kaizen vs. problem solving

You would not use a hammer to put a screw in – would you? Sure it would work, but would it be the best practice or give the best results? No. The right tool is needed for the right job. The same is true for other business tools, which include lean tools. Simply put we must use strategy when deploying methods and tools. If we pursue the wrong tool we could end up with no results, poor results, good results with more time spent (waste), or a chance that it would be just fine. The chance is just that, a risk or method which has unsure outcomes.

One that comes to mind (and there are many examples) is the a Kaizen event. I have witnessed numerous times that an event was demanded from someone, somewhere before the problem was even clearly defined. A Kaizen even is kind of a big deal. It is a very structured, multi day, cross-functional problem solving event where we need big gains. Gains can be defined by the value you wish to imply. Safety, Food Safety, or other metric is suitable. It does not always have to have financial figures attached but if you think about it (really think about it) every one of the items listed could have that value. It is a pyramid, an octopus, touching a variety of tentacles in a multitude of places.

My preference is an A3 problem solving approach. Some companies have named it 5 step, 6 step, or various other names but it is essentially a gap analysis with structure that takes one through brain storming, to solution, and follow up. I love these since I can schedule them over multiple days. Much like a Kaizen it can be cross functional. Virtual teams can work, but realize that without direct involvement and separation from normal jobs (like the enclosure of a Kaizen) things can get pushed aside or dragged out longer. I am not saying that you cannot work with this – just be aware of the project progress. Anyway – the thing that I like about delayed problem solvings (repeating at some interval from identification through solution) is that you come together, gather the lists of action items, disperse and meet again with some of the actions completed. Sometimes, using the Kata approach (Mike Rother) you could even set an experiment, see the results, and PDCA your plan the next meeting(s). Mike Rother did not actually create the Kata concept, but has the best explanation that I have found yet on the subject. If you are in a situation where a solution needs solved quickly, with lots of energy, larger teams, an equipment strategy workshop, or kaizen may be the ticket.

Sure I went on a tangent but I wanted to point out that several tools can be used but there may be a better one. If you want to read a really good article about Kaizen’s check out HOW DOES KAIZEN DIFFER FROM A KAIZEN EVENT? by Mark Rosenthal.

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