You may know from a previous post that kaizen means continuous improvement. A kaizen event is a planned session for improvement on a limited perimeter, usually focused on a peculiar topic or issue and limited in time. A kaizen event lasts generally a week or less.
Shorter kaizen events are often called kaizen blitz, a reference to WWII blitzkrieg, or fast moving warfare. In German blitz means lightning.
The session is formatted, phased. Participants go through the exercise with scheduled duties like gathering data, draw a situation map, analyze the problem, design a solution, try and adjust and prepare and present the conclusion.
Most of kaizen events’ objectives is solving a given problem. The company’s kaizen office or the like generally has a list of improvement potentials and/ or problems to solve or a kaizen event can be organized ad-hoc to solve an urgent new issue.
After the event, the group is dismissed, remaining actions to be completed by some members or delegated to somebody.
Kaizen events (should) involve people working in the perimeter/ process and are considered subject matter experts. The event is driven by a moderator which most often takes leadership.
People from outside the perimeter are welcome for they have no preconceptions and their candor forces the others to explain the situation clearly, extensively.
Kaizen events are popular at executive level because they are limited in time, have clear objectives and can be measured in terms of return on investment.
Managers don’t like the idea to pay someone for non-productive work, non-framed continuous improvement activities are seen as recreation or cool hanging out.
Framed by a standard format, limited in time and under accountability of the moderator, a kaizen event is acceptable investment.
The limited time is not only to limit the costs and backlog while participants are gathering, the limited time is also putting pressure on them.
Kaizen events, kaizen blitz are often used to overcome resistance to change. The change is so quick that most opponents will realize the change or its implication too late to build up their resistance.
Going on with warfare example, it is like overrunning a defense line without spending time to convince defenders to surrender.
I have some reservations about kaizen events as they are too often lean disguises for productivity improvements betraying the kaizen spirit.