Deming & Your Kaizen Success

Have you created training for one of your teams before?  I am in the process of developing training material for a Kaizen Team with a new client.  Starting with a clean slate, as I am today always gets me thinking.  What kind of opportunities does this team have?  What tools will they need?  What are the keys to success?  It’s always an exciting opportunity.

Even with all of the excitement, there are concerns.  Is the team ready for change?  Are there sacred cows?  What obstacles could lead to set-backs?

One common pitfall with Lean initiatives in general is leadership.  Many discussions about Lean failures point at failed leadership.

One common pitfall with Kaizens is that they don’t stick.  This is not always the case but it the improvements can slip away if you are not careful.  Many Kaizens show improved Safety or Quality.  Others reduce cost or increase efficiency.  Too often though, these efforts seem to slip away over time.  Some leaders blame others when improvements don’t stick:

“Why won’t they follow procedures?”

I’d suggest that this too is often due to failed leadership.  Kaizens that don’t stick can boil down to a lack of follow-up or an ineffective system to sustain the improvements.  Leaders who fail to follow-up allow proven best practices to deteriorate into a state where each operator is doing their own version of what they think is best.  In other words, the improvements don’t stick.

The ante-dote is to develop a system to follow-up and sustain.  Proper use of the Deming Cycle facilitates follow-up and success.  Plan – Do – Check – Act.  “Do” only gets you half way there and puts you in the silly cycle.  Check and Act leads to further continuous improvement.

Think about your improvement efforts in the past.  Have you seen promising ideas slip away?  Do you have a success story you can share below?

Lean Leaders Plan, Do, Check and Act for success.


Another systematic improvement approach is the DMAIC.  The DMAIC process has its roots in Deming.  While a properly executed PDCA will touch the same bases as the DMAIC, the DMAIC adds some structure.  You can see a comparison here.

Please leave a comment below if you liked this article. You can also connect on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, subscribe via e-mail (right side bar), retweet, digg, or stumble this article.  You can check out my Facebook page and continue the discussion there as well.  Your feedback is appreciated.

About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
This entry was posted in Lean Manufacturing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Deming & Your Kaizen Success

  1. gwkessler says:

    Christian, you are right with most of your statements, BUT……….I would get it started with a more positive view. Yes, there may be obstacles , but just thinking about and searching them does not get you to the point to start. Walk the hall for a couple of days, listen, see and feel. Than start asking questions on all levels including “Paul, the warehouse cleaner” – Cretae a the plan and get a mixed group in a room to present what you have see. Let them talk about their perspective, let them post their own statements, create a plan ……..and start acting.
    And yes, you can use your deming circle in the background- but don´t confuse the team with such.

    • Hi Gerhard, great to hear from you. I like your comments and insight on getting started. You are right, you don’t necessarily have to make a big deal about using PDCA depending on the size and scope of the Kaizen. I try to advocate using the Deming Cycle as a way of managing as a routine. Thank you for sharing your insight.

    • By the way, Gerhard, I changed “failure” to “set-backs” in the post. Hopefully that doesn’t sounds as negative. I’m a huge fan of the great things that can come out of Kaizens.

  2. Hi, this is so true any training material needs to be team centric, when i created a trainning material for my team- it was informal-had hard time just sticking with the plan, cause you can get so much to do in one training module, but knowing your team audience, studying them helps a lot. This post is informative. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s