8 Steps for a Continuous Improvement Event

Steps for a continuous improvement event and PDCA

Previously I mentioned that PDCA is a good tool to standardize the kaizen event. Today I will show you the general steps to do a kaizen event and how to use PDCA. There are 8 steps for a continuous improvement event plan and execution.

  1. Understand the problem
  2. Plan the event
  3. Learn about the current state
  4. Design and test the new process
  5. Validate the results against objectives
  6. Modify the process if necessary
  7. Once we achieved results, standardize, train, and communicate
  8. Make further improvements, start over.

Plan the Event

We learn before that the planning step is critical for problem-solving.  Certainly, it is because, during that step, you are defining the problem. In other words, you are studying the problem to understand in detail what is happening. This includes finding the root cause of the situation.  

In a continuous improvement or kaizen event, you start by understanding the problem or situation. Describe the current state as detailed as possible. Use the process name and its description, and the affected KPI’s for this description.

To plan the event, identify all the key information to make the event a success. This information includes the scope, objectives, expected deliverables, team members with their roles, event dates, and location.

Getting to know the current situation

The third step is to learn about the current state. It consists of drawing a picture of the process as is. For this, you need to know the process, the first and last step, steps sequence, and standards. You also need to know what are the customer’s needs. The golden rule to fix problems is to go where the value is created, observe, measure, and ask questions respectfully. Identify waste, where the flow stops, safety hazards or risks, and quality concerns. The most important part of the PDCA cycle is understanding the problem. While doing kaizen, it is critical to understand the process, including the root cause of the problems identified.

Create a new process and test if it works

Equipped with this information, you are ready to start designing the new process.  Brainstorm possible solutions with the team. The target is to eliminate waste, improve quality, or reduce the cycle time.  Prioritize and refine the list by selecting those ideas that are expected to have a bigger impact. The team should be able to complete the tasks during the allotted time frame.  

Test the ideas, simulating the conditions of the new process. Measure the results and note the effect of the new method. Analyze the results vs. the objectives, and validate if the process can achieve them. Modify the process if you need and keep testing and measuring as many times as it is necessary. This step represents another PDCA loop by itself.

Validate the new process

The kaizen step equivalent to Check is to validate the effectiveness of the new process.  The event is scheduled for one week or less, but sometimes you will have pending items that need to be finished later.  This step includes follow-up on the completion of those items.  It also includes a revision of the results to determine if the kaizen achieved its objectives.  Normally, this follow-up process happens 30 days after the completion of the event.  Similar to what happens in the previous step, if the new process falls short of the objectives, you follow PDCA to modify, measure, and adapt until the desired condition is reached.

Steps for a continuous improvement event – The last one, reflect upon the results

The last step in the kaizen event is to evaluate the performance of the process.  Process monitoring should be part of the daily operation as well as discussion of gaps between standards and current results.  Daily kaizen should address problems in quality, safety, or delivery performance.  Remember, once the improved standard is stabilized, it is time to start the improvement process again.

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