Project Kaizen: Improving Workgroups


Today's topic for the Project Kaizen group blogging effort is kaizen for a “workgroup,” with that being defined as “making improvements for sub-team members performing the same type of work.”

One sub-team I have been a part of is that of “internal lean consultants” that are spread across sites and divisions of a large multi-national manufacturing company. This is a sub-team in the sense that we are doing the same work, training and coaching employees at factory sites in implementing lean. It's a unique team in that we hardly ever see each other beyond our initial “black belt” style lean training. The result is individuals doing individual work. People create their own training materials because the corporate materials “are proprietary” and there's too much risk in sharing them (a ridiculous concept since the company in question hardly invented lean, the slides were all borrowed from outside lean knowledge, yet now this company doesn't want to follow Toyota‘s model by sharing).

There's an enormous amount of waste that's created because the company doesn't use available technology (web-based or otherwise) to create a true TEAM of lean consultants. The consultants should be posting case studies, helping each other with problems, and coaching each other, all in the name of continuous improvement and kaizen. Rather than doing a “one-time” training activity (albeit spread across four months), shouldn't that group of lean consultants be given continuous training and using that network to drive continuous improvement of shared training materials, methods, and tactics? Sure, some individual consultants are good at networking, so they email each other to ask advice and to help each other. But this kind of activity, unfortunately, isn't institutionalized with standard practices within the company.

Without this lean network and having a focus on “kaizening itself”, the one advantage that this team within a Fortune 100 sized company has, namely scale and the ability to leverage information across multiple divisions, cultures, and continents, is wasted. You might as well be 100 independent companies each using their own lean consultant instead of being a single corporation.

Check out the other group bloggers to see what they have to say on today's topic: Bill Waddell at Evolving Excellence, Chuck Frey at Innovation Weblog, Hal Macomber at Reforming Project Management, Joe Ely at Learning about Lean, Norman Bodek at the Kaikaku Blog ,and Jon Miller at Panta Rei.

Also, from Monday, Kathleen Fasanella has an interesting post on “what is kaizen?” from a fashion industry perspective.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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