21 Photos - May 4, 2014

The typical Kaizen event lasts a full week. On Monday, it begins with a macro look at the process that's being improved, followed by detailed mapping of the current situation. By Friday, the Kaizen team is presenting its analysis, plans, and projected results. This photo album will show you what happens as the week unfolds.Photo: SETTING THE COURSE:

Every Kaizen is carefully scoped beforehand to ensure that it's set up for success. Scoping defines the process that's being improved. It determines the team membership, which includes people who do the work at all key points of the process. It also clarifies the major goals for the event – and these are reviewed at the start of the Kaizen event itself, when team members first get together to begin their work.Photo: SEEING THE SITUATION FIRST HAND:

Whenever possible from a logistical standpoint, the first day of a Kaizen event includes a visit to the work area(s) where the process unfolds. That's the scene in this photo, where a team is listening as an employee explains what goes on in this particular part of the office. The walk-around gets all team members on the same page from the very start of the Kaizen event.Photo: STARTING WITH A HIGH-LEVEL VIEW:

All Kaizen events take place in a dedicated meeting room that serves as the team's work location for the full week. The work begins with introductions along with instruction on the Kaizen process. Then team members plunge in with guidance from LeanOhio system improvement consultants – creating a SIPOC as their first major step.

The SIPOC acronym stands for suppliers, inputs, process, outputs, and customers. Teams start with process, defining the entire workflow in just 5-7 major steps – shown in the picture by the blue sticky notes. By getting into strong agreement on the big picture in terms of key components of their process, team members get well-positioned to dive into the details.Photo: MAPPING THE CURRENT STATE:

One of the most challenging activities in a Kaizen event begins on the first day, as team members develop a detailed map of the current process. Every step and decision of the current workflow is identified, agreed upon by the team, and written down – in order to show everything that happens from start to finish.

In many cases, team members who work in one part of the process end up learning about the full process for the first time. LeanOhio facilitators guide this important map-building activity, but team members provide all the input. By the time they're done, they have an extensive process map like the one you see in the photo – which they put to work in the next phase of their Kaizen event.Photo: GETTING ACQUAINTED WITH TIM U WOOD:

With their process map now created and visible on the wall for all to see,  team members turn their focus to waste. Again with guidance from LeanOhio facilitators, they study the current-state process to find every occurrence of inefficiency and waste. But first, they have to learn about the different types – and there are many.

The acronym TIMUWOOD serves as a memory jog for all eight problems that can afflict a process: Transportation (moving people, information, Information, files, etc.), Inventory (storing documentation, files, other items), Motion (movements involved in doing the work), Underutilization (underutilizing existing capabilities), Waiting (delays while people wait for needed information, decisions, or other inputs before the process can proceed), Overproduction (making more than is immediately required), Overprocessing (making things better than the customer needs and wants them to be), and Defects (anything that requires rework or leads to scrap).

In the photo, LeanOhio's Al Rakas is leading a learning segment all about TIMUWOOD. Minutes later, the Kaizen team will apply this new knowledge, using it to seek out all of the waste in their current process. These just-in-time learning segments are a part of every Kaizen event – taking the concept of "learning by doing" to a new level.Photo: THE SEARCH IS ON:

Now that they know about TIMUWOOD, team members step up to their current-state process map and begin the search. They literally walk through the entire process, marking areas where any form of waste or inefficiency is apparent.

During this segment, people often begin by working individually. The room gets quiet as people stand side by side, studying the process. Then a conversation begins, and another, as someone asks a colleague for their perspective. Small groups spring up as questions turn into snap discussions. Before long, everyone is on a big search for improvement opportunities in their process.

By the time this segment has been completed, all instances of TIMUWOOD are visually marked and apparent to all – ready to be eliminated as the team moves closer to building a transformed process that is simpler, faster, better, and less costly.Photo: BRAINSTORMING POSSIBILITIES:

Next, team members generate ideas for specific improvements to the process, writing each one on a separate sticky note. Having just completed their search for TIMUWOOD, they're thinking improvement, so they have no shortage of good ideas. The photo shows what is typically generated at this phase of the Kaizen event: about 100 well-constructed ideas, each one spelled out and put into the mix of improvement possibilities.Photo: NARROWING IN ON HIGH-IMPACT ACTIONS:

With 100+ ideas, it's important to narrow in on the ones that can make the biggest difference. That's why this impact/control grid is so important. LeanOhio facilitators guide the Kaizen team in methodically reviewing each idea – and categorizing it in terms of impact (if this action were implemented, would its impact be relatively low or high?) and control (is it in our control to implement this action?). The most promising ideas end up in the upper-right quadrant.

This idea-by-idea approach takes time, but it's an important part of every Kaizen event. It gives the full team a chance to hear every idea, to comment, to discuss. And of course, at the end of this segment, the team has a subset of ideas that offer the highest degree of impact and implementation control. This sets the stage for the next step of the Kaizen event – the first-draft redesign of the process.Photo: ENVISIONING A TRANSFORMED PROCESS:

Now that team members are thinking about specific improvement measures, they form three subgroups. Each has the same mission for this next segment: to map out a redesigned process that is simpler, faster, better, and less costly.

When everyone reconvenes as a whole group, each subgroup presents its process, answering questions and looking for linkages to the redesigns of the other two subgroups. Two lists emerge: improvements that are common to all three redesigns, and improvements that are found in just one or two of the redesigns.

This "comparing notes" activity is always an eye-opener as team members get clearer on how the process can be significantly improved. As the segment winds down, it has become increasingly clear to everyone what a transformed process would look like.Photo: ACHIEVING A TRANSFORMED PROCESS:

All of the dialogue and discovery from the three redesigns moves the team toward development of a final redesign of their work process.

Yes, this segment requires less paper and fewer sticky notes! As you can see in this photo, which is typical of most Kaizen events, the future-state process is truly lean – involving a wise minimum of steps and decisions from start to finish. On average for Kaizen events in Ohio state government, process time is reduced by more than 50%.Photo: THINKING IT THROUGH:

At this stage of the Kaizen event, team members go from busy to busier as they measure the  impact of the new process and plan out the implementation. Some of this work is done in subgroups (as shown here), with different groups working on different components simultaneously. Other work is done as a whole group.Photo: ADDING UP THE RESULTS:

Teams use their two process maps (the current-state process and the future-state process) plus their baseline data to calculate a series of "before" and "after" measures. These show in numeric fashion the impact of the future state once it's implemented.

For example, teams add up the number of steps in each process, and they calculate the percentage reduction. This shows the degree to which the process is being simplified. They calculate reductions in the number of handoffs, loopbacks, and other causes of delay. They determine when any backlog will be eliminated.

Teams also seek out savings. Included are direct dollar savings from reduced expenses. For example, if improvements will require less paper, the savings will add up over time. That's the case in this photo, which shows team calculations right down to the penny.

Other savings are indirect but no less important. The biggest among these is redirected work hours. Most transformed processes require fewer labor hours due to all the gains in efficiency. These hours can then be redirected to other work that is mission-critical – work where employees can truly add value and make a difference for their customers.Photo: CREATING A SCOREBOARD:

Also toward the end of their Kaizen event, team members decide on a set of measures that they will routinely track going forward – measures that will keep them aware and up to date on how well their process is performing. They also determine how these measures will be displayed, because the visual component is an important part of helping people understand what's going on.

Every sporting event makes prominent use of a scoreboard. People rely on it to keep them informed and engaged. It's similar at work. A well-displayed set of meaningful metrics will keep people focused on what matters most when it comes to their work process.Photo: PLANNING IT OUT:

As they're thinking through all of the implementation steps that need to begin as soon as the Kaizen event ends, team members build a schedule of activities. Nothing is assumed or left to guesswork – everything is written down and scheduled.

Timelines (like the one in the photo) are important tools for ensuring accountability. Also, they  sustain momentum, which is crucial as teams move from their week-long Kaizen event to implementation.Photo: MAKING IT CLEAR:

Here's another example of planning done right at a Kaizen event. This particular panel addresses improvements relating to communication. The team has identified exactly who will do what and when it will happen – right down to specific due dates. This is the task list for just one focus area; there are others that spell out additional activities. Together, these planning sheets form a clear path forward.Photo: STAYING ENGAGED:

You can tell by now that a Kaizen event is hard work. But there's so much variety in the activities throughout the week, and so many different and important conversations, that people stay engaged.  And yes, there are laughs along the way – just ask anyone who has done the learning activity on standardization!Photo: PRESENTING THE RESULTS:

Every Kaizen event concludes with a report-out session, where all of the flipchart sheets are transformed into a crisp presentation that's attended by leadership, colleagues, and others. It's usually on a Friday, with  team members presenting the full story of the current state, the future state, the biggest improvements, implementation plans, and projected results.

The presentation  lasts about one hour. It's the perfect capstone to a productive week – and a great momentum booster as the work area gets started with implementation.Photo: EXPLAINING THE BOTTOM-LINE IMPACT:

LeanOhio is all about making state government simpler, faster, better, and less costly. So every Kaizen event presentation includes details about the impact that the transformed process will have on key measures.Photo: KEEPING IT REAL:

At the end-of-event presentation, each team member has a speaking role – so everyone ends up telling a part of the Kaizen story. These presentations are open to anyone, so feel free to attend. You can also attend any other segment of the Kaizen event as a silent observer, in order to see for yourself what goes on. Many event sponsors had their first Kaizen experience sitting in and seeing the process first hand. Contact LeanOhio for more information.Photo: RECOGNIZING THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE IT HAPPEN:

Kaizen puts great emphasis on  process and metrics. But the real drivers of transformation are people – the employees of Ohio state government who take on new tools to build processes that are far better. Are you one of them?