Zero to Success in 60 Days or Less: How to Build a Successful Lean Six Sigma Program From the Ground Up (Part III – The Point Kaizen)

resolutionsIn my last blog entry I discussed how directed problem solving under the right conditions can be the catalyst for reviving a LSS program that has been hindered by execution problems. I have found that the Point Kaizen method is the best way to put directed problem solving into play. What is a Point Kaizen? Unlike the multiple day Kaizen events most of us have been involved with, a Point Kaizen is an event which concludes in a matter of minutes or hours. It is associated with addressing a specific problem “point” of a process as opposed to the process as a whole, and usually involves a solution that doesn’t require laborious change management or is disruptive to the current process.

In most occasions, a Point Kaizen will be made up of four to five people – the originator who brought the issue up, their supervisor, a facilitator and possibly one to two additional subject matter experts who can chime in on the possible alternative countermeasures.

The form that we use in our consultancy can be downloaded from our company’s web site at The form follows the premise of an A3. The originator should propose their problem statement and their proposed countermeasure both through verbiage and through a drawing. Why the drawing? Not only does a drawing convey information that may not be easy for the originator to articulate, but it provides a litmus test to determine if the issue fits the scope of a Point Kaizen. If you are dealing with a problem or solution that has many exceptions, conditions and/or derivations you may want to elevate this to an event that has more rigor. The size of the boxes also provide similar insight – if the originator needs more space to describe the issue, this may raise a flag as well.

Don’t overlook the signoff boxes. Even if blessings aren’t needed outside that of the supervisor, you owe it to the process owner that they are informed on any changes in their shop. As the LSS practitioner, you may not need to be involved with each Point Kaizen, but you should have some line of sight so you may address redundant or counter intuitive submissions as well track estimated versus actual impact. I can’t stress the need for tracking the actual impacts enough. I guarantee you that early on you will attract naysayers who say that impacts from these exercises are either non-existent or over-inflated. I can’t say why such folks come out of the woodwork, but they always seem to do. Put your best work into the impact calculations – the hole you are going to dig for yourself if they are too liberal is going to be a deep one.

In the beginning you are going to get a good amount of filled forms come your way. Are the first ones going to be productivity game changers? Probably not. Almost every time we have put a program like this in play the first Kaizens submitted are associated with pain points – the meaningless motions or tasks that irk folks. This is fine actually, in fact you should embrace it for two reasons. First, you are building your department equity via trust, and that will serve you well. Think of the story of the mouse and the lion with a thorn in his paw. Do these folks right with mitigating their pains and I promise you will be spoken of as the “guy (or gal) who’s helping us out”. Secondly, you will be surprised how well pain points correlate to one of the eight wastes, especially over-processing or motion.

You will need a supporting process that addresses Point Kaizen submission, vetting and prioritization, communication and change management. We find that each shop requires its own rules and policies in order optimize both effectiveness and efficiency. I will speak to some that are somewhat universal:

• Be sure that your Point Kaizens are submitted through the originator’s supervisor. This filters out the submissions which border whining and have a solution of “putting on their big boy pants (big girl dress)”.
• Make sure that you put together a team of relevant managers to vet and prioritize submissions that overstep a supervisor’s radius of influence. Make your meetings quick and to the point so they don’t become a burden. If done right, the meetings will conclude with either required signoffs or a good starting point for a larger event.
• Be mindful of your communication process. Be sure to give ample credit to both the submitter and the supervisor in the department-wide implementation communications.

We at Exceptional Outcomes have experience in putting these program policies and procedures in place. If you feel you may need help in getting your Point Kaizen program started, please send me an email at and we can discuss it further.

So get to work! A few weeks after introducing your Point Kaizen pilot to your vanguard department, you should start seeing some rumblings in other areas of the company. I promise you they can either have a good or bad outcome. How to ensure the outcome turns to your favor will be discussed in my next entry.


About Russ Sacks

Russ is the current Managing Director of Exceptional Outcomes. He has over twenty years of experience in the areas of operations research, process excellence and software development. Russ has worked with organizations such as United Technologies, Allied Signal, GM and NASA in implementing computer aided optimization and continuous improvement methods. Russ is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, and has worked in the area of process excellence in both the healthcare and information technology industries. Russ holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Union College, a Master of Science in Management from University of Maryland University College and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Vermont.
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