional kaizen teams

Thank you for submitting the question. Actually the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) developed a model for determining who should be involved in kaizen events. I will use that model to support my answer. Bear in mind that I did not develop the diagram below. LEI developed the diagram and it can be found in the book "Lean Lexicon: a graphical glossary for Lean Thinkers. Second Edition" which was compiled by LEI. Let's first look at the diagram:

Kaizen Teams

As you can see, based on whether a kaizen event is related to "system and flow" or "process" we can determine who should be involved; senior management or front line employees and all personnel between these levels. With any kaizen event members from all levels should be involved. However, if a project is focused on either system or flow the kaizen team should consist of primarily those near the senior management level. For example in the next diagram we see such a project:

Flow kaizen

We must also recognize that even though "flow" or "system" may be the focus here, that the "process" is impacted as well. Each kaizen event has an impact on the entire organization. As such, for the best results, no kaizen team should consist of senior management or front line personnel exclusively. A cross-functional team that also includes associates from all levels is most effective. In this example above, as mentioned, since the focus is on either flow or system the team should be primarily, but not exclusively, made up of those near the senior management level.

In the next example we see the exact opposite:

Process kaizen

Since the focus is on the "process" the kaizen team should consist primarily, but not exclusively, of front line personnel.

These diagrams are not without flaw though. The diagram would seem to suggest that once we determine the type of kaizen event, the focus if you will, that we should select only members from a specific level of the organization. Whether that be the intended message of the diagram I can not be certain. However, one should keep in mind that participation on all levels is very important. We can use this diagram as a basic guideline for building a kaizen team but we should not, for example, feel that since a project is related specifically to the "process" that senior management should not be involved. As is established in the lean philosophy senior management should be highly involved daily and should be active in every improvement activity.

If the focus is on the process of which hourly employees deal with on a daily basis, the team should include primarily those hourly employees. But they should have the support of a cross-functional team from all levels and at least one management rep should work with that team.

I do hope that I have helped rather than added confusion. The diagram is a useful guide but we must realize that continuous improvement only works when the entire organization works together and all departmental barriers and levels of hierarchy are removed.

Please contact us if you need further assistance.



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