Which lean event type should I do first, Value Stream Mapping or Kaizen Burst?

What type of lean event should we do first, Value Stream Mapping (VSM) or Kaizen Burst?
Before we can answer this question, let’s first define these two popular event types
Value Stream Mapping (VSM) – A multiple day event (2-5 days) focused on mapping the process from customer order to customer delivery. The goal is to complete a current state and future state map, then identify the 8 forms of waste that is keeping the process from achieving the future state. Requires multi-disciplined participation from all stakeholders who impact, or are impacted by the process. The deliverable is a list of projects, actions and events that need to be completed in the next 6-12 months, with names and due dates.
Kaizen Burst – Also called rapid process improvement (RPI). A 3-5 day event focused on making dramatic improvements to a specific part of a process by the end of the event (focus is on implementation, not planning). Not every action will be completed, but the goal is to have 80% of the actions completed during the event, and the remaining 20% completed within 30 days of the end of the event. The event should allow time to make adjustments in case the changes do not work. The goal is to make quick progress without pushing the waste to another department or area.
If you’re just getting started with your process improvement in a process area or department, I would highly recommend the kaizen burst event. The goal is to scope the intent and purpose of the event, then do a considerable amount of work up front (usually takes 1-2 weeks of preparation). During the event, the first couple days are focused on getting everyone familiar with the preparation, and to go and physically observe the current process, so everyone is aware of the wastes and issues. The rest of the days are focused on implementation. It’s an action-driven event. When you get done with the event, you have something to show for all that work and time away from your regular job.
Typical Kaizen Burst Workshop format, from Lean Enterprise Institute
When you pull people away from their job for 3 to 5 days, and you are just starting with process improvement (Lean and Six Sigma), you want to have something to show for all that time.
One of the problems with VSM events is that they end with a list of actions items. Now in order to see results from the event, you are asking those same people to spend more time after the event to complete these tasks. Remember, they have already taken time out of their work week. They are already behind with their regular work, and will need time to catch up. Even though there is excitement after the event, it’s not enough to carry into the following week. It requires a lot of micro-managing and project management and “hounding” people. In addition, usually only a handful of people get assigned tasks, and it is usually quite a few actions.
Don’t get me wrong, I think VSM events are excellent, and great for getting multiple departments and groups to understand the entire process, and get on the same page. However, it is really just a good planning activity, and the event alone does not result in any immediate improvement (other than networking and knowledge of the value stream). In fact, it can takes months before the actions results in any improvement.
Example of Value Stream Map
But for those getting started, or those that are needing major improvements, I would highly recommend the kaizen burst event.
Both events require upfront planning, but the kaizen burst requires more than the VSM, since there may be major improvements taking place in a short amount of time. Getting the right people involved is essential to success. That is why the kaizen burst event needs leadership authorization to empower the team at the start. In order to make these improvements, they must be allowed to try it out without a lengthy approval process. Leaders must assign and delegate people to the team they trust, or provide guidelines and rules that the team must stay within (such as budget, procedures, etc).
Finally, a kaizen burst usually involves the people doing the value-added work, more often than VSM events, which seem to be too heavy on management. You want to engage those people as much as possible early on in a Lean Six Sigma journey, since they are the ones who need to understand the concepts, and see the immediate results applied to their work.
After the process area has matured, or a couple kaizen bursts have been performed, then a VSM event might be needed, when their primary problems are coming from outside their area (outside their control). The idea is to “clean up your own backyard” before you bring outsiders into the process.
In summary, if the process area does not have a mature lean system (poor visuals, employees not trained in lean, hard to see process flow, lots of inventory, poor labels, lots of waste), then kaizen burst is the place to start.
What do you think? Do you agree? Share your comments below…


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