Sunday, September 11, 2016

Rapid Kaizen: Time to Spare

I get it. So many of the concepts of a lean strategy are counterintuitive. They go against common sense! A successful lean strategy requires us to suspend assumptions that most businesses hold near and dear.

For example, if we go ahead and commit to spending time every single day to make improvements, then how will we possibly have time to make and ship our orders? We are crazy busy now, we can't afford to do that lean stuff now. We'll do that when we have time.

Sad news. You will never have time. As an organization, we need to make time. Please don't wait for the day when you are all caught up, you've worked through your backlog, and you have nothing to do. Ain't happening.  As a matter of fact most (90+%) of the things we do that create this busy-ness is non value-added work, things our customers have no intention of paying for, that if we took the time to do some kaizen, we could eliminate.

Multiple day kaizen events several times per year as my primary lean strategy just didn't cut it for me. If you recognize waste, why wait to eliminate it? Go after it right now! What if you could get every single person in the entire business to commit to working ON their business (vs. IN) for 20 minutes every day? Think about it, if there are 75 employees, that means your company would be doing 360,000 minutes or 6000 hours of improvement activity over the course of the year! Even if everyone agrees to 10 minutes every single day, that would still be 3000 hours of just getting better.

In my own company, we were able to grow from $20M in sales to $32M in 3.5 years without adding even one extra person! People went from working 45-60 hours per week to having more time to spend with their families. This was all done by convincing everyone to spend 20 minutes every day eliminating the things that got in their way. I called this Rapid Kaizen, and A3 was the way it was executed via temporary self-directed work teams.  Contrary to popular belief, the more committed we were to Rapid Kaizen, the more time we seemed to have to do.....well more Rapid Kaizen. Literally thousands of hours of frustration in the form of the 8 wastes were eliminated by the people who actually do the work.

Go ahead and bite the bullet. Start today, what do you have to lose? Just go ask people what frustrates them about their job, what slows them down, and what they'd change right now if they could. Spend 20 minutes daily yourself helping them and then watch a spark turn into a blaze. People want to do what they think is important to their leaders. Show them that frustration elimination is important to you.

Suddenly, one day, you will wake up, go to work, be chaos-free, and have time to spare to delight (not satisfy) your customers. 


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