My direct reports and I had the pleasure of meeting with Michael Balle (Lean Sensei and Author) to discuss how we could improve  ‘Kaizen’ within our teams. Kai (change) Zen (good) are Japanese characters/words (probably horribly transliterated) but now widely used by the Lean movement to describe continuous small  iterative changes that bring improvement. This is ideally a culture or way of work, where all employees at all levels are engaged in making many small improvement that ultimately make a big difference.

As developing Lean managers we have tried setting many Kaizen tasks or challenges for  our teams, all with fairly limited success.  We had generally struggled to get our teams to engage in the process of continuous improvement.

Michael started with a simple question, “How do think your teams would feel about you ‘managers’ sitting here talking with me, the Lean ‘guru’ about how they, can improve their work”.

The simple truth was that the meeting construct itself was the perfect illustration of the problem… We as managers were hunkered down in a meeting room with an ‘expert’ deciding what our employees needed to do.

Kaizen is our staff looking at their work and telling us their managers what is ‘not good’ and how it could be improved, not us telling them.

The problem is me (us)!

Next week we start meeting with our people, letting them tell us

In October, Michael meets with my team not just the Managers