What Does a Kaizen Facilitator Do During Meetings?

Kaizen, a Japanese management philosophy, helps employees focus on continuous improvement. To form a Kaizen team, designate a leader, choose participants and delegate the responsibility of facilitating the meetings to one individual. An effective facilitator encourages the rest of the team to discuss complicated problems and not ignore critical issues. During a Kaizen meeting, the facilitator asks the team to consider ways to eliminate waste, improve productivity and achieve process improvements.

Focus on a Specific Problem

  1. If your business fails to meet deadlines, quality criteria or budget constraints, using the Kaizen approach enables you to make small, incremental changes to produce significant improvements. Particularly if a problem impacts workers from multiple locations and levels of your company, employing a Kaizen strategy helps you address the problem. The facilitator guides the team in using tools, such as value stream mapping, 5 whys or other analysis techniques to pinpoint the problem to work on.

Keep the Team on Track

  1. Once a production, administrative or other process is chosen as the focus, the leader schedules the meetings and invites the selected cross-functional team to discuss the problem. The facilitator reviews the issue in advance and prepares questions to ask the team to discuss. For example, during the meeting, the facilitator may ask the group to focus on lead time reduction, quality improvement or service improvement. Depending on the scope of the problem, the facilitator plans additional activities to span one to seven days and uses each meeting to accomplish the goal of process improvement, deferring other issues for other meetings.

Pick a Tool

  1. The facilitator picks a tool to begin the analysis and ensures that all team members know how to use it. She may begin with the 5 whys tool to continuously probe the reason underlying the problem. Or, she can use the value stream mapping technique to have the team look closely at the entire process from start to finish and identify non-value added activities, which typically occur between process stages. She may choose the mistake-proofing technique to approach the problem, asking meeting participants to brainstorm ways the process could strive to be flawless and eliminate human error. Additionally, she could lead the team in designing and populating a balanced scorecard to report operational metrics.

Moderating Discussions

  1. During meetings, the facilitator strives to help the team reach consensus on potential solutions. She ensures that every member participates in the discussion and focuses the team on facts, not emotions, personalities and previous conflicts. The facilitator establishes basic rules, such as asking people to raise their hand (if in a face-to-face meeting) or asking permission to speak (if in a conference call) before contributing an idea. She asks participants to respect opinions, value diversity and listen carefully to other responses. Once the team finds an improvement to implement, they should act quickly. The facilitator also plans to conduct follow-up events to see if the improvements produce sustainable benefits.