“We Don’t Have Time for Kaizen”

Posted on December 11, 2012 | in Lean Tools, Small Business | by

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In a past career stop, I was in a manufacturing production meeting providing a recap of a failed Kaizen event held on the shop floor the day earlier. The event failed because the resources required for the event were not provided and/or were pulled away to handle “production emergencies.” I made it clear that if the company wanted to see focused improvement in specific areas of the operation the management would have to pony up the operators and talent.

That’s when I was told “We don’t have time for Kaizen.”

It really breaks a Lean practitioner’s little heart.

Improvements don’t just happen. They require focused effort, brain power, input, strategic thought, and cooperation. Kaizen isn’t flipping a switch. A manager saying there’s no time for Kaizen is the equivalent of someone on a sinking ship yelling “We have no time for fixing leaks – we’re too busy bailing out all the water!”

I don’t recall the exact quote or who stated it, but what was stated is that a true job is actually the job plus Kaizen. Kaizen is a mindset of continuous improvement and changing things for the better. It’s more than an event. It’s ownership of one’s role and focused effort on making the role better. Kaizen can take time, but the cost of improving is nothing compared to the exponential growth from the improvement down the road.

So pony up, managers. A little pain now means reaping benefits down the road. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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12 Responses to ““We Don’t Have Time for Kaizen””

  1. Mark Graban says:

    Not having time for kaizen should be the first problem statement for kaizen… how do you free up time for improvement?

    • Chad Walters says:

      Mark –

      I believe the first time I saw anyone talk about a job being the work plus Kaizen, it was you. Is that the case? If so, what is your source?

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  8. Peter Jansen says:

    Takt-time in Standard work is based on 80% in Europe.
    So I have 20% time for continuous improvement.
    In Asia the takt-time in Standard Work is based on 99%.

    • Mark Graban says:

      By “Asia,” you must mean China.

      I am pretty sure Toyota and some other companies in Japan would hold to the 80-85% range to account for variation, breaks, and kaizen time.

      The Toyota San Antonio plant says they use overtime (before or after shift) to do Kaizen and continuous improvement. It’s probably not practical to think that a balanced line is going to have time in a job cycle or two to do Kaizen unless there is extended downtime.

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