Kaizen Events - Factors Affecting Failure

#1
I am been looking for articles, blog sites, etc that document the reason(s) for failure in Kaizen Events, or Kaizen Programs in general. While I can locate many instances of success, it is not easy to find why events or programs specifically fail, its seems no one shares these experiences. Outside of Leadership related factors, what specifically leads to Kaizen events that are not successful? What I am seeking is:

1. Are there known sources (papers, text, articles, blogs, etc.) that present such experiences (failure of Kaizen Events)?

2. Can you offer your thoughts on this subject?

I was formerly a Quality Manager in automotive for about 25 years, I have my own thoughts and experiences but would like to see others views since mine are unique to a specific organization.
 
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#2
It depends on what you mean by fail. I have seen many kaizens that make local improvements, but do not show an overall improvement at the end of the line. I call that a failure. The cause for this type of failure is that the process constraint was not identified and targeted for the kaizen. Improvements made upstream of the constraint can actually make things worse by increasing the burden on the constraint. Improvements made downstream of the constraint will not make any visible improvement to the total process.
 
#3
Thank you for the reply - very helpful.

Failure in the sense that you did not achieve the improvement (that you set out to achieve) during a Kaizen blitz/event. From experience, I can always argue that, regardless of the tangible outcome, merely conducting the event is a win. What I am also referring to could be a failure of the process, maybe the leader was not effective, etc. I pose this question since I transitioned to a career in Higher Education and we have conducted these type events, surely different vs industry/private sector, and some have reported "failure" but not sure of the cause(s).
 

Mike S.

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#4
Just my own thoughts FWIW. Kaizen events/programs probably fail for mostly the same reasons lots of new initiatives of all kinds fail - i.e. change is very hard for humans, leadership (especially top leadership) is absent, shortcuts are taken, it is just another half-baked "program of the month" rollout where management tries the fad du jour to try to fix their problems, etc. etc.

IMO, it doesn't help that it is called a "kaizen event" instead of something more easily understood and less-threatening to the people doing the work, like a process improvement effort. But it seems these days calling things by Japanese terms is en vogue, so we don't have a shop floor we have a gemba, we have kata exercises, we have andon lights, we have mura and muda, etc. etc. I think lots of people use these terms to try to appear intellectually superior, but it does more harm than good.
 
#5
Thank you Mike, in Higher Education we actually call these events, RIE, or Rapid Improvement Events. I had the discussion the other day about the term "Kaizen Event" with a co-worker, this co-worker felt "kaizen event" was an oxymoron since "kaizen" is continual, incremental improvement and not an acute event thus he felt the term mis-stated the intent. I agree with you on thoughts regarding use of Japanese terms. Thanks for the feedback.
 

pziemlewicz

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#6
I've seen them fail for two reasons:
1) Not getting buy-in. Could be management or operating level employee. Without a good cross section of the organization working on the event, and a good explanation or changes to those who weren't, success is difficult.
2) Often times events are short-sighted and don't address the full value stream. I made my paint process more efficient by no longer masking threaded holes, but now the assembler needs to open them up with a drill before putting screws in.
 

ISO_Man

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#8
I am been looking for articles, blog sites, etc that document the reason(s) for failure in Kaizen Events, or Kaizen Programs in general. While I can locate many instances of success, it is not easy to find why events or programs specifically fail, its seems no one shares these experiences. Outside of Leadership related factors, what specifically leads to Kaizen events that are not successful? What I am seeking is:

1. Are there known sources (papers, text, articles, blogs, etc.) that present such experiences (failure of Kaizen Events)?

2. Can you offer your thoughts on this subject?

I was formerly a Quality Manager in automotive for about 25 years, I have my own thoughts and experiences but would like to see others views since mine are unique to a specific organization.

I just spent a bit over a year working in my first manufacturing position as a quality professional. It may seem somewhat reversed from the normal pattern but I started in quality in a large telecom company, went through the Six Sigma Black Program while implementing an ISO-9001/TL-9000 based quality management system and worked primarily in software companies on process improvement activities. What I've observed in manufacturing quality is that recognizing "failure" begins with defining success very carefully at the beginning of the effort. Something as complex as a Six Sigma Black Belt project requires a charter at the beginning that very specifically defines what one is trying to accomplish. In manufacturing, something as "simple" as a 5s should also have a goal. Failure is defined as not meeting that goal, but elements of failure that I personally observed were a lack of buy in from participants (some of the assembly folks have been standing at the same bench for 30 years and have little or no interest in changing anything). Lack of understanding [ my 3-point speech on why people fail to do their jobs is 1) they don't know what to do 2) they don't know how to do it 3) they see no value in it ]. Lack of standardizing - having spent 6 years as a technical writer I'm big on clear, succinct documentation and after being introduced to LEAN I've added strong visual management to the tool-box. Simple check-lists with visual images as needed at GEMBA is needed to remind and reinforce the change. Lack of "auditing" - I know that audit is a scary word to a lot of people and I frequently use the word "Assessment" instead - but when you've implemented a change, given people the information that they need, and ensured that they understand the new tasks, a strong management/auditing is needed especially at the beginning to ensure that employees don't slip back to the old way of doing things. Identify a perceptive, active supervisor to help instill the new habit. (Take a listen to Adam Lawrence's "The Wheel of Sustainability" podcast on LEAN Blog if you have time). Failure can mean not meeting any of the goals implicit to the 5s. The same patterns occur in other cell assessments to remove bottlenecks, reduce defects, etc. Clear goal, enthusiastic buy-in, clear standardized reference material and sustained reinforcement on the new process should drive you closer to success. The first day in Black Belt training, the instructor said "70% of your projects that fail, will fail due to a lack of leadership buy-in" and that can't be over-emphasized. As the facilitator of an improvement event, especially if you're coming in from the outside as a consultant, your first meeting is with the leader with decision making authority to ensure that they understand that the project will take time, may cost money, and will almost certainly encounter some level of resistance - they need to be your escalation point.

Just my 2 cents. I hope this helps.
 
#10
For Kaizen events to stick their needs to be a clear process owner. The person who is accountable to the new result which due to the change in the process. That Process owner needs to develop what we call Leader Standard Work. A way of checking the health of the process and its result. In doing so, if process not performing as expected, the leader steps in and problem solves with the associates. If going as planned, is visible checking the result and reinforcing the new process. Leaders initially think it is a waste of their time. But usually come around once they realize that processes which are important to them will be important to their staff. Soon habits follow. Processes will erode if not being checked. Hence the backslide of the process. Good book to read is Creating a Lean Culture.
 
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