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Lean longevity: Kaizen events and determinants of sustainable improvement

Dissertation
Author: Michele Kowalski Burch
Abstract:
Typically, a kaizen event occurs when a dedicated cross-functional team is assigned a goal to improve an area in a short period of time using lean production tools. During the last decade, kaizen events have become one of the leading mechanisms by which lean production concepts are implemented. Substantial research has been devoted to aspects of lean production, and yet few empirical studies have been conducted on kaizen events. The factors that lead to the success and sustainability of kaizen event outcomes were investigated in this study. This dissertation consisted of three stages of research and focused on thirteen kaizen events at eleven organizations. The first stage comprised two qualitative field studies. In the second stage, 133 surveys were administered to 64 team members and 69 non team-members and interviews were conducted with managers and facilitators. The third stage involved follow-up interviews to assess the sustainability of outcomes. A multi-mode analysis, including qualitative and quantitative analysis, was used to triangulate the data. The hypotheses at both the individual level and organizational level were tested using bivariate correlational analyses. Managers in this study reported that between 30 and 50 percent of kaizen event improvements backslide. This research found that non team-members' participation in decision-making and communication promoted a climate of continuous improvement and was critical to the success and sustainability of kaizen events. Within this study, large numbers of workers in the targeted areas were not involved in the kaizen event processes. As for the team members, results indicated that they generally had a rewarding experience. However, when the scope of the project was too large, some detrimental effects were noted, such as managerial intervention in the kaizen event process and direct facilitator participation in decision-making. Too much facilitator participation in decision-making was negatively associated with team member-participation in decision-making, attainment of the goal, and a climate of continuous improvement. Finally, it was found that a team with an inappropriate skill set was positively related to a facilitator's level of participation in decision-making, and an organization's level of kaizen event experience was positively related to a climate of continuous improvement.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ...................................................................................................v ABSTRACT ...................................................................................................................... vii LIST OF TABLES .............................................................................................................xv LIST OF FIGURES ........................................................................................................ xvii CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................................1 II. LITERATURE REVIEW AND HYPOTHESES DEVELOPMENT......................3 Introduction to Kaizen Events .................................................................................3 Significance of This Study .......................................................................................4 Purpose of a Kaizen Event .......................................................................................4 The Origins of Kaizen Events ..................................................................................6 The First Kaizen Event ................................................................................6 Lean Production Overview ......................................................................................7 Origins of Lean ............................................................................................8 Components of a Lean System ....................................................................8 Continuous Improvement – Kaizen .................................................9 Employee Involvement, Lean, and Idea Systems ..........................10 What is an Idea System? ....................................................11 History of Idea Systems .....................................................12 Structure and Processes of an Idea System ........................13

Lean Tools .................................................................................................16 Potential Benefits of Kaizen Events ......................................................................17

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Potential Benefits of Lean Production .......................................................17 Possible Drawbacks of Kaizen Events ...................................................................19 Possible Drawbacks of Lean Implementation............................................20 Negative Perspectives of Lean Implementation ........................................21 Improvement Enablers and Inhibitors in Kaizen Events .......................................22 Employee Involvement and Communication .............................................23 Participation in Decision-Making ..................................................24 Employee Involvement ..................................................................25 Benefits of Participation in Decision-Making ...............................26 Organizational Learning ................................................................27 Organizational Outcomes of Idea Systems ....................................27

Improved Productivity and Job Satisfaction ......................28

Idea Systems, Lean, and Change ...................................................29 Other Potential Benefits .................................................................30 Referent Cognitions Theory ...........................................................31 Social Exchange Theory and the Norm of Reciprocity .................32 Training ......................................................................................................33 Other Improvement Enablers and Inhibitors..............................................35 Job Security ....................................................................................35 Organizational Climate ..................................................................36 Top Management Support and Responsibilities ............................37 Structural Considerations ...............................................................39 Role of Supervisors ........................................................................39 Lessons Learned.....................................................................................................40 Failure of Quality Circles...........................................................................40 Lessons Learned at Jake Brake ..................................................................41 Cornell Students’ Participation in a Kaizen Event ....................................42 Kaizen Event Success Factors Compiled at an AME Conference .............43 Derivation of Hypotheses ......................................................................................46

III. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY...........................................................................48

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Research Stages .....................................................................................................48 Stage One: Preliminary Qualitative Field Studies .....................................48 Stage Two: Interviews and Surveys at Eleven Organizations ...................49 Stage Three: Follow-up..............................................................................51

Survey Development ..............................................................................................51 The Pre-Test ...............................................................................................52 Survey Measures ....................................................................................................52 Independent Variables at the Individual level ...........................................53 Perception of Participation in Decision-Making............................53 Perception of Communication .......................................................53 Perception of Training ...................................................................54

Dependent Variables at the Individual Level .............................................55 Perception of Goal Achievement and Other Outcome Variables ........................................................................................55 Perception of a Climate of Continuous Improvement ...................55 Perception of Motivation to Continuously Improve ......................56

Independent Variables at the Organizational Level ...................................56 Participation in Decision-Making at the Organizational Level ..............................................................................................56 Communication at the Organizational Level .................................56 Training at the Organizational Level .............................................57 The Facilitator's Level of Expertise ...............................................57 Layoffs ...........................................................................................57 Turnover .........................................................................................57 The Number of Previous Kaizen Events ........................................58

Dependent Variables at the Organizational Level .....................................58 Performance Gains at the Organizational Level ............................58 Sustainability..................................................................................58 Perception of a Climate of Continuous Improvement ...................59

Attitudinal Variables ..................................................................................59 Trust ...............................................................................................59 Job Security ....................................................................................59

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Respect for Top Management ........................................................60 Job Satisfaction ..............................................................................60 Commitment ..................................................................................60

IV. RESULTS ........................................................................................................61

Sample Characteristics at the Organizational Level ..............................................63 Sample Characteristics at the Individual Level .....................................................66 Survey Results .......................................................................................................67

Scale Reliabilities.......................................................................................75

Hypothesis Testing.................................................................................................77

Hypotheses at the Organizational Level ....................................................79

Finding for Hypothesis H1: Participation in Decision-Making, Communication, and Training will be Positively Related to Kaizen Event Performance Gains, Sustainability and a Climate of Continuous-Improvement ..............................................................79 Finding for Hypothesis H2: The Facilitator’s Level of Expertise will be Positively Related to Performance Gains ..........................89 Finding for Hypothesis H3: Layoffs and Turnover will be Negatively Related to Kaizen Event Performance Gains, Sustainability, and a Climate of Continuous Improvement ...........90 Finding for Hypothesis H4: The Number of Previous Kaizen Events will be Positively Related to Performance Gains, Sustainability, and a Climate of Continuous Improvement ...........93

Hypotheses at the Individual Level............................................................95

Finding for Hypothesis H5: The Employee’s Perception of Participation in Decision-Making, Communication, and Training will be Positively Related to the Employee’s Perception of Goal Achievement, Motivation to Continuously Improve and a Climate of Continuous Improvement ..........................................................95 Finding for Hypothesis H6: The Employee’s Perception of Participation in Decision-Making, Communication, and Training will be Positively Related to Job Satisfaction and Commitment .101 Finding for Hypothesis H7: Trust, Job Security, and Respect for Top Management will Be Positively Related to a Perception of Goal Achievement, Motivation to Continuously Improve, and a Climate of Continuous Improvement ...........................................105

Kaizen Event Performance/Effectiveness ............................................................111

xiii

Purpose of a Kaizen Event and Outcomes ...............................................111 Success and Sustainability .......................................................................114 Goal Achievement ...................................................................................114 Non Team-Member Assessment of the Outcomes ......................118 Managers’ Opinions of Factors in Sustainability.........................120

Involvement Variables .........................................................................................122

Involvement Variable #1: Participation in Decision-Making ..................122 Involvement Variable #2: Communication ..............................................128 Involvement Variable #3: Training ..........................................................131

Structural Considerations for a Kaizen Event ......................................................135

The Facilitator's Role ...............................................................................135

Internal versus External Facilitators ............................................136 The Impact of the Facilitator’s Level of Expertise on Performance Gains .......................................................................139 The Degree of Facilitator Participation in Decision-Making During the Kaizen Event ..............................................................139

Duration and Scope of a Kaizen Event ....................................................141

Duration .......................................................................................142 Scope ............................................................................................143

Team Selection.........................................................................................149 Follow-ups and Auditing .........................................................................152

Implications of the Organizational Climate .........................................................152

Organizational Factors .............................................................................153

Layoffs/Turnovers........................................................................153 Past Experience with Kaizen Events............................................154

Attitudinal Factors ...................................................................................156

Job Satisfaction and Commitment ...............................................156 Trust, Job Security, and Respect for Top Management ...............157

Management's Role in Kaizen Event Performance ..............................................158

Top Management Support........................................................................158 Supervisor Support...................................................................................160

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Managerial Intervention and Redirection ................................................162

Employees' Satisfaction with Kaizen Events .......................................................165

Buy-in. .....................................................................................................165 Necessity for a Kaizen Event ...................................................................171

V. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS ...............................................................176

Discussion ............................................................................................................176

Discussion of Findings .............................................................................177

Non Team-Member Involvement and Input is Critical ................177 A Rewarding Team Member Experience is Dependent on the Scope and Duration ......................................................................180 Top Managements’ Commitment to Lean is Key ........................182 Supervisors’ Challenging Role in Sustainability .........................184 Kaizen Event Coordinators’ Structural Decisions .......................186

Conclusions… ......................................................................................................187

Principles for Making Kaizen Events Successful and Sustainable ..........187

Top Management .........................................................................187 Kaizen Event Coordinator ............................................................188

Scholarly Contributions .......................................................................................190

Limitations ...........................................................................................................190

Future Research ...................................................................................................192

APPENDICES A INTERVIEW QUESTIONS ................................................................................196 B HANDOUT FOR PROSPECTIVE PARTICIPANTS ........................................200 C TEAM MEMBER SURVEY ...............................................................................201 D NON TEAM-MEMBER SURVEY .....................................................................206 E CORRELATIONS ...............................................................................................210

BIBLIOGRAPHY ............................................................................................................223

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LIST OF TABLES

Table Page 1 Organizations by Size ..................................................................................................64 2 Organizations by Industry Type ...................................................................................65 3 Organizations by Financial Position ............................................................................65 4 Team Member Survey Results .....................................................................................68 5 Non Team-Member Results .........................................................................................72 6 Comparison of Team Member and Non Team-Member Results .................................75 7 Cronbach’s Alphas for Multi-Item Measures ..............................................................77 8 Hypothesis H1 Correlations .........................................................................................79 9 Hypotheses H1a, H1b, and H1c Correlations ..............................................................80 10 Hypotheses H1d, H1e, and H1f Correlations...............................................................85 11 Hypothesis H2 Correlations .........................................................................................89 12 Hypothesis H3 Correlations .........................................................................................90 13 Hypothesis H4 Correlations .........................................................................................94 14 Hypothesis H5 Correlations .........................................................................................95 15 Hypotheses H5a, H5b, and H5c Correlations ..............................................................96 16 Hypotheses H5d, H5e, and H5f Correlations...............................................................98 17 Hypothesis H6 Correlations .......................................................................................101 18 Hypotheses H6a and H6b Correlations ......................................................................102 19 Hypotheses H6c and H6d Correlations ......................................................................103 20 Hypothesis H7 Correlations .......................................................................................105

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21 Hypotheses H7a, H7b, and H7c Correlations ............................................................106 22 Hypotheses H7d, H7e, and H7f Correlations.............................................................108 23 Hypotheses H7g, H7h, and H7i Correlations .............................................................109 24 Comparison of Previous Kaizen Events by Internal/External Facilitator ..................138 25 Facilitator Participation in Decision-Making Correlations ........................................140 26 Kaizen Event Duration Correlations for Team Members ..........................................142 27 Kaizen Event Scope Correlations for Team Members ..............................................144 28 Additional Kaizen Event Scope Correlations ............................................................145 29 Kaizen Event Scope Correlations by Team Status ....................................................145 30 Team Selection Correlations for Team Members ......................................................149 31 Bonding Correlations for Team Members .................................................................150 32 Number of Previous Kaizen Events Correlations ......................................................154 33 Additional Previous Kaizen Events Correlations ......................................................155 34 Summary of Results ...................................................................................................174

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LIST OF FIGURES

Figure Page

1 Kaizen Event Variables of Interest ..............................................................................47 2 Kaizen Event Survey and the Variables of Interest .....................................................51 3 Outline of Chapter 4 Results ........................................................................................62 4 Graph of Participation in Decision-Making by Performance Gains ............................82 5 Graph of Participation in Decision-Making by Sustainability .....................................83 6 Graph of Participation in Decision-Making by Climate of Continuous Improvement ................................................................................................................84 7 Graph of Communication by Performance Gains ........................................................86 8 Graph of Communication by Sustainability ................................................................87 9 Graph of Communication by Climate of Continuous Improvement ...........................88 10 Graph of Layoffs by Performance Gains .....................................................................92 11 Goal Achievement .....................................................................................................116 12 Kaizen Event Outcomes .............................................................................................117 13 Number of Kaizen Events Sustained .........................................................................120 14 Kaizen Event Success Factors ...................................................................................122

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CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION

Many organizations hoping to reap the benefits of continuous improvement and lean initiatives have turned to kaizen events. These events, usually lasting anywhere from several days to a week, have been implemented in American organizations with mixed results. Although much has been written regarding lean production, there are very few empirical studies specifically devoted to kaizen events. Based on his research, Veech (2004, p. 1) reported that organizations had trouble sustaining gains within six months of the kaizen events. This study explored the challenges faced by organizations that have implemented kaizen events. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine factors that contribute to the success and sustainability of kaizen event outcomes using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Subsequent interpretation and analysis emphasized three types of involvement, including participation in decision-making (PDM), communication, and training. Literature from the fields of lean, employee involvement, and participatory management were reviewed. The research involved three stages. The first stage comprised two qualitative field studies to aid in the development of a survey instrument used in the second stage of research. In the second stage, surveys were administered and interviews were conducted at eleven organizations. In the third stage, follow-up interviews were carried out at the

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participating organizations three to six months after completion of the kaizen event to assess the sustainability of performance improvements. Both managers and employees from the targeted process areas were interviewed at that time. The data was analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively at the individual and organizational level. First, the survey results were presented and the hypotheses tested using correlations analysis. Then, the discussion, which incorporated the interview, observational, and survey data, was organized thematically by relevance and importance as it pertained to this dissertation. Before analyzing the factors that contributed to kaizen event performance, the outcome variables were addressed, including performance gains, goal achievement, success, sustainability, and a climate of continuous improvement (CI). Next, the involvement variables of primary interest (e.g. participation in decision-making, communication, and training) were studied. Structural considerations, organizational climate factors, and management's role, were also explored. Finally, the employees' satisfaction with kaizen events and the necessity of kaizen events were discussed. This dissertation aimed to identify a set of principles and rules for making kaizen events successful and sustainable.

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CHAPTER II LITERATURE REVIEW AND HYPOTHESES DEVELOPMENT

This literature review encompasses the relatively scant empirical research on kaizen events, the substantial literature on lean production, and presents my dissertation in this context. First, kaizen events are defined and their role in lean initiatives is reviewed. Next, the potential benefits and drawbacks of kaizen events are presented along with factors that have been identified as potentially leading to positive or negative outcomes. In particular, three important variables in kaizen events, including participation in decision-making, communication, and training are explored in greater depth. Previous research on idea systems, a form of employee involvement in some lean organizations, is also reviewed.

Introduction to Kaizen Events

During kaizen events, also known as “kaizen blitzes”, a temporary cross- functional team develops and implements lean-derived improvements for a targeted process, typically over a three-to-five day period. Reviewing the origin and meaning of the phrase, ‘kaizen blitz’, helps explain the purpose of such an event. The word ‘kaizen’ is a combination of two Japanese words, ‘kai’ meaning to change, and ‘zen’ meaning to improve. ‘Blitz’ has German roots and means to attack suddenly and without warning. Therefore, a kaizen blitz means, “to rapidly take apart and put back in a better way”

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(Davidson, Evans, Harmon, Klock, Nekoo, & Yong, 2006). Evidence of the widespread global interest in and significance of kaizen was demonstrated in 1993 when the word “kaizen” was included in the Oxford Dictionary (Sheridan, 1997). Many books and articles have been devoted to the effect of lean initiatives, but it was not until recently that any research appeared specifically on kaizen events. Some popular works on the topic include Laraia, Moody, and Hall’s book, The Kaizen Blitz: Accelerating Breakthroughs in Productivity and Performance (1999), the Productivity Press Development Team’s book, Kaizen for the Shopfloor (2002), and Masaaki Imai’s book, Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-cost Approach to Management (1997). However, peer-reviewed articles on kaizen events are rare and most of the research is based on direct observation and case studies.

Significance of This Study

This study examined the factors that influence the outcomes of kaizen events. This study added to the research not only on kaizen events, but also on lean initiatives, and employee involvement. To my knowledge, there are few empirical studies devoted to kaizen event success factors.

Purpose of a Kaizen Event

The American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS) Dictionary defines a kaizen event, otherwise known as a kaizen blitz, as “a rapid improvement of a limited process area, for example, a production cell. Part of the improvement team

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consists of workers in that area. The objectives are to use innovative thinking to eliminate non-value-added work. Ownership of the improvement by the area work team and the development of the team’s problem-solving skills are additional benefits” (Cox & Blackstone, 1998). Kaizen events may also be focused on non-manufacturing processes, such as administrative processes, or simply paper flow. Metrics used to assess the outcome of a kaizen event often include improvements in process time, required space, resources (i.e., people, machines, material, energy, and information), quality, customer satisfaction, and cash flow (Laraia et al., 1999, p. 36). A kaizen event typically looks for large gains in a focused, small-scope process. As a result, it is necessary to look at performance indicators that address the overall process, so as not to lose sight of the big picture (Laraia et al., 1999, p. 143). Some organizations have extended their use of kaizen events to their supply chain. For example, Sikorsky Aircraft in 1995 initiated a supplier improvement system that included joint kaizen events at the supplier’s site. These events involving teams of employees from both Sikorsky and the supplier were intended to demonstrate the improvement possibilities to the participating supplier. Prior to hosting the event, the supplier had to agree to share any monetary savings with Sikorsky (Foreman & Vargas, 1999). Sikorsky also offered suppliers the opportunity to participate in a “train-the- trainer program” designed to provide information and the tools necessary to conduct kaizen events without Sikorsky’s involvement.

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The Origins of Kaizen Events

Kaizen events evolved from Toyota consultants’ desire to instill Japanese lean philosophies from the Toyota Production System in Toyota suppliers. Taiichi Ohno, the Vice President of Production at Toyota in the late 1980’s, was responsible for initiating the program by selecting ten key personnel, known as the Toyota Autonomous Study Group, to drive the effort. Norman Bodek, now a consultant, author, and publisher, offered to help two Toyota based consultants, Yoshiki Iwata and Chihiro Nakao, introduce the lean initiatives in an intense workshop to organizations in the United States. After a few rejections at U.S. organizations, Bodek was able to gain entry into Jake Brake, a Danaher company in Connecticut, thanks to the support of George Koenigsaecker, then the plant manager, and now a world authority on lean. Chihiro Nakao and Yoshiki Iwata, two of the original members of the Toyota Autonomous Study Group, have been credited with introducing kaizen events throughout America after forming their well-known consulting group Shingijutsu (Bodek, 2004, p. 177). In 1994, the Association for Manufacturing Excellence began sponsoring kaizen

events in organizations (Laraia et al., 1999, p. ix).

The First Kaizen Event The first kaizen event at Jake Brake had a five-day format with ten five-person teams. At the time, the event was called ‘Five Days and One Night,’ because it was intended that the participants would learn and work for five days and get very little sleep (Bodek, 2006). The first day was spent in training as Iwata shared the Toyota Production System philosophies and techniques with the group. On the second day each team

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targeted a process to change from linear to cellular production while analyzing cycle times, targeted takt times, and non-value-added and value-added elements. The third day, the groups mapped out the processes, made improvements in the new configuration, and actually implemented the changes on the floor. The fourth day the teams communicated the changes to the employees. The fifth and final day, each group presented what they had learned through the process to the other groups.

Lean Production Overview

Kaizen events use lean techniques to achieve improvements in a short amount of time. Lean production was implemented in many organizations in Japan well before the introduction of kaizen events to the West. In order to fully understand kaizen events, it is necessary to review the history of lean. Just-in-time production or lean production is typically described as a manufacturing system striving for continuous improvement and the elimination of waste (Crawford & Cox, 1990; Lummus & Duclos-Wilson, 1992; Orth, Hybil, & Korzan, 1990; Suzaki, 1987). Japanese professor Yasuhiro Monden introduced the system developed at Toyota Motor Corporation in his 1983 book, Toyota Production System: A Practical Approach to Production Management. Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo are credited with the development of the lean production system at Toyota (Monden, 1998). But, it wasn’t until James Womack and Daniel Jones introduced their book, The Machine That Changed the World” (Womack & Jones, 1990) that the Western world became truly interested in the philosophy of the Toyota Production System.

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Origins of Lean The origins of the Toyota Production System have been traced back to the period following World War II and the United States’ effort to help Japanese industry regain its footing with the introduction of Training Within Industries (TWI) (Robinson & Schroeder, 1993). Masao Nemoto, past president of Toyota, recognized that the Toyota Production System was based heavily upon the TWI program (Robinson & Schroeder, 1993). Training was the backbone of the TWI movement. By using what was referred to as the multiplier effect, U.S. consultants trained Japanese supervisors . . . who then trained Japanese supervisors . . . who then trained Japanese supervisors . . . until the simple, yet effective, system was in widespread use throughout Japan. The key behind the movement was to teach by doing or by example, not just by telling or showing. Three main courses comprised the standardized training program, including Job Instruction Training (JIT), Job Methods Training (JMT), and Job Relations Training (JRT). Job Instruction Training (JIT) focused on training, Job Methods Training (JMT) explored how to make improvements in process and ways to encourage employee ideas, and Job Relations Training (JRT) stressed human relations and leadership (Robinson & Schroeder, 1993).

Components of a Lean System Yasuhiro Monden broke down the Toyota Production System conceptually into four components: just-in-time, autonomation, a flexible workforce, and creative thinking or inventive ideas (Monden, 1993, p. 2). The first concept of just-in-time is to produce the right units in the right quantity at the right time. Autonomation is a quality control

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system that does not allow defective units to flow from a preceding operation to a subsequent operation. A flexible workforce means that the number of workers is varied depending on the level of demand. Finally, the last concept of creative thinking or inventive ideas is to problem-solve and collect ideas. Within each of these four concepts, Monden presents methods and tools that support the Toyota Production System.

Continuous Improvement - Kaizen

A key aspect of a successful lean system is a strong continuous improvement program (Motwani, 2003), yet many current books devoted to the topic of lean systems often fail to stress the importance of gathering suggestions and ideas for improvement. “By making continuous incremental improvements in their pursuit of perfection, companies can usually double productivity within two to three years and halve inventories, errors, and lead times” (Womack & Jones, 1996b, p. 158). An idea system is structured to provide a means to continuously improve by collecting ideas and implementing them. Mike Morrison, the Dean of Toyota University in 2003, offered these words about lean thinking:

It’s vastly different from most corporate improvement programs, which are oversimplified, rule-centered, and too conceptual to be effective. In lean thinking, there are no “one best ways,” no sophisticated management models, and no built-in dependencies on outside experts. Instead, lean thinking frees knowledge workers to become independent goal seekers and encourages them to apply their problem-solving skills and critical thinking capabilities to serve customers. (Gonzalez-Molina, 2003)

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According to Womack and Jones, continuous improvement is achieved in situations where the workforce is motivated to participate in the lean system (Womack, Jones, & Roos, 1990; Womack & Jones, 1996). Organizations that realize front-line workers are crucial to the success of lean implementation may be one-step ahead of organizations that simply implement the tools associated with JIT production and lean. Although it’s believed that adoption of JIT encourages employees to actively look for ways to make their jobs easier and more efficient (Suri & Treville, 1986), concrete, structured initiatives like idea systems may make employee involvement more evident. Kaizen events require employee involvement and therefore may be more likely to achieve sustainable gains if the organization has an effective idea system.

Employee Involvement, Lean, and Idea Systems

Scholars, in an attempt to understand lean production, have identified employee involvement as a critical component. One such study used content analysis to derive three constructs of JIT; operating structure and control, product scheduling, and quality implementation (Davy, White, Merrit, & Gritzmacher, 1992). Of these three constructs, employee involvement or worker input was rooted in both operating structure and control and quality implementation. The JIT philosophy has been cited in the literature for its empowering ability, including its involvement of the worker in decision-making (Banker, Potter, & Schroeder, 1993; Hall, 1987; Johnston, 1989; Schonberger, 1982). “The heart of the system [lean production] is involvement: flexible motivated team members continually seeking a better way” (Dennis, 2002). A successful idea system strongly encourages employee involvement.

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What is an Idea System? Idea systems, also known as suggestion systems, are formal, structured organizational systems designed to collect, evaluate, and implement ideas from employees. Given this definition, idea systems do not necessarily have to involve external rewards, such as monetary reimbursements for the quality or quantity of submissions to the program. Idea systems are often discussed in the literature as elements of participative management, gainsharing programs, and employee involvement. A well-implemented idea system can impact an organization along three lean-inspired dimensions: continuous improvement, employee involvement, and organizational learning. First, an effectively implemented lean system often includes a continuous improvement component whereby improvement ideas are expected to come from the bottom up (front-line workers) as opposed to from the top down (management). Idea systems provide the structure to allow these ideas to be heard, evaluated, and acted upon. In addition to continuous improvement, employee involvement, of which an idea system is an example, is often cited as a key component of a lean system. Finally, an idea system may encourage organizational learning opportunities and past research has indicated that learning organizations, as they are described, may be more likely to successfully implement a lean initiative. In conclusion, an idea system may provide the means for promoting continuous improvement, encouraging employee involvement, and fostering organizational learning.

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History of Idea Systems Idea systems, also known as suggestion systems, date back to 1880 when the first formal system was instituted at the ship yard of William Denny and Brothers in Scotland (Sterne, 1944, p. 13). Some years later, in 1894, the first American companies adopted suggestion systems, and much later in the 1990’s would adopt the Japanese version of the suggestion system known as the kaizen teian or continuous improvement proposal system (Robinson & Stern, 1997). According to Robinson and Stern, the kaizen teian systems, compared to traditional suggestion box systems, more effectively motivate employees to submit ideas (Robinson & Stern, 1997, p. 63). Since their inception, the number of active suggestion systems in America has risen and fallen throughout the years. The effectiveness of the systems is partially dependent on the system’s structure, which varies from stationary boxes fixed to the wall to more formal systems designed to promote employee participation. As a result of the overwhelming interest in idea systems, various associations have formed to dedicate resources to the research of such systems, for example the Employee Involvement Association (EIA) in the US, DiB in Germany, and ideasUK (formerly UK Association of Suggestions Schemes) (Beddows, 2001). Typically, idea systems are instituted with the hopes of either gathering valuable ideas from the frontline workers to improve the overall performance of the organization or, in some instances, organizations hope that the suggestion system will serve as a listening device to help improve worker morale. An organization may adopt a suggestion system hoping to achieve one or both of the benefits as defined. According to a study completed in the UK, the top three reasons for employee participation in an ideas system

Full document contains 260 pages
Abstract: Typically, a kaizen event occurs when a dedicated cross-functional team is assigned a goal to improve an area in a short period of time using lean production tools. During the last decade, kaizen events have become one of the leading mechanisms by which lean production concepts are implemented. Substantial research has been devoted to aspects of lean production, and yet few empirical studies have been conducted on kaizen events. The factors that lead to the success and sustainability of kaizen event outcomes were investigated in this study. This dissertation consisted of three stages of research and focused on thirteen kaizen events at eleven organizations. The first stage comprised two qualitative field studies. In the second stage, 133 surveys were administered to 64 team members and 69 non team-members and interviews were conducted with managers and facilitators. The third stage involved follow-up interviews to assess the sustainability of outcomes. A multi-mode analysis, including qualitative and quantitative analysis, was used to triangulate the data. The hypotheses at both the individual level and organizational level were tested using bivariate correlational analyses. Managers in this study reported that between 30 and 50 percent of kaizen event improvements backslide. This research found that non team-members' participation in decision-making and communication promoted a climate of continuous improvement and was critical to the success and sustainability of kaizen events. Within this study, large numbers of workers in the targeted areas were not involved in the kaizen event processes. As for the team members, results indicated that they generally had a rewarding experience. However, when the scope of the project was too large, some detrimental effects were noted, such as managerial intervention in the kaizen event process and direct facilitator participation in decision-making. Too much facilitator participation in decision-making was negatively associated with team member-participation in decision-making, attainment of the goal, and a climate of continuous improvement. Finally, it was found that a team with an inappropriate skill set was positively related to a facilitator's level of participation in decision-making, and an organization's level of kaizen event experience was positively related to a climate of continuous improvement.