Team communication, how do you know it needs to improve?

team communication

While I was facilitating a problem-solving session in a client facility, I noticed that something was wrong.  We were discussing the possible causes for the problem under analysis.  Three team members were very active in the discussion providing thoughtful ideas.  However, the rest of the group was either silent or being sarcastic.  Another person was constantly interrupting others while yelling.  I ask the event sponsor if those behaviors were normal, and he said they were.  He didn’t see it that way, but the team’s behavior was asking for help.  Those actions were a symptom of a deeper problem.  That is, team communication needed improvement.

How do you know team communication needs to improve?

The situation described above contains several signs that indicate the team communication is poor.  When a team cannot collaborate, productivity and quality can affect the company’s bottom line.  Therefore, it is a priority to learn how to identify those signs and fix them.

Despite having technical knowledge, the company from the example hire me as the facilitator.  The reason is that they have not been able to get the expected results.  

Be on the lookout for these signs

Over the week, I had multiple individual conversations with team members and the sponsor.  As a result, I identify several behaviors that affect communication.  All of them are signs of ineffective team communication.  

Confusion regarding responsibilities or priorities leads to frustration.  As a result, you can see duplicate work, missed deadlines, or not getting expected results.  In turn, those results create disappointment, anger, and more frustration.  When this happens, it is common to see disrespect as part of the culture.  For example, you can see rude reactions, demeaning communication, and finger-pointing.

People deal with frustration in different ways.  Sometimes, even when they are silent, their demeanor screams disagreement.  Team communication is failing when you sense that people have concerns but never voice their opinion.  Likewise, if they constantly interrupt the conversation or scream to ensure their voice is heard.  Another sign is when team members feel the need to compete against each other all the time.  At the same time, there is no collaboration.

How to improve team communication

Effective communication is one of the critical elements for a successful continuous improvement journey.  Another element is the cultural transformation from traditional to lean thinking.  A culture that values respect and teamwork fosters creativity and collaboration.  

People need to know how their work connects with the company goals.  Also, they need to understand how their actions affect the customers and business growth.  Knowing that information is easier to understand why collaboration is critical to the success of the company.  When the company is still in the early steps of the transformation, it is natural for some individuals to push back.  However, as soon as you notice behaviors like those previously indicated, it is time to enforce the new expectations.  Nothing demoralized the team more than seeing their leaders tolerating disrespectful actions.

5S every day, not just once a month!

5S every day

A colleague who works in logistics is responsible for two warehouses in the same city.  Both sites have been implementing 5S.  One of them has been successful, while the other is not.  He asks me how it is possible to have different results.  Although both locations received the same training and support, their implementation approach was different.  Only one of those teams was practicing 5S every day.  

Change behaviors to do 5S every day

Have you ever tried to lose weight?  How well did it go?  I tried many times with no sustainable results until I learn what I was doing wrong.  Each time I failed; I was following a diet.  I treated my weight loss as individual events with a common goal.  However, healthy eating is for every day, not for special occasions.   It wasn’t until I change my eating habits that were able to lose weight for good.

Like with weight loss, 5S will not be successful until people build new behaviors.  Get used to putting things back in their place immediately after use takes time.  After all, it’s easier to leave things where you last used them.  The problem is to remember where that was.  For sustainable results, you have to change that behavior by creating new habits.

5S is an activity to practice every day, throughout the day.  Before launching the program, leadership needs to agree on how to achieve the fifth S, sustain.  The effort requires the participation of all site leaders.  Everybody needs to walk the workplace every day to verify cleanliness and organization conditions.  If shadow boards have empty spots, it means that tools are out of place.  If the material is missing from their allocated staging floor areas, it means that material is missing.  For instance, those examples represent future problems, either searching time or delays.

How to create the habits

While setting up the materials and equipment, work on how to create new habits.  Ask the team how they could trigger the desired response.  Once they finish work, what will trigger putting the tools or equipment back on their location.  

For example, empty printer cartridges go inside a labeled box in the office supply room.  However, some people throw them in the trash or leave them in their office or cubicle.  To build the habit, add how to dispose of the cartridge as part of the instructions to change it.  Also, include what the trigger would be for this action.  For instance, a good time would be the completion of the printer testing.  After confirmation that the printer is working, take the old cartridge to its designated location.  The problem is that most people would decide to move it to a location later.  And then, they don’t remember.  

Sometimes, people convince themselves that it is better to put things back in their place at the end of the shift.   Ask questions to understand why they think that way.  Where they leave them throughout the day?  Are there any safety hazards?  Are they wasting time searching for them?  Maybe the designated area is not the best.  By working with the team to understand their reasons and creating a plan together, sustainability will have a better chance.  

At times, like in the printer cartridge example, it makes sense to compromise.  For example, have a mailbox by the door or entrance.  They see it while walking out, take it, and move it to its place.

After launching the program, sustain it with 5S every day

That is the difference between the warehouse teams.  One group completed all the kick-off event preparation in detail.  After that, they completed the first three steps, leaving the areas with temporary marks.  They planned to test locations and quantities before making them permanent. The problem is the responsible parties never follow-up.  At that time, those temporary marks became permanent.  And then, when things didn’t go as planned, people were discouraged to continue.

At the same time, the other team follows similar planning and initial execution steps.  The only difference was that as part of their plan, they agreed on triggers for 5S activities.  The senior supervisor and his team had on their leader standard work a daily 5S walk.  They also had a board where they mark their visits and top three observations.  This information was part of the daily huddle meetings.   Also, the leadership group makes a point to acknowledge at least one positive comment every day.  That simple action helps to enforce the desired behavior.  For instance, supervisors celebrate each program milestone and recognize groups or individuals that achieve their 5S goals.

Forklift operators and clerks have their triggers for 5S activities as well.  For example, lunch break is one of the triggers for the operators.  With this one, they know it is time to park and charge their truck in one of the designated spaces.  

By identifying what will signal the start of each 5S task, the group initiates to build the habit of doing 5S every day, all day.  This way, their program for housekeeping and organization became a daily activity.  They created new behaviors to ensure sustainability.  For the other warehouse, it happens only when the warehouse was a mess or visitors were coming.  

Strategy time, how much do you invest in it?

Strategy time, do you spend enough time creating your business strategy?

Strategic work is one of the most critical that a leader has to do.  A strategy is how the business is set out to achieve its objectives and goals.  Therefore, to attain them, leadership needs to focus on the necessary long-term business actions.  Also, they need to make decisions and allocate resources to support the action plan to achieve those goals.  There is no doubt you need to spend time to make this happen.  The question is, how much do you invest in strategy time?  

Why leaders do not spend enough on strategy time

When you run a business, especially if you are a solopreneur, you wear various hats every day.  You start the day with the firm intention of completing your tasks for the day.  Perhaps, working on your long-term business plans is one of them.  However, instead of analyzing trends and thinking about a new product or service, you find yourself putting out fires. 

It is hard to let go of the day-to-day operation.    When you don’t have skilled people to handle it, it is almost impossible.  Nevertheless, success depends on how you manage the situation.  It is too risky not to solve problems before they are too big to handle.  For example, your customers are waiting for quick and satisfactory resolutions to their problems.

Thinking about and create a new strategy to achieve business goals is a huge undertaking.    If you choose the wrong one, you could lose market share, money, or even credibility.  Perhaps the fear of failure is what prevents you from spending time working on strategy.

What can you do to have more strategy time?

There are three things that you can do to have more time to work on your business strategy.  You can develop your team skills, delegate, and schedule strategic work.

Most of the time, the cause of firefighting is unstable processes that are lacking standards.  Therefore, you would have to work on stabilizing them.  Simple tools like 5S and PDCS will help with that task.  Later use problem-solving to start moving the needle in the right direction.  Using the 5 Why and Cause and Effect, you can develop your team skills.  Consequently, they can take care of solving day-to-day problems following a set structure.

Delegation is not as simple as asking somebody to do some of your tasks.  First, you need to identify what tasks you can delegate.  Second, see who from your team is a candidate to learn those tasks.   Analyze their current skills, education, experience, and interests to find the best fit. 

Schedule your strategic work

To ensure that you spend time on strategic work, put it on your calendar.  This activity is not for the end of the year only.  For instance, you should work on long-term planning throughout the year.  There are two parts, check on the current strategy performance and work on the future.

Set aside chunks of time to think about the future.  Whenever an idea pops into your mind, make a note. Then, work on enhancing them during strategic work time.  Imagine how those ideas connect with your current operation. 

Putting something on the calendar does not mean that it will happen.  You will need to create the habit to work on strategy.  For example, use a calendar reminder as your trigger for the creation routine.  Reward yourself with something nice that you enjoy.  After all, you will be one step closer to the goal.


You start with a dream, a goal, something big you want to achieve with your business.  To reach that goal, you have to create a map, a list of actions that the company needs to take.  Those actions or strategy is what would bridge the gap between goal and achievement.  

Visionary leaders take time to imagine the future and build ways to go there.  You can do that by thinking ahead.  Think about how the market would change and how the business needs to adapt.  Or what new product or service would help to solve a customer problem.  

Focusing on day by day is important, but the long-term approach is vital for business growth.  As the owner or top leader, the time you spend on strategic thinking is very well invested.  When you develop your team skills, you can step back from at least some daily tasks.  Whenever that happens, you can spend the much-needed time on strategic work.

How to build a user story map

build a user story map to visualize the customer journey

A user story is a short and simple description of the product or service from the customer’s lenses. You can use this tool to map the primary steps in the customer journey and design the best experience.  How do you build a user story map?  First, take a look at the steps below.  After that, let’s discuss each one at a time.

Steps to build a user story map

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Understand your customers
  3. Map user activities
  4. Map user stories under user activities
  5. Rank stories from most important to least important
  6. Identify roadblocks
  7. Create your execution plan 

Before you build a user story map, understand the problem you want to fix and your customers

Before you start mapping, there are two things you need to know.  First, what is the problem you are seeking to solve?  In other words, what problem your product or service is helping your customers to overcome.   Answer this with as much level of detail as you can.  Look at the problem from the customer’s lenses.  Knowing their pain points or motivations helps to understand what has value for them.  

Identify who would be the primary user or customer.  Who is your target audience?  Likely, there will be more than one, and each will have different goals and motivations.  Also, they will have different ways of interacting with your product or service.  For that reason, it is critical to determine who is the primary audience.  Focus your design efforts with this group in mind.

What are the user activities and their stories?

User activities are broad descriptions of how the user interacts with your product or service.  In other words, they are general steps that the user follows to complete the process from beginning to end.  These activities are the backbone of the user story map.  

You can draw the map using one of the diverse options.  Examples are drawing on a whiteboard, using sticky notes, or with one of the various software tools available.  Regardless of the format, you decide to use, remember to update the map as you make changes throughout the designing or execution process.

When you build a user story map, prioritize the stories

Stories are the sequence of tasks to complete each activity.  Draw each array underneath the corresponded activity.  When you see those stories together, you will visualize the customer journey.  Stories are like a medium-level flow process map.  Sometimes it is helpful to visualize one step down in the process.  You can do that in the user story map, with sub-tasks.  However, use sub-tasks only when they help to visualize possible challenges or roadblocks. 

Once all the stories are in place, it is time to prioritize them.  Do so by ranking them vertically, leaving the most important ones at the top.  In the example below, I draw them horizontally instead of vertically.  If you choose to do it this way, remember to rank them from left to right.  Think about which one of these stories has more value for the customer.   

build a user story map

The same example but using vertical ranking would look like this.

Identify challenges and roadblocks before creating the execution plan

After prioritization, it is time to look at the customer journey flow again.  Put yourself in the place of the customer or user.  Do you see any problem?  Think of it there is a step or feature you need or most have that is not there.  Moreover, see if you can identify anything that the customer should or could have. 

Following this exercise, put your designer hat on and check for missing information or possible bottlenecks.  Identify any challenge or roadblock during execution.  That is, look for potential trouble and mitigate them by creating solutions ahead of time.

At this point, all you need to do is add the plan.  Based on priorities, budget, and other considerations, you decide how you would execute the plan.  Sometimes it makes sense to divide it into phases.  This way, you can plan for what is most important first.


User story maps are a tool that allows teams to visualize the story of the customer journey.  It is helpful to break those stories into smaller parts.  Therefore, it is easier to prioritize and identify challenges.  In other words, user story mapping help to design better products or services from the customer’s lenses.  After all, a product or service designed from the customer’s view has more chances of success.

User story map, what is it?

build the customer journey with a user story map

In a continuous improvement environment, the customer is who defined the value of a product or service.  If you are thinking about launching a new product or service, you may need to create the user story map first.  This tool will help you to visualize the customer journey.

What is a user story map?

User story mapping is a tool used in software development to identify the work that will create the best user experience.  Through the use of this tool, teams understand their customer needs better.  The structure is similar to the swim-lane chart.  It uses horizontal lanes for activities, tasks, sub-tasks, and priorities.  Each activity has a column with its duties or stories drawn below.   The example below is my version of the user story map.

user story map

Although it is a software development tool, you can use a user story map in other settings.  No product or service will be successful unless designed with the customer in mind.  A user story is a short and simple description of the product or service from the customer’s lenses.  Therefore, it is a good idea to use a user story map before you execute your plan.

Steps to create a user story map

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Understand your customers
  3. Map user activities
  4. Map user stories under user activities
  5. Rank stories from most important to least important
  6. Identify roadblocks
  7. Create your execution plan 

Benefits of this type of mapping

If you are a product manager or an entrepreneur, this exercise will help define the work or activities that would create a good customer experience.  While mapping the customer journey, you will have the following benefits.

  • By defining the problem that you expected to solve with your product or service, you get clear objectives.
  • Design the product or service from the customer’s lenses, which ensures the desired experience.  
  • By identifying major steps in the customer journey, you will understand better the essential tasks.
  • Another benefit is that you can organize and prioritize those tasks for better plan execution.  
  • While drawing the customer story, the team can identify challenges or roadblocks. 
  • Also, they will have the chance to see opportunities to improve.  
  • By creating the story map as a group, you are promoting teamwork and collaboration.  

Different uses for a story map

These are some examples of areas where you can use a story map.  

  • While writing an article, blog post, or book, you start with what question do you want to answer?  Tailor your writing style to your audience by knowing who they would be.  Your activities are your book chapters or article headings and sub-headings.  If you have too many headings, prioritize to decide what to include and what to left out.
  • During my years facilitating training, I found out that people learn better when you tell them a story.  Moreover, it is more effective when they can relate to the story.  For that reason, this type of map is helpful to design a successful learning experience.  With it, you can visualize the trainee’s needs and identify challenges.
  • For new product development, it is necessary to understand your users and the problem you want to solve.  There is no time for guessing the right story or workflow for your design.  
  • It works well to design a new service as well.
  • You can define and divide any project into activities, tasks, and sub-tasks.

To sum up

User story mapping is a great tool to visualize the work needed from the customer’s lenses.  Although it is known as an agile tool, it is helpful to design a product or service.  The focus of the design process is the customer, as it should be.  The story map tells the story of the customer’s problem and the activities to solve it.  In other words, it explains the customer experience.

A story map is not written in stone.  Just like standards, they are live documents that should reflect what is happening in real life.  Include all changes and additions in the map as soon as possible.   In the next blog, I will explain how to build your user story map.

Sharing ideas in the workplace

Sharing ideas, foster collaboration

A not long time ago, I had a conversation with a continuous improvement professional about collaboration.  The company he works for encourages the sharing of information and ideas.  They share the problem they have, what they tried, and work well. Also, they talk about what did not work well.  In other words, sharing ideas and help each other is part of the culture.

Benefits of sharing knowledge and information

I once saw a place in which culture is the opposite of that one. Some of the leaders were information hoarders.  Sometimes the staff had trouble completing their tasks.  Meanwhile, somebody had the solution but did not share it with them.  As a consequence, employees feel frustrated, and the morale was low.  

On the contrary, when people help each other and share knowledge, morale and engagement are high. Also, in that type of culture, employees are more innovative and creative. Innovation and creativity are fundamental for process improvements and adding value to the customer. Consequently, the business thrives with better customer satisfaction and increasing revenue.

How to encourage sharing ideas in the workplace

There are five key elements to encourage or facilitate sharing ideas and information in the workplace. 

  1. Create the right environment – The company culture fosters creativity and collaboration. They make clear that sharing ideas is not only acceptable but also expected.  Create a judgment-free environment where there are no dumb ideas.  Furthermore that all of them will be considered and have a fair shot of being implemented.
  2. Provide the necessary space and tools – Encourage cross-functional conversations with a bright and open room. A dedicated space where people can meet to brainstorm ideas. The area should have whiteboards, flipcharts, and access to the internet, company intranet. A suggestion program or online system to share ideas are other ways to facilitate sharing ideas.
  3. Be transparent in your communication of business goals, challenges, and good news – When leadership shares this information with the team, ideas pop up in their heads. However, for that to happen, they need to have some information first. Start by explaining how their work affects the customer and the business’s bottom line.
  4. Practice collaboration model the behavior – Share your ideas with the team without fear of being vulnerable. After all, that is what you are asking them to do. Make people feel valued by asking for opinions or help.
  5. Do something with the information you got.  – For instance, ask questions and provide feedback. Even more, propose to fill a suggestion form or if it is something worthy and easy, do it or ask somebody to do it!


Foster an environment that thrives on sharing ideas, not hoarding tribal knowledge.  When leadership shares their wisdom with the team, they feel valued.  Also, by doing that, they are modeling the desired behavior of sharing knowledge.  If knowledge is power, and you share it with the entire team, then they are empowered.  

Ingenuity does not happen by chance; it thrives on collaboration.  When people from different walks of life and diverse experiences collaborate, better ideas and solutions come to life.

Keep it simple! Processes, training, everything.

keep it simple! Simple procedures and communication is easier to understand and follow.

A company culture transformation is an undertaking.  You will attempt to break with old habits and mental models.  Also, you will introduce new ones.  For that reason, you and your leadership team will make many decisions regarding what to do and how to do it.  Later, there will be a lot of communication, skills development, training, and new standards.  While teaching new behaviors, mental models, and ways to do things, keep it simple.

For a successful transformation, keep it simple

Along the transformation journey, you and your team will have countless communication efforts. That communication will happen in different scenarios and formats.  In other words, individual or group settings, in writing or verbal.  Also, you will write new policies, standards, work instructions, and others.  The purpose of the communication or procedures and other details needs to clear.  Keep the receiver or user in mind while deciding the language, design, or communication structure.  Moreover, it needs to be simple, easy to understand and execute.

If you can’t explain it simply, take a step back.

“If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” 

Albert Einstein

Any continuous improvement activity starts with gaining an understanding of the current situation. The cultural transformation begins with a similar process, understanding the present culture.  The knowledge gain during this step helps to design the best way to share with the team the intention to change.

Why do you want to engage in the transformation process?  Why you propose to use continuous improvement?  What are the steps?  A long and hard thinking process is required to answer these questions in a simple way.  Refine your thoughts, do not use too many words, do not overthink.  Be honest and talk from your heart without fancy words or excuses, just the truth.

You are not ready to communicate this idea until you can say it in simple words.  

Keep it simple, all of the processes, language, structures, and formats.

Simple language is easier for the reader or receiver.  For instance, try to avoid the use of technical words unless it is necessary.  The same rule goes for industry jargon.  For example, in continuous improvement, we use many Japanese terms like kaizen.  Depending on the current culture, you should use generally accepted American words as a substitute.  In our previous example, you can use continuous improvement or rapid improvement events instead of kaizen.

While teaching new tools, use simple structures.  Further, give examples of things related to their work.  Things are complicated enough as it is, keep it simple.  Processes that are easy to understand have more probability of sustainability.  It is much easier to execute simple instructions than complicated words.  


Trying to explain something complex is often a humbling experience.  It makes you realize how much you don’t know.  Therefore, it forces you to break the subject into smaller pieces and understand each one of them.  When you think you know the process well enough, try to explain it with simple words. Would your five years old self understand?  If the answer is no, then keep refining your thoughts, keep improving your pitch.  

Simplicity avoids confusion, and processes are easier to execute consistently.  Don’t complicate it, keep it simple. 

Improvement suggestions program, what is it?

improvement suggestions box

A solid foundation of employee involvement activities is critical to achieving the continuous improvement goals.  One of those elements is the improvement suggestions program.

What is an improvement suggestions program?

An employee suggestion program gives your employees a formal way to express their ideas to improve the processes of the workplace conditions.  Also, it is a way to channel those ideas from the work floor to management.  

A well manage suggestion plan serves two purposes.  The first is to formalize the suggestions process.  The second is to provide documentation of individual contributions.  With the former, leadership can prioritize ideas aligned with the company goals.  The ladder provides documentation for the year-end performance review.

Are you ready to lunch this program?

Why do you want to lunch an improvement suggestions program?  If you want to check a box from your to-do list, do not do it.  Are you receiving a steady number of suggestions?  If ideas are not flowing from employees to supervisors and managers, maybe you are not there yet.  On the other hand, if enthusiasm is growing and team members are communicating ideas constantly, it is time to launch your suggestions program.

Characteristics of an improvement suggestions program

But the improvement suggestions program is much more than a suggestions box.  Above all, careful design of the process is important.  For instance, the following are factors that describe a successful suggestions plan.

  • Hassle-free process – Make it easy to participate by providing a simple suggestions form. 
  • Clear and fair rules – Same rules for everybody, explain how you would assign a value or impact to the results of the estimated improvements.  Moreover, explain the rewards and recognition system tied to the suggestions propositions and results.  Also, establish guidelines for the type of topics open to suggestions and how ideas are prioritized.
  • Quick feedback – Establish a standard, such as responding to suggestions within one week.  Even more, create the standard for what information should be included in the response and how the feedback will be provided.
  • Program promotion and evaluation – Check how the system is doing versus the standards and look for areas for improvement.  Furthermore, create a measuring or evaluation system and publish the results.  For example, the total number of suggestions and participation percentage


A badly designed program will hurt your continuous improvement transformation.  Once it loses credibility it will be undertaken to win it back.  Put simply, avoid hurting the continuous improvement journey and the business bottom-line. The following are mistakes that should avoid.

  • Create a complicated form requesting too much information.
  • Take too much time to answer, don’t be the bottleneck of the process!
  • Have a homogenous evaluation team, include people from different functions and levels.
  • Fail to follow the program rules.


Team involvement activities are critical to achieving improvement goals in the areas of quality, cost, and delivery.   For that reason, their engagement is decisive to achieve the continuous improvement goals.  Certainly, it is important to create and maintain a fair and simple program that motivates participation.

Stop fixing and start improving

stop fixing problems and start improving

If you have a friend or acquaintance who is a business owner, I bet there is not one time you met that the conversation doesn’t gravitate toward business stuff.  As a result, you hear stories about the enterprise’s performance.  When things are not going as expected, you talk about things he or she want or should do in their business.  Moreover, they keep talking about problems and how they fix them.  The problem is that they should stop fixing and start improving processes.

Stop fixing and start improving

Richard is the owner and general manager of a chemical laboratory.  Every once in a while, I see him at a bar we both frequent. As we have friends in common, several times our groups get together to have a good time.  Inevitably, I heard Richard talking about the problems he had in the lab many times.  However, it took me several months to convince him to do something about it.

During the time that Richard was talking about inefficiencies, his business was suffering.  ChemTest was not releasing results on time or keeping up with demand.  Therefore, the customer service rate was declining.  Also, he was missing the opportunity to grow the business.  Every day, Richard and his team were working very hard to get caught up with the tests.  Richard thought he was fixing the problem by hiring a new lab technician.  

But the real problem is that he was not fixing this problem.  Even more, he did not fix the situation of running out of reagents by increasing the inventory level.  Neither the testing errors by hiring a laboratory helper to organize and label samples.  Richard was trying to fix problems by throwing more resources into the business.  In fact, instead of fixing, he should have been improving the processes.

This is the time to stop fixing and start improving

Like, Richard, many business owners or leaders are focus on fixing problems day in and day out.  But there are two problems with that approach.  First, probably they are only dealing with the symptoms of the problem, not the cause.  Hence, there is no such thing as fixing or solving the problem.  And second, they are not improving the business processes.

Process improvement using simple and common-sense solutions is the best way to eliminate waste and increase safety, quality, and efficiency.  It is also the best way to achieve the fastest delivery times without spending lots of money.  Continuous improvement is a people focus system.  Leadership takes care of the team and the team takes care of the problems.  Through skills development and lean thinking, the team learns to improve their work area and processes.

As a consequence, leadership would have more time to think about improvements, new products, and how to grow the business.  How long have you been thinking about doing something to change your business performance?  Have you considered a continuous improvement strategy?  These days, more than ever it is critical to building a flexible business capable of adjusting to market changes as fast as possible.  This is the time to stop fixing, and start improving.

Kaizen event do’s and don’ts, behaviors for success.

The ten ground rules for practicing continuous improvement events exist to ensure the right environment to encourage participation exists.  Therefore, is the job of the event facilitator to set clear expectations about following those rules.  It is also their job to steer the group in the direction.  Effective facilitators know how to guide the team and get results creating a positive and high-energy environment.  They do that by encouraging and motivating the right behaviors.  Let’s summarize them with the continuous improvement or kaizen event do’s and don’ts.  

Kaizen event do’s and don’ts for Success

kaizen event dos and don'ts

Keep the momentum on your CI event

Through the kaizen event, the facilitator teaches team members how to think lean and identify waste. For instance, the team will learn by doing.  While they go through the event process, the team learns and uses tools to analyze the current state.  Using lean thinking they will question the status quo and will learn how to see things differently.

To keep momentum, the event facilitator keeps asking questions.  He or she builds upon the team’s ideas and concerns to challenge the status quo.  Maybe, asking questions is the facilitator’s most important job.  In other words, questions are the vehicle to guide the team to discover their solution.  Through questioning with respect, they learn how to challenge the status quo.

Kaizen event do’s and don’ts, one more don’t

Also, to keep momentum on your CI journey I have one more Don’t for you.  Do not engage in an event that is not aligned with your business goals.  Through events, you are targeting those big gaps between the goals and the current state.  Before you start planning the event, ask Do these activities help the business to achieve its goals?  If the answer is no, then find another subject for your event.