“We shouldn’t wait for workshops or events. Kaizen is about improvement everyday everywhere by everyone. It isn’t a project where you pack your bags at the end.”
“How do we allow and encourage our staff to make incremental improvements every day? In psych services, we have a solid foundation of stability and standards. The next evolution is daily kaizen.”
For JHS’s Psych Services team, daily kaizen is becoming the standard work for soliciting, tracking, summarizing, and moving improvement ideas through the testing, checking, and implementation process.
Team members can post problems and improvement ideas to the board anytime. They work each day to develop solutions and test them.
At a weekly 30-minute huddle led by Psych Evaluation Specialist Chris Haguewood, the team checks on improvements-in-process, discussing barriers and building consensus (yay or nay) around ideas that have been tested.
It is important to note that the teams improvement ideas aren’t vetted and cleared through management. In true Lean fashion, the people doing the work are being treated as the experts.
Traditional Meetings vs Daily Kaizen
At typical traditional meetings, people gripe about problems and teams kick them around without solutions, venting frustration but getting no closer to resolving the source of frustration.
Daily kaizen works because it offers a solutions-oriented approach to work problems.
At one recent weekly huddle, Steve Feldman of the Psych Services team alluded to a long-standing lack of clarity the team has had around some of its work roles—a source of confusion and frustration for the group, but a problem that no one had “owned.”
Haguewood simply handed Feldman an improvement idea card. Now Feldman owns the problem—he’s actually empowered to fix what bugs him—and is working with the team to find an improvement.
That interaction also underscores the change in role for the daily kaizen leader vs the traditional supervisor. Often, supervisors can interpret problems voiced by staff as “making waves.” This exacerbates a cycle in which permission to surface problems and make changes is discouraged.
A daily kaizen leader must welcome change, must celebrate problems when they are identified, but must also provide a process for staff to experiment, and support and coach staff as they take the initiative to solve problems every day.
Haguewood says that in the past, problems would fester until they were big enough to get kicked up the chain to a supervisor. “Now, we’re eliminating the low hanging fruit that bother people.” And this allows him to have more one-on-one time with his team members.
Haguewood’s suggestion to other leads who would like to adopt the daily kaizen model is to encourage engagement though it won’t be easy to start. “At first it felt awkward,” he says. “Why are we standing in this hallway?” But now the team appreciates the opportunity to see the work regularly and to discuss together how to fix things.