Exciting news! Based on input from our users, we are pleased to add another new module to The Lean Office – Kaizen Events!
The new module was released this morning, and is built to work on both computers and tablets. While many organizations have standard processes for conducting and managing kaizen events, most are still done on paper or in local files. There are many benefits to having a software tool aid you in planning, conducting, and managing events over time – we’ll get into those in a later post. For now, here’s a brief introduction on how the new module works.
We designed our new Kaizen Events module based on interviews with several experienced Lean or Continuous Improvement (CI) Managers who shared with us problems they see on a regular basis. Keep reading to discover how our module helps deal with these problems throughout the process of planning for, conducting, and managing kaizen events:
Keeping track of event suggestions
The front page of the Kaizen Events module allows any user with access to The Lean Office to suggest event topics and areas of focus. It’s a simple process to suggest an event, with only a few fields, but key information like who made the suggestion and when it was made are also captured automatically. Once a suggestion has been made, it’s very easy for users with permission to review the suggestions and either create an event or decline the suggestion.
Planning event details and gaining sponsorship and approval
Once an event suggestion has been approved, the user visits an “Add Kaizen Event” page where they provide additional inputs like a name for the event, the expected impact, the deliverables and scope of the event. Impacts are managed with customizable categories so you can begin to track common impacts across events. In addition to choosing an event facilitator, each event also requires a sponsor to be identified. Additional users can also be added, along with selecting an event type and event dates.
Many times, CI Managers aren’t aware of all the details when they first start planning an event. Because of this fact, The Lean Office’s Kaizen Events module is designed to be a living, working software that guides you through the planning process. Even if all of the details (dates, sponsor, etc.) aren’t known at the time of creating the event, you can go ahead and capture the basic information and then add to it as you get more information.
Completing pre-event planning and setup work
Another common issue we identified in conversations with CI Managers was the challenge of planning multiple events in the same time period, and coordinating pre-event planning and setup work. It can be difficult to keep up with the pre-work, especially if you are conducting kaizen events several weeks in a row. When all relevant details for an upcoming event have been entered, the tool requires a user to seek approval – a final sign-off on the event, deliverables, attendees, etc. Once approval has been gained, a customized list of “Pre-Event Tasks” is automatically generated, and owners and dates are assigned based on the event facilitator and sponsor and the event start date. Pre-event tasks (think reserving meeting rooms, reviewing suggestion with suggester, inviting attendees) then appear in individual user’s own action item list as soon as they are created. In other words, you can reference your list of all consolidated action items instead of having to review each event individually.
Conducting Kaizen Events
In companies with multiple CI managers especially, there were concerns raised around events being conducted based on a standard , and ensuring that every facilitator was utilizing the standard to produce the best results possible for each event. There are lots of reasons why standard work is a valuable tool, and using a tool like The Lean Office to help your team of CI Managers conduct events the same way every time can help ensure standards are followed for each event. Standard outputs we added to the tool include decisions made, action items recorded, and projected impact. Files related to the event can also be uploaded and accessed by users for reference during the event or for follow-up.
This was the most common issue raised by CI managers – what happens to the long list of action/improvement items coming out of a kaizen event? This issue is especially important for building team member trust and management approval for future kaizen events, and is a “must-do” if you want the event’s projected impact to become a reality. Many spoke about the frustration of taking the time and resources to conduct an event, only to see the results never realized because the solutions were never implemented. The responsibility of following up on action items after the event typically falls on the CI manager, who is also responsible for planning and conducting future events, often in different geographic locations. Other than sending follow-up emails, the CI manager doesn’t typically have a good tool for displaying follow-up progress for past events. If they do, the tool requires significant work on their part to maintain up-to-date information.
In our Kaizen Events module, action items are recorded as they occur in the meeting. These items are always visible within the event itself, but can also be seen on an individual’s consolidated action items list within The Lean Office. Users get an alert any time they have past-due or upcoming action items, so the very act of following up on event action items is now handled automatically. We also included visual cues showing a breakdown of action items categorized by due date after the event, and show real-time progress on action items based on those categories.
Thanks to all who provided input on the new module! In the spirit of continuous improvement, we have ideas on additional features to include, but would love your opinion. What other features should we add to the next release of the Kaizen Events module of The Lean Office?
The Kaizen Events module went live for all accounts this morning. If you have any feedback, we’d love to hear from you.
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