Practicing What We Preach: Kaizen for the Kaizen Cards
I do my best to “practice what I preach” in terms of Lean and Kaizen principles and spirit. No, I don't have tape outlines around the items on my home office desk (which would be, at best, a superficial copying of 5S practices).
But, for example, I try hard not to blame. I use checklists for podcasts and webinars to help prevent errors. Joe Swartz and I listened to the “voice of the customer” and created The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen after readers told us that the full Healthcare Kaizen book was too heavy and too detailed for senior leaders to carry on a flight to read. We've also tried to provide some transparency about our workshop quality outcomes.
I've also tried to embrace continuous improvement in all aspects of the practice of Kaizen.
For example, in the book (and on our website), we present a pretty basic “Kaizen Card” template for consideration. This is the front side of the card:
There are certain key elements that should be pretty consistent, such as asking for a problem, not just an idea. But, we provide editable templates, because we want people to be able to customize the cards for their own use.
These customizations that I've seen include:
- Using the word “opportunity” instead of “problem”
- Listing “name” instead of “by”
- Adding an organizational logo
- Adding checkboxes for categories instead of free-form “expected benefits”
That was helpful for them, so we now provide a version of the template with the backside of the card flipped upside down.
More recently, I had a client email me with what he would have written on a Kaizen card:
Problem: Difficult to determine where to cut Kaizen cards
Idea: Dotted cutting lines
Benefits: Less time cutting, better cutting quality
This situation shows what happens when we make assumptions…. we have trouble seeing problems as our customers see them. My assumption all along was that the Kaizen cards would get printed by a hospital's print shop (or I get them printed at FedEx Office).
I can print the cards at home, but the benefit to using a print shop is that they have the equipment to automate the cutting of the sheet into equal fourths. I never do this with scissors.
My client was printing small batches of cards and was cutting them with scissors. His suggestion about the dashed line would help make that easier for him.
Without trying to be overly negative (it's not very Kaizen-y to just shoot down an idea), I did ask him if the hospital had print shop capabilities or if he could pursue that as a longer-term countermeasure.
That said, it was easy enough for me to add a version with dashed lines. I did think through that the dashed lines only needed to be on one side of the card, not both :-)
Now that we've done the Plan and Do phases of PDSA, the next step was for my client to test the new template and then Study how it works, to see if we needed to Adjust. He printed the cards and studied how they worked.
I tried it out, and here's what I found (Do-S-A! Do-S-A!) Thank you for implementing this Kaizen–I found it to be much easier to cut and it makes it a bit easier to get my cutting lines straight. I took out the old trusty ruler and measured the lines and distances from the edges, and to get the thing centered vertically, here are my recommendations:
If you shift the margins a little on the left (about 1/16th), to make it 1/8, that should shift the center line to the right spot and make it even on both sides. The yellow is meant to show where a line is either shorter or longer than the first line (though my eyes might have deceived me on a couple).
This was very helpful and specific feedback. I tweaked the cards to make sure the dashed lines were perfectly centered horizontally and vertically. I printed the cards and tested them myself rather than asking my client to do it (I probably should have done that the first time).
Kaizen — making a small change for the better for my client. And, by sharing the template more broadly, we're potentially sharing the idea to help others, which is an important step in the Kaizen process:
- Find problems or opportunities
- Discuss them
- Implement (test) them
- Document them
- Share them
Do you want to see what a “culture of continuous improvement” looks, sounds, and feels like? Check out this workshop (more of a mini conference) that Joe Swartz and I are holding in April at his health system in Indianapolis. Please come join us.
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