Tuesday, February 04, 2003

The Power of a Blitz

I've seen it many times before and I suppose I should cease to be surprised....but I was. It was amazing, encouraging and mind-boggling.

I'm talking about a Blitz (as we call it) or a Kaizen event (as most in the Lean community call it). We did a very simple, one-day event in a well-run area of our production facility yesterday. We used the same, proven method to plan the day as we would in a poorly run area, badly in need of work. We simply started looking for ways to improve flow, safety, ergonomics and quality.

Why was I amazed? Let me try to explain:

  • Meet in the workplace. We spent the whole day in the work area itself. No conference room, nothing impressive. We got dusty and cold. And we saw things we could never have seen anywhere else.
  • Forget the donuts. It was not about frills. We didn't bring in lunch. We didn't do anything that smelled like a "perk." We worked an ordinary work day.
  • It was about listening. The guys who have made this a well-run area had a bunch of ideas on how to make it better. The rest of us listened and asked questions to understand better. Folks would rather be sincerely listened to than eat donuts in a nice conference room. But it's easier to run to Krispy Kreme and grab a dozen than it is to really listen well.
  • Listening became infectious. As those of us from outside the area tried to listen, the guys in the workgroup started asking questions about how material and information flowed to and from the workgroup.
  • No one person had a breakthrough idea. There were no "home runs"...the area was already functioning well...if it never changed, we'd still be OK.
  • Collectively, we had some great ideas. Since the group was in a marvelous mood of listening and inquiring, one small idea sparked another, on which another person built a further extension. Soon, nobody could remember just whose idea it really was...it became owned by everyone, because it was.
  • Improvement became obvious. We ended up with 8 specific action items to improve flow, safety, ergonomics and quality.
  • Include folks from outside the group Two people on the team had spent virtually no time in this area. Two things happened. One...we had some fresh perspectives. Two...we built experience in the change process. Both incredibly positive.
Watching. Reflecting. Asking. Looking hard. Taking time to improve. All these things work. I know that. I've seen it a hundred times. But it still grabs me.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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