Kaizen Events Aren’t Enough


Are Rapid Improvement Events enough? | Lean Healthcare

I don't have anything against Kaizen Events (often called “RIE” or “Rapid Improvement Events” in healthcare). They have their proper place and can bring many benefits, but events are not enough. They are NOT a complete Lean enterprise strategy, so I agree with the argument made in the linked blog post.

In my upcoming book on Lean Hospitals, I lay out an alternative to event-driven Lean, something that has been popular in healthcare. I spell out a method that allows systemic kaizen and the institution of a Lean management system, something that is often difficult to do with week-long events.

Even back in a former manufacturing company, I saw the dysfunctions that can occur in an event-driven approach to Lean. If there's a problem that needs solving, why wait weeks or months for the scheduled event? This happens when events are the only improvement that is taking place. Kaizen should be a continuous process, driven by the people who do the work (not the experts who run kaizen events), something that is facilitated by supervisors and managers.

What other dysfunctions have you seen with kaizen events? What do you do to battle those dysfunctions? How has your organization fit kaizen events into an overall systemic Lean strategy? Click “comments” to let us know.

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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.


  1. Organizations are undeniably more comfortable with event driven constructs, especially when those events are tied to corporate performance improvement expectations.

    Constructs such as lean and TPS are pervasive by definition and without clear milestones or metrics by which to judge success- at least to the untrained eye. Event-drive constructs like Six Sigma are neither pervasive or invasive to the organization and offer up multiple dimensions for metrics, analysis and a few symbolic public hangings to prove ‘buy-in’ from the top.

    Did I mention banners, bunting, morale building slogans and lifetime employment for the folks in the PowerPoint department as side benefits?

    I wonder how much of this owes it’s very existence to the Jacobean sense of order which the English-descended mill and factory owners brought to this nation? These rationalists saw life as series of repeating events and rituals and it seems natural that they would extend these concepts into their toils.

    Just thinking…

  2. The difference between “campaign” and “continuous” improvement is the leaderships ability to focus on both process and results. “Results only” managers do not see, learn, or attend to the process that gets them results. While “process and results” managers know that results are only the last step in the process, so all improvment has to come from getting everyone to pay attention to what is happening now.

    To make this shift in attention happen the leadership constantly ask questions about the process in actual moment. What are the opportunities for improvment for this process now? What is being done to pursue them? How are people doing the work involved? How are solutions being tested and standardized? What ideas have you gotten from your people today?

    The rare stuff here is finding leaders with the patience and willings to learn to effectively ask these questions in the workplace every day.

    Campaigns are so much easier because they have an end

    Lou English Ph.D.


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