List of Typical Lean Kaizen Event Ground Rules

At the heart of many Lean improvements is the rapid improvement event or workshop. This 3-5 day focused activity became popular in the early 1980’s when Japanese consultants would travel to the US to teach these improvement methods.

While typical events end up with a long list of action items (that often don’t get completed), the goal for improvement workshops is to implement most of the actions during the event. This allows the team to test and modify their countermeasures (solutions) quickly. In addition, the participants don’t leave with a huge to-do list (as they are already behind in their work from participating in the event).

They events go by a few different names, such as:

Kaizen events are the most popular name, but the correct name is Kaikaku.

These working sessions became popular because they are able to accelerate improvements, instead of allowing these ideas to drag out for weeks, months or even years. In fact, many of the solutions never get implemented.

When organizing one of these events, ground rules need to be established and agreed upon with the event team, in order to increase the chance of success, and to create a safe environment for honest discussions.

Based on a review of many different sources, I have created a list of typical ground rules for your next kaizen event. You can use all or some of these rules, or use this list as a guide for your team to create their own rules!

  • Be on time!
  • No cell phone interruptions or distractions
  • Everyone participates, no position or rank
  • Practice mutual respect everyday, and treat others as you want to be treated
  • One speaker at a time, do not interrupt, no sidebar conversations
  • Be an active and objective listener
  • Keep an open mind to change and seek ideas from many people
  • NO ONE can interrupt the Kaizen event, you are on “vacation” and out of the office
  • It’s OK to disagree, It’s not OK to be disagreeable
  • No dumb questions
  • Never leave in silent disagreement
  • Commit to the plan and event outcomes
  • Help us stay on track
  • Assume everyone is trying to do a good job, process not people (no blame)
  • Ask “Why?” at least five times and seek the root cause
  • Abandon fixed ideas, maintain a positive attitude, think of how to do it, instead of why it can’t be done
  • Focus on what will work best for the value stream and customers, not what works best for you
  • Problems are opportunities, no end to improvement
  • Be creative (use your wits, not your wallet)
  • Go for the simple solution, not the perfect one
  • Go to the gemba and observe the work
  • Have fun!

In addition to companies I’ve worked with in the past, here are a few other resources where I collected these rules:

Did I forget to include one of your favorites? Please share with me!


Want to learn more about Lean and Six Sigma tools, and apply them to an improvement projects? Check out these low-cost online courses and certification programs



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