Project Kaizen

Bringing the power of continuous improvement to the project setting

Use Rough Numbers to Begin Improving Actions

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There is no reason to let the lack of measurements get in the way of starting improving activities. I was reading an eWeek essay by Peter Coffee, Counting the Ways, that got me thinking about the 6σ approach to improvement. That approach is basically data-driven. Without measurements there are no improvements. Coffee said,

“Most businesses have no idea what they spend on unproductive hours.”

And we know unproductive hours—waste—exists everywhere. What can you do? Start with the Last Planner System®.

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If Kaizen Works for a Casket Manufacturer What Might it Do for You?

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Each year Industry Week (IW) profiles the best manufacturers. The recent years’s lists have been dominated by firms employing lean approaches. Batesville Caskets is one of those firms, A Daily Routine of Continuous Improvement. In addition to their build just what is ordered and their commitment to continuous flow manufacturing, Batesville has become a benchmark company for many different manufacturers based on their commitment to kaizen. Read the rest of this entry »

Start Project Kaizen the Quick and Easy Way

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In 1991 Norman Bodek published the book 40 Years, 20 Million Ideas: The Toyota Suggestion System, Productivity Press. During the 40 year period Toyota got more the 100 adopted ideas/person/year. (The book is no longer in print, although there are used copies available through Amazon.) 15 years later, Norman is touting a simple kaizen approach. He calls it Quick and Easy Kaizen (QnEK). In 2001, he co-authored a book with Bunji Tozawa, The Idea Generator: Quick and Easy Kaizen, PCS Press. Having spent 2 days with Norman visiting Toyota’s Georgetown, KY plant, QnEK came up over and over. We’ve been using it with our clients. You should too.

The QnEK approach can be introduced using this simple form: Read the rest of this entry »

Identify and Remove Conflicting Procedures

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Kaizen efforts can put customer satisfaction at risk when people fail to understand what it is that the customer assesses as value. In this month’s CRM Magazine, Lior Arussy urges us to Meet Expectations before Trying to Exceed Them. He says that a company’s restrictive procedures are often at the source of not meeting expectations.

“The first order of business in meeting customers’ expectations is to identify those conflicting procedures and remove them.”

“Why do you say that?” is a more important question.

He couples this with four questions to identify where policy is getting in the way of goals:

  1. “Are these the procedures of a customer-centric company?
  2. “Are they designed to protect and delight customers, or to protect and delight CEOs?
  3. Read the rest of this entry »

Establishing a Benchmark for Improvements

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I had the pleasure of working with Norman Bodek a few weeks ago. I asked him to give a keynote speech for a client conference. During his talk he referenced that Japanese companies look for a minimum of two adopted improvements per person per month—24 adopted improvements originated by each employee each year. The benchmark for U.S. firms that paid attention to this used to be 2 per person per year. (I’m not sure what it is now.) Based on Norman’s comments, my client set a target for each person to be the originator of two improvements each month.

Help them get their improvements adopted while encouraging them to improve again on what they have already done.

Turning targets into benchmarks comes down to execution. This level of improvement is achievable, however it takes work. There are many factors that go into success. I’ll mention two in this posting. I’ll come back to the other factors in future postings.

Kaizen is a Team Sport

I’ve noticed a predisposition in the U.S. to individual goals, measurements, and rewards. Targets like 2 per person per month can be interpreted as a threshold for satisfactory performance for each person. It doesn’t work that way. Read the rest of this entry »