In my last post, about a recent Rapid Improvement Event (RIE, sometimes called a kaizen event), I mentioned that there were three Black Belts involved. I’d like to expand on that a little further and see what you may think of our arrangement.

When a Rapid Improvement Event is chartered,alead Black Belt is assigned tomeet with the Process Owner to scope the boundaries of the event andhold pre-event team meetings. During the RIE week, the lead BB is the primary facilitator of the group.

A second Black Belt is assigned as co-facilitator, whohelps with data collection andprocess-mapping. During the RIE week, the second Black Beltfacilitates any subgroups that break offfor special issues; calls out for ancillary department support (such as telecom or maintenance); and acts as a process-checker during the event.

The third Black Belt acts as a resource primarily during the RIE week. As we are creating standard work, developing forms, revising procedures, etc. there is usually a need to create drafts that can come before the team quickly, so decisions can be made on the second and third days.

Now, this is a lot of “Black Belt resource” to use in a single event week. Do we really need three BBs to run a lean event?

First of all, we’re fortunate to have enough Black Belts in our health system to be able to help out across sites. So we have the resources available to do this for the majority of our RIEs.

Second, we’d rather have the team members focus on using their ideas to identify waste and come up with solutions – not typing for hours on a computer. By havinga Black Belt do these tasks,team members are free tobe subject matter experts or general knowledge resources.

Third, we’ve found that we need relatively large teams to solve issues in healthcare. There aren’t typical “work cells” where a select groupfocuses on one routine task. No patient-related function is done in isolation, and representation from eachstakeholder group is neededso we can have”the right people in the room.” These larger groups benefit from having at least 2 co-facilitators during the event week.

Should everybody use this model? No. But for our situation, and in our culture, this seems to work well. We do vary the number of BBs according to the project scope, size of the team, and situation. And we hope that as our number of Green Belts grows, we can start utilizing them on RIE teams in place of the secondand thirdBlack Belts. I thought it might be interesting to share our approach, and even more interesting to get your comments on it. What do you think about having multiple Black Belts on a Rapid Improvement/Kaizen team? Please let me know.

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