As I reflect on the bloggers (Gang of Seven – see my links at the right) who’ve tacked “Project Kaizen” last week, I have to start with a confession – I haven’t read all the posts yet.
One project that exemplified project kaizen was the “Blitz Week” held at SME last summer, where 50 lean experts hammered out the core of a lean certification. (See some related articles from Lean Directions: “Blitzed,” “Lean Certification Examinations: Validity and Reliability,” and “Lean Certification Update” for some coherent discussion on the subject.)
Before the event itself, the foundation was set by a bunch of industry folks madly e-mailing and carrying on conference calls. It became apparent to them that the only way to find consensus on the requirements was to get face-to-face – a point Jon Miller made about the Gang of Seven project itself.
SME hosted a marathon work session. There was a detailed agenda for three and a half days, with the outcome to be a process for recording a portfolio of experience, a mentoring process, and a comprehensive exam. Furthermore, there were four levels to define.
The kaizen-ing of their project started the first thing in the morning on the second day, and tearing their schedule apart was business as usual for the participants. They had scheduled one of their reflection sessions for that morning in order to review their problems and progress and reorganize their activities.
The knottiest problems had emerged in the portfolio group. There were many different views of how experience should be documented. More importantly, the mentoring process and the portfolio process were not dovetailing. It was easy to see that a lot of “storming” had taken place already.
The previous day’s work was visible – sticky-note process-flow maps and flip-chart sheets covering the walls of the two adjoining conference spaces. The whole crowd made a stand-up tour of the visuals and learned of the roadblocks. They decided that Day Two’s plan would be amended to take on some serious problem-solving, as their assumptions about mentoring and portfolios were challenged and clarified.
A couple of other aspects of project kaizen were visible at this point. The portfolio and mentoring requirements represented critical customer-supplier connections. The protégés would be seeking guidance from mentors as they built their portfolios, and the mentors would not fulfill their own requirements without a productive relationship. It also represented critical hand-offs, which the Gang of Seven bloggers explored in detail. As lean practitioners, the participants wanted the simplest possible means of communication between protégé and mentor – an A3. If you haven’t run across A3s yet, there’s no magic. A3 is just the European designation for an 11” x 17” piece of paper. You can boil down a lot of stuff to fit on that size sheet, but simple is always more work than complex.
But more about portfolios on another day.