One of the great benefits of the 2 Second Lean approach to lean is the way that it gets everyone engaged in kaizen with simple improvements. The genius of Paul Akers’ approach is the low barrier to entry for workers.
But as I’ve written about before, the problem with 2 Second Lean is the high barrier to entry for leadership. If leaders aren’t completely, continuously, and passionately involved as improvers and cheerleaders, it just doesn’t work. It becomes a trivial exercise distracting people from solving real problems. As one of my clients said to me, “Frankly, it’s hard to see how moving the garbage can closer is going to move the needle on our business.” Ouch.
And yet I’m also not a big fan of kaizen events. Sure, they have their benefits, but they tend to make continuous improvement discontinuous. Besides, copying an approach that was specifically designed to make life easier for Japanese consultants who flew back and forth between the US and Japan is like buying a buggy whip for your car, because it used to be a horse.
That’s why the presentations and the experiential workshops at the Katacon Summit last week in Savannah were inspiring. They reinforced the way that Toyota kata provides a path with a low barrier to entry by encouraging small experiments on individual obstacles. At the same time, kata ensures that leadership and internal skeptics can’t dismiss the improvement work as trivial by using the challenge to align the work with important business objectives. And finally, the requirement to have both a coach and a learner dealing with the gap between the current condition and the target condition means that employee engagement and managerial support will be high.
There’s no easy or universal path to creating a culture of continuous improvement. It’s a long, difficult trip, and each organization needs to find a route that works for its own idiosyncratic needs. My experience at the Kata Summit last week, though, makes me think that this is a great approach to try.