A well-run event can be cathartic, exciting, and extremely effective. A poorly run one wastes a lot of people’s time, money, and at worst, vaporizes everyone’s motivation to support any future quality activities. In either case, you can be sure that people will spread the word about how it went.


In no particular order, here’s a list of sure-fire tactics:


1.Select a massive problem to work on – the bigger the better. It will give the team plenty to talk about, and you can assure management that you’re working on Very Big Important Problems.

2.Don’t worry about pre-work – Lean says do things just in time, so don’t waste time doing things in advance. You probably won’t use this information during the event anyway.

3.If you need to involve leadership, send them the powerpoint at the end – Leaders are Very Busy People – too busy to get involved with lean. That’s why they have you! If you need to involve them, write up a nice pitch of what you did and email it to them. If they have any questions or concerns, they’ll let you know.

4.Invite lots of quality people and few functional people – don’t involve anyone who can actually make a decision – the experts you need may all be too busy, and besides, they probably don’t know enough about Lean to contribute. They barely know all the proper lean Japanese words, let alone how to calculate Takt Time, set up Kanban replenishments or implement heijunka. Better leave that to the Lean experts.

5.Spend the entire time in a conference room – better yet, move off-site altogether – all you need is a long piece of paper, some post it notes, and a few people that know something about the process. Being away from the shop floor or the office keeps the distractions down.

6.Allow participants to attend to their day jobs during the event – multitasking, answering email, stepping out for phone calls and meetings, it’s ok. That’s why we make the event 5 days, to account for these interruptions.

7.Don’t bother collecting any data or measurements – Lean says to keep it simple. Data, statistics, spreadsheets just clutter the issue. Go with your gut.

8.Stay internally focused – think about how you can save the company money and do things faster and cheaper, with fewer people. Don’t worry about the customers – lean has nothing to do with them anyway.

9.Don’t have any facilitators – We’re all grownups, so we can manage ourselves to be productive. Especially in very large groups.

10.Make sure you have lots of action items – plan follow up meetings to track action items – if you’ve followed the other steps, you’ll naturally end up with a long list of actions that will take many weeks and months to complete.


Using any of these tactics alone increases theodds of successfully blowing the event – don’t take chances, use as many as possible to guarantee a memorable outcome.

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