How to Train Lean Champions to Run Kaizen Events – Part 3

January 7, 2011

This is the third in a series of three blog postings that talks about training your internal Lean Experts or Champions. To see first post Training Lean Champions. To see second post Training Lean Champions 2.

Kaizen Events for Newly Trained Lean Champions

Many companies think that Lean will solve all their problems; chances are it probably won’t. They also want all the fixes now, immediately. The good news is that Kaizen Events will give rapid improvements. Unfortunately, don’t expect to solve all they problems you have had over the last 10, 20, 30 years in one month or even one year.

I have seen many times where management knows that things have to change and they want it on a grand scale (or worse, they don’t think they need to change). The problem with this is that they want to “boil the ocean” – fix all their problems in one fell swoop. To be realistic we have to train our Lean Champions on how to “boil a cup of water” and then a kettle of water and so on. We want to give them projects that they will be successful with in the beginning to help build up their confidence and abilities. Believe me they will be able to handle tougher and tougher assignments with more experience.

The best place to look for candidate projects is your Value Stream Map. You can even use VSM as a training project for your Champions. The Values Stream Map follows the flow of the product (or service) from beginning to end including the information flow1. The reason that the Future State Map and Plan are excellent sources for projects is that it is what’s going to help the value stream, not just one department or area. Also, you know you are spending resources on the right projects.

8-Week Kaizen Cycle

Using the 8-week Kaizen Cycle2 creates the foundation for powerfully successful Kaizen Events. The key is preparation and follow-up. In an 8-week Kaizen Cycle the first three weeks are devoted to preparation, week four is the actual Kaizen Event and weeks five through eight are for follow-up and closeout. While training Champions or scheduling Kaizen projects it is important to make sure you have enough resources to perform the events. Resources include time, people and budgets. The good news for Lean practioners is that we profess “Creativity before Capital” which means – what can we do for low cost, no cost first before going and spending money. So for Lean projects the budget is usually not the limiting factor. So guess what is? The answer is of course people and time; getting the right team together for three to five days, plus preparation and follow-up time (Kaizen Cycles Example).

Kaizen Cycles Example

8-Week Kaizen Cycle

Month 1 Month 2 Month 3
Week 1 Preparation P       P       P      
Week 2 Preparation   P       P       P    
Week 3 Preparation     P       P       P  
Kaizen Event       K       K       K
Follow-up Week 1         F       F      
Follow-up Week 2           F       F    
Follow-up Week 3             F       F  
Project Closeout               C      


Key: P = Preparation           K = Kaizen Event                 C = Closeout

As you can see from this example, Lean Champions may be performing tasks concurrently. For example, in Month 2 they are holding the first preparation meeting for Kaizen Event 2 the same week as the first follow-up from Kaizen Event 1. If this is too difficult to do, spread the Kaizen Events farther apart, but remember that means less events will be performed in a year by a Champion. To me, the number of Kaizen Events held per year is not as important as picking the right events (use you Value Stream Maps for that), the quality of the events or completing the events. For more specific information related to the 8-week Kaizen Cycle or how to perform Kaizen Events please refer to Reference 2 Lean Kaizen.


To train up your subject matter experts or Lean Champions it takes time and patients. Lean is not a light switch; you just can’t flip a switch and declare “We’re Lean!” Be ready to provide the training and opportunities to create your own internal continuous improvement juggernauts. By allowing your Lean Champions time to learn and develop your company will be stronger, more competitive, and have taken a step towards becoming world-class.

Let me know what you think. Thanks – Tony

P.S. If you need help with your Lean trainingor implementation give us a call at 888 4 LEAN 5S or email us at trainer@5Ssupply.com, we would be glad to help.


  1. Value Stream Mapping – An Introduction” Quality Progress June 2006 by Tony Manos
  2. Lean Kaizen – A Simplified Approach to Process Improvements” by George Alukal and Anthony Manos

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