What characteristics make for a successful Kaizen event?

While a myriad of factors can make or break Kaizen, to create a successful event you must first begin with a strong foundation. The foundation is the fundamental building block upon which everything rests. At the foundation’s core are defining your specific goals and objectives.

The Goal

The goal is the broad definition of what the team is working towards. In many cases, the stated outcome of the goal may seem open ended. For example, you may state, “Reduce the lead-time in power drive assembly.” That’s okay. It’s best to leave the team flexibility while still pointing them in the direction towards what they are trying to improve.

While the team’s larger overarching goal should be clear, how the team goes about making it possible should enable the team’s curiosity, creativity, and collaboration to make it achievable. In other words, don’t get in the team’s way. When the team gets stuck, you must help coach them to get them “un-stuck.” Keeping the team’s curiosity and creativity engaged, are key components in bringing the team back for the next successful Kaizen event.

But just simply having a goal to define a Kaizen opportunity is much too broad. It does not support the true essence of the Kaizen focus- a focus that should be an inch wide and a mile deep. If a team has only a stated goal to direct their Kaizen, they will be spending too much time debating which actions they should execute, rather than doing the activities to move towards the goal.

Adding objectives to help support the goal is important in achieving the goal.

How Objectives Support the Goal

The objective supports the goal, and defines its specifics. Two questions define an objective.

  1. Does the objective support the goal?
  2. Is the objective quantitative?

In our previous example of reducing the lead-time in the power drive assembly, we would add the following objectives:

A.  Create one-piece flow throughout the power drive assembly line.

B.  Reduce the power drive assembly work in progress by 75%

Both of these objectives compliment the goal. They both provide the detailed actions you want your team to focus on.

Don’t be worried about adding as many objectives as need be. Just make sure the team is able to complete the objectives by the end of the Kaizen. You want them to come back for the next event excited that their curiosity and creativity will once again be used to solve problems within your business. You also want that employee enthusiasm to spread like a wildfire to other employees as Kaizen within your culture begins to take hold.


The SMART system is a simply acronym that can help you with both of your goals and objectives.

  1. (S) pecific-What actions specifically do you want your team to accomplish?
  2. (M) easurable-By how much?
  3. (A) ttainable-Are you asking the team to move a mountain, or can the team accomplish the goals during a kaizen?
  4. (R) elevant-Does the objective support the goal?
  5. (T) ime-When should the objective be accomplished?

Combining your objectives and goals will give your team both the direction and the targets that will help them be successful when improving your business. By following the SMART system guidelines when selecting your goals and objectives, you will give your teams the right direction and targets to be successful.