What is a Kaizen Event?

A LEAN Kaizen Event is normally a five-day team workshop that focuses on a specific goal or set goals for an area of improvement and then elaboration steps. The event will be led by an experienced LEAN practitioner and include data collection, brainstorming, and implementation. The Kaizen team will prepare a follow-up plan and perform a report to the stakeholders on the last day of the event.

Most people are familiar with the word “Kaizen”, which means “change for the better” in Japanese. Kaizen is a business term that refers to activities that improve the functionality of a process and a business. 

What is the difference between a Kaizen and a Kaizen Event?

“Kaizen” is the philosophy of breaking down a process and removing unnecessary components, before putting it back together again in a more efficient manner. The goal of “Kaizen” is very similar to the goal of a “Kaizen Event” but on a larger scale. Kaizen Events can focus on very specific areas, such as:

  • 5S: A process that is focused on maintaining the standards of an organization’s discipline.
  • TPM (or Total Productive Maintenance): TPM encourages preventative maintenance to increase equipment efficiency. TPM encourages operators to keep their equipment in good condition to prevent inefficiencies.
  • SMED (or Sigle Minute Exchange of Dies) – SMED reduces the time required to perform equipment changes. SMED’s goal is to reduce the time required to complete equipment changeovers and simplify the rest.
  • Valuable Stream Mapping: Value stream mapping is an analysis of the process that a product or service has gone through since its inception.
What are the steps to start planning a Kaizen event?
What are the steps to start planning a Kaizen event?

What are the benefits?

Training: Kaizen is a way to think that your company has created a culture of continuous improvements. However, new members of the team may not be familiar with the language and tools for continuous improvement. Kaizen Events are a great way to introduce new members to tools and methodologies such as LEAN, Six Sigma, DMAIC, PDCA, and 5-Whys.

Better Teamwork: Most Kaizen Events require cross-functional collaboration. When work is moved from one functional area, process problems are common. Therefore, it is important to bring people from different departments together to improve them. Collaboration is crucial before an event. It helps to define the scope of the project and plan how it will be carried out. Clear communication and active listening are essential skills for team members.

Problem Discovery: When the team starts to examine one process or problem, participants will have an excellent chance to uncover additional improvement opportunities. While it is critical to keep the Kaizen Event within the scope of its charter, other ideas for improvement can be documented in your improvement management system. These new challenges may be resolved with a simple improvement cycle or may require another Kaizen event.

Leadership Development: Kaizen Events offers employees the chance to practice leadership skills. The facilitator will guide the group through the improvement process. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first or 100th improvement event for an employee, it is a great opportunity to develop practical and “soft skills.” Participants who are not in the facilitator role may reflect on the qualities they admire in a leader.

Culture Growth: Leaders can share the positive results of a Kaizen Event with the entire organization. If other employees see the team has achieved its goals and are recognized for their efforts, improvements begin to spread, and organizations experience increased innovation and engagement.

Improved Future Events: Participants can review their Kaizen Event experience and make suggestions for improving future Kaizen Events. Did the participants have all the necessary tools? Did the plan get executed well? Did the plan have enough executive support? Did the goals align with strategic priorities and were they clear? These and other questions can help you create a plan to achieve even better results in the future.

Kaizen Events Planning

A successful Kaizen Event planning session can make a significant impact on quality and efficiency. Before you start planning your event, it is important to know exactly what you want to accomplish. Below are the steps to planning a successful kaizen.

Define the boundaries for the kaizen event. You should clearly define the purpose of your event and what you want to achieve. You also need to know the location and who will be involved.

Communicate the objectives to employees. Your employees should not be surprised by the Kaizen Event. Tell them why this event is being held and what employees can expect to learn from it.

Choose a team leader. It is important to choose a leader in your team who understands the importance of this event. This person will be a key manager in your company and will also be focused on positive change.

Measures to improve performance. It is important to know what improvements you are looking to make. You will need to establish measurements to measure your current performance to be able to compare it to the end of the event. You will need to plan a rough schedule for the event. This will help you ensure you have everything you need to complete any projects.

Play an active role in the Kaizen Event. The team leader will support and train the team during the event. They must also keep the employees engaged throughout the event. It will be difficult to implement changes after the event if there is no enthusiasm. Let the team have their ideas and suggestions for improvement. They are most likely to have the best ideas for improving the situation because they are close to the work.

What are the steps to start planning a Kaizen event?
What are the steps to start planning a Kaizen event?

What Makes a Successful Kaizen Event?

Draw a map of the current state, and then document the desired state: It is important to fully understand the current process and how it works before any improvements can be made. Participants can use value stream mapping to visualize the current process flow. It is important to share Voices of the Customer and other information about customer satisfaction. Once the process is agreed upon, it’s possible to move on to the next phase.

Discuss solutions and agree upon improvements to be implemented. No matter how long your Kaizen event lasts, always map the current state. Although it is tempting to jump right into the problem-solving phase of Kaizen, if you don’t have a clear understanding of the current and desired outcomes, you may end up with solutions that do not address the root cause of the problem.  Next, identify the resources required to implement the changes that the group has chosen. The event’s executive sponsor needs to be updated and should help secure the support necessary to move forward.

Implement improvements. After the team has determined the changes they want to make and secured the resources needed, it is time to move. Changes are presented to all involved and then put in place. 

Develop new Standard Work and measure the results. Once the improvements have been implemented, it is important to take the time to monitor and refine them before finalizing the process. To determine if improvement has occurred, the metrics that you have defined should be measured. Once you are happy with the process, create a new Standard document.

Operationalize Improvement. The process of operationalizing the change involves training the operators in the new Standard Work and then sharing the results with the leaders. Your organization should also document the lessons learned in its knowledge repository to improve for the next event.

Post-Event Follow-up: After the event, the work of maintaining the improvement goes on. You should establish a time frame for measuring the changes so you can evaluate them 30-60, 60, and 90 days after they are implemented. You should pay attention to how the new Standard Work has been implemented and when it is time to review the process to determine if there are any opportunities for improvement.

5-Day LEAN Kaizen Event Schedule Example

Historically, Kaizen Events are five consecutive days, although there can be shorter (more summarized) events for problems with a smaller scope of steps. The following is a typical five-day Kaizen Event schedule.

Day 1: Your event’s first day will begin with a kickoff. This will include an explanation of why this event is important. A training session on the wastes of LEAN, along with an assessment of the process and recommendations for improvement. This is the first day of the Kaizen Event. It’s about informing your employees and setting the scene for the second day.

Day 2: Day two usually focuses on data collection and documentation. This is called the day of process discovery. Tools like the process flow map, value stream map, and spaghetti map are used. Employees will find bottlenecks and determine the resources that are needed to complete their tasks.

Day 3: Employees will start brainstorming potential solutions to improve their work environment on day three. Employees will develop a plan to identify the timeline for both immediate and long-term improvement. 

Day 4: The fourth day of the event will see employees focusing on the implementation phase of their plans. This day is about finding ways to implement the changes without causing any disruption to the operation. Quick wins should be implemented during the event. A 30-60-90 day plan is then developed to address the implementation plan for the remainder of the improvements,

Day 5: Employees report to the stakeholders on the last day of the event. Teams should provide an overview of their best practices and lessons learned. This information can be used for future kaizen events.

What is the First Step in a Kaizen Event?

“Plan your work and then work your plan” is the motto of a good project manager who wants results from their projects. A Kaizen Event is a type of LEAN project that must be planned first with an effective Project Charter to understand the steps to follow. Below are some elements to include in your project charter that can make the difference between a successful event and one that fails to achieve its goals. 

Problem Description: The most important section of the document is the problem summary. The problem description describes the reasons for this Kaizen improvement event. The problem description should be concise and specific. This is why you bring a team together, take a break, and address a problem.

Additional team members: The charter should not only include the necessary participants but also anyone who will be involved in the effort. The team could include subject matter experts or customers, depending on the issue. It is a good idea to include contact information for everyone in the charter.

Participants in the Essential Event: The essential participants are the facilitator, the owner of the target process, and the event’s executive sponsor. Employees who are responsible for improving the process should also be included. Some companies employ employees to facilitate Kaizen events, while others hire professional consultants.

The Schedule: It is important to include in the charter the number of days that the team will dedicate to the improvement event. It usually takes between three and five days. The event’s start and end dates, as well as the hours spent on it, should be set. Also, set the beginning and ending times for each day. You should also set dates for when the team will share results with the executive sponsor or other stakeholders. You might also include information about your location.

Scope of the Project: Scope defines the scope of the project and sets the boundaries for the event. Kaizen events are prone to scope creep. Participants will often find ways to improve their current targets. This problem can be avoided by having a clear scope definition. It is also helpful to include language regarding what will not be addressed during the event.

Resources Required: This section of the charter will include a list of all resources required. If it is possible, note the date each item will need to be purchased and the amount of the resource.

Event Goals: Every event should have at minimum one or more measurable goals. You will need to establish a baseline measurement that you are striving to improve to understand the results. This will serve as the foundation for measuring the success of the Kaizen event. How will the baseline and results be measured? It is best to be able to visualize the future and current states. A good choice is process control charts.

Potential Roadblocks/Constraints: It is best to be open-minded and willing to take on any challenges. Consider the potential obstacles that may arise before you go. You will be better equipped to respond and adapt if you anticipate potential problems.


Kaizen event steps are not intended to be a quick fix, but part of a long-term solution. Any business can use Kaizen to make positive changes. With the right tools and planning, a Kaizen event can bring about many positive changes in your business.

Many companies find that kaizen events are a great way to gain an understanding of their processes. Learning what works and doesn’t work for your organization will empower you to create positive change. Many businesses find the intangible benefits of kaizen events to be most valuable.

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