Most good ideas sparkle in simplicity, so much so that everyone wonders why no one ever did that before. – Estee Lauder 

In my last post Kaizen – The problem is me I shared how, as managers we were trying to ‘do’ Kaizen ‘to’ our employees and that our Virtual Lean Sensei had reminded us that true ‘Kaizen’ is in fact initiated ‘by’ all employees and done ‘by’ those same employees rather than management.

Michael Balle is our Virtual Lean Sensei usually taking us somewhere we did not expect, yet upon arrival we find that place breathtakingly useful and stunning simple.

This time a talented team member presented an ongoing process improvement activity for Michael to critique.  She had done a good job of improving this process, from memory reducing cycle time by over 50%. Olivia began presenting the detail and as usual Michael first question took us somewhere new.

Michael’s question… “What is the customer’s measure of success?”

Michael then discussed at length the difference between process improvement and performance improvement i.e. simply improving a process or improving customer performance/value.  One is basically trying to reduce the ‘cycle’ time of a particular series of activities on the path to Customer value, the other is seeing how we can serve our customer better by improving overall customer value. One is focusing on the somewhere in between origination and Customer value, the other is focusing totally on the Customer and how they receive value from us.

Michael outlined Isao Kato and Art Smalley Six Box method for Kaizen (see Toyota Kaizen Methods – Six Steps to Improvement) In summary we should each:

  1. Explain the performance improvement opportunity – What problem are you trying to solve
  2. Current method analysis – What have you observed about this, the process of analysis is as important as the outcome or findings
  3. New Ideas – Ideally push yourself for seven ideas, the first two or three are usually not new thinking they are not wrong but are not usually totally right either. Seven forces you to new thinking
  4. Proposal Plan – Be explicit about authority and approval steps required
  5. Implementation Plan – Who, What When (PDCA)
  6. Evaluation – What was the impact of the problem?