Monday, August 27, 2012

A3 is Heijunka (Load Levelling)!!!

Imagine this. Six, eight, even ten people gathered together for two, three, even five days intent on making improvements in a cell, value stream or in a department. Sticky notes all over the wall. This is called the kaizan event.  How often can the average American company, competing in a global economy, afford this. Figure 6 people x $35/hour (cheap) x 8 hours x 3 days=$5040. Then throw in the consultant (yikes). Do this 4 times per year=$20160. This doesn't include lost productivity  because people are tied up for 144 total work hours. Then there is usually a to-do list generated, sometimes called a kaizan newspaper. Tasks are assigned to people with deadlines. Sounds wonderful during the kaizan, but not so much when everybody goes back to work. That's a slippery slope back to the current, pre-kaizan condition.

Contrast that to A3. The thinking here is everyone plays the game. Not just a small group. There are no meetings in conference rooms. They happen on the plant floor, or in the office-where the work is. They are led by the people who actually DO the work. (REMEMBER RULE 1: It is disrespectful for ME to fix YOUR process) A3 teams consist of 3-5 people. Meetings last typically 15-20 minutes. Standing up. There is no kaizan newspaper. Once the improvement is made, and the team presents their learnings to their peers (called a closing), it's on to the next problem. No to-dos. 

This is heijunka (load leveling) applied to continuous improvement activity. Everyone does it, not a few. Lots of small bites toward flow vs. big mouthfuls that can be hard to swallow. The biggest benefit is that you can develop an entire population of people who get incredibly good at solving problems and working as a teammate. There is nothing more important than building a team where players are accountable to each other.

Even your money is level loaded! Think about how much you can save each year in sticky notes alone!!