Kaizen for Project Kick Off (no pun intended today)

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    Curious if anyone has used a Kaizen to jump start a 6-Sigma Project.
    Problem:  Projects seem to last longer than initially with little ownership and tend also to lose focus as time drags on.
    Solution:  Management brings team together using a Kaizen event to kick off the project.  The event helps the team bond and shows management support.  The goal is to move the team through the D-M-A phases as quickly as possible.  When the team has completed the Kaizen and reports out to the management team … focus, direction, quick fixes (low hanging fruit) as well as mid & longer term plans are identified.  Data crunching would follow with weekly, bi-weekly meetings to ensure projects are moving along.  Projects that would normally take 6-8 months … could be cut down significantly.
    I’ve yet to roll one of these events out.  I’m interested in input from this community.  Thoughts?
    Regards, Herb


    Jim Shelor

    Dear Herb,
    I have used the technique you are describing on many occasions, especially in the case of very complex issues.
    I find that this technique of “kick starting” a project using a Kaizen start produces the advantages of:
    1.  Getting you through the “doubting Thomas”, I like to call it, phase and quickly getting, at least most of the team, to understand there really is a problem to solve or improvement to be made.
    2.  Helps to get the team to get to the cooperation phase much faster.
    3.  Gets ideas on the table for investigations, and plans for gathering the data you need to find and determine the best answer to the problem or improvement.
    I find that I need to force myself not make the preparation phase (gathering data an a quick analysis that you perform prior to gathering the team) of the Kaizen longer than it would be for a normal “quick fix” Kaizen event.  The reason is, I know this is a full Six Sigma project.  Kaizen puts more emphasis on speed that on finding the “best” answer, while a full Six Sigma project puts more emphasis on getting the solution that provides maximum benefit rather then getting maximum speed.  You only need enough data to demonstrate a problem exists or an improvement can be made to get the Kaizen “kickoff” started.
    There are pitfalls to this approach that need to be considered.
    1.  Some of your team members will become convinced that the answers are known from the Kaizen Kickoff and no further investigation is needed.  You need to work to being them back to the goal of finding the answer that produces maximum benefit.
    2.  Some of your team members will not accept that there is a problem to solve or improvement to be made and you will have to bring them along, or replace them.
    3.  Although this approach gets the team moving, I need to make sure we do not let the possible solutions we uncovered during the Kaizen kickoff drive where we go.  We must make sure we go where the data takes us, not where we want the data to take us.
    I think this method of starting a project is very useful, however, it will not save you the large chunk of time that it would appear it should.  You only have a limited set of data at the start just to prove a problem exists or an improvement can be made.  Accordingly, after you have the team believing in the project by the kickoff, there is still a lot of data to take and analysis to be done, depending on the complexity of your project.
    All of that having been said, I agree that a Kaizen kickoff is a very good way to start a Six Sigma project.
    Sincere regards,
    Jim Shelor

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