Practising Kaizen™ benefits an organization and there is no second thought about it. Even if Kaizen™  is implemented not in the way it is ought to be done, one can experience benefits and additionally, learn from the mistakes. However, the question is, how to practice KaizenÔ? Should we hire an external consultant to support or can we have internal consultant who can drive the initiatives? If we are hiring external consultants, what are the competencies required for that consultant?

Any organization that hires a consultant(?) for practicing Kaizen™  is not looking for gains but a cultural transformation. This means this is all about changing the mind-set of one and all in the company. This is not easy nor a quick task to do. This requires a great shift in the paradigms. An insider might find this difficult as it is quite common for all of us to get our mind conditioned. With external consultants, at times, people might feel frustrated as they were repeatedly told that everything they do is wrong and has to change. It may not be true 100%, but the changes required for Kaizen™ implementation are big enough that such comments might work. Thus the change is more emotional and personal than technical, and hence has to be led from the top down by leaders who the workers trust— in whom they have confidence.

 Organizations, in general, are hiring the services of “OE-experts”. They visit, hardly be present in the Gemba, prepare & make excellent presentations, suggest numerous recommendations (many of which the organization would have already thought of), and then leave. So, by the end of the day, when one wanted to ascertain the outcome of the exercise, the organizations feel burnt by the experience. This results in gaining a bad reputation for the Kaizen™ initiative per se.

In general, Consultants have two objectives:

  1. Maximizing the output of their clients’ teams: Consultants share more ideas and methods that improves the productivity of the processes. This will result in extracting the maximum output from the resources – be it machine or man.
  2. Solving the problem for their clients: They investigate through observations, audits, analysis and come up with an action plan suggesting recommendations.

Few Organizations think that “improvements can be bought”. In most cases, consultants are made to simply substitute the middle management of the organization to get things done as expected by the Senior Management team. However, Kaizen™ is different. Kaizen™  believes in People Orientation, it is more of a culture than a tool to be implemented on the Gemba. Unlike Consultation, where experts extract the outcome, Kaizen™ is inclusive – it involves people from all tiers in not only demonstrating how to add value in the processes but also enables them solve their problems rapidly on a day-to-day basis.

Can Kaizen™ be learnt by attending class room sessions and reading books? Kaizen™ is like swimming; to learn swimming one has to jump into the water and start practicing. Same is with Kaizen™, one has to practice Kaizen™ in order to learn it. Kaizen™ is the path to achieving Lean and this comes only by practice; practicing KaizenÔ™ everyday by everybody at everywhere. Without an experienced person leading or overviewing this, practice of Kaizen™  cannot be achieved.

When we say dealing with people, today’s Consultants have to deal with different generations. The consultants in general, cannot digest looking at non-value adding activities going on without doing anything about it. At times, they might vent out their emotions looking at them. However, the present generation might not prefer this. We are talking of Y-Generation and it is the primary duty of any facilitator to answer the “Why” of Y-Generation in a convincing manner.

Kaizen™ is not something we do to someone. The challenge is not to teach someone to apply Kaizen™ in their conditions but to make the clients realize and discover with them what Kaizen™ means to them in their Gemba. To be precise, we are talking of someone who could transform the teams. Sensei does this precisely. They teach their clients to see the abnormalities and means to eliminate it. They are hands-on, demonstrating their clients how to improve. They would also assign a lot of “homework” to be done by their next visit. In those 5 days of Gemba Kaizen™

Workshop, they make their clients realize what is a work – a combination of routine tasks and improvement

Now comes the actual question, how can one identify a  good sensei? A good sensei is one who understands there is no pre-determined method to take right decisions. Each of the cases has to be looked at on its own merits & de-merits.

A Sensei is fully aware of these facts:

  1. People are not problems; People are problem-solvers
  2. Problems are treasure of opportunities – they have to be celebrated
  3. muda is not a problem but symptom of a problem that exits
  4. 3Mus are close-knit peers – if one MU enters the process, other 2 MU gains entry easily or in other words, Muri leads to Mura in turn leads to muda
  5. Quality is built in the process and not checked after the process
  6. Information, either too much or too less leads to confusion
  7. Ambiguity in communication leads to mistakes

Sensei do recognize that their role is pivotal, though limited. They are there to teach the value-adders, support and motivate the leaders. If the Sensei feels that they are not getting the right cooperation or commitment from leadership team of their client in implementing Kaizen™ and the progress is not up to the mark, then the Sensei would never hesitate to “fire” that client. Whereas a consultant will never ever do so whose priority is revenue stream.

Kaizen Institute believe in the “Sensei approach.” The sensei approach of developing people is not about making them apply rules or methods, but to create experiences for people so they wriggle out of their comfort zones and figure out things differently by themselves. Typically, a KAIZEN™ Sensei can handle three breakthrough Kaizen™ projects/ teams of 10 people each per week of consulting.

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