Encourage Personal Kaizen with Process Excellence Certificates

By Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer and Systems Guy, Great Systems

Should Process Improvement Be Optional for Leaders?

It is not uncommon in today’s organizations to only see 10-15% of the workforce actually engaged in the pursuit of process or operations excellence. In other words, if you are not on a process improvement, lean six sigma, or operations excellence team, you are not required to improve the processes you own. This approach will help you save money and reduce waste, but your rate of improvement will be slow, it will take years to make a lot of change happen, and it will be a constant struggle to sustain your improvement initiatives.

The high performers know this. I have learned myself over the years, both through my own personal experiences with process excellence successes and failures, and as an Examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. If you allow process improvement to be optional, your pursuit of process excellence will be slow and painful. I have designed my three tiered ‘Personal Kaizen – Supporting Process Excellence ®’ certificate to help you take away this option and in turn, significantly accelerate your organization’s pursuit of process excellence.

Why is it tough to sustain a process improvement initiative?

Sure, you can try to achieve levels of process excellence by solely relying on a few problem solving teams. Unfortunately, it will take you a while to get there, you will end up with only a few pockets of ‘tough to sustain’ excellence, and your success will still be dependent on the team leadership skills of your people. The biggest problem is that this approach basically tells people “If you are not on a team, you don’t have to learn and use process improvement tools.”

One of the key things that hold back process improvement initiatives is the fact that in most organizations, only a small percentage of their leaders can actually use process improvement tools. We are not taught how to use these tools in our formal education, and most people never get enough ‘practice reps’ using the tools with the benefit of feedback from an experienced coach. Additionally, it is often the case that front line supervisors, middle managers, and even those at the top actually act in a way that run counter to the efforts of the process improvement teams. In some cases, these people even restrict team performance by making it difficult for their people to go to team meetings, failing to help teams collect process analysis data, or making decisions that limit team resources. In short, they don’t practice personal kaizen very well.

Most organizations see their operations excellence, lean six sigma, or process improvement teams as an add on – as a program. They fail to realize that in order to become a high performer and sustain your success, you have to (1) consistently engage a high percentage of your people and (2) require every process owner (every manager and supervisor) to practice personal kaizen by applying process improvement tools on essentially a daily basis. Doing so is the optimum way to take the waste out, and increase the value, of the processes they are responsible for.

EXPLORE MORE: Exploring Barriers to Process Improvement


Who Needs to Change?

Why was the ‘Personal Kaizen – Supporting Process Excellence ®’ certificate created?

I created the ‘Personal Kaizen – Supporting Process Excellence ®‘ certificate for two reasons. First, I wanted to share a process with others that had worked for me as a plant manager. Second, I have grown weary of watching people chase fads and hearing the frustrations of those who have tried to put improvement systems in place and struggled to sustain them. Over my 38 plus year work career, I have learned that you can do great things with improvement teams. I have also learned however that if you really want to ‘go faster’, you have to build process excellence skills and expectations into every employee’s job. All leaders in particular have to see all work as a process and know how to use process improvement themselves. They need to practice personal kaizen daily, at least on the job.

DISCOVER MORE: Are You a Lean Six Sigma Leader?

How does one earn the ‘Personal Kaizen – Supporting Process Excellence ®’ certificate?

In general, this process is made up of three components – workshops, virtual coaching, and most importantly, skill demonstration. After kicking off the process with a one day workshop, I virtually work with the certificate participants to help them improve the processes they already own. After three months of work, we meet again for a one day onsite check-up and to provide additional training as needed. At the end of six months, we gather together for one day to wrap-up the effort and celebrate our successes. Click here for a full page certificate process overview PDF!

The process works because each participant is required to (1) capture key process count and ratio measures daily, (2) capture key process waste daily, (3) demonstrate monthly progress on key process improvement projects, and (4) report on their success every month. By capturing process information on a daily basis, a process owner becomes much more aware of where their problems are. Through the use of data collection, as opposed to opinion, they learn what the root causes of their problems and where the leverage points for true improvement exist.

The monthly reporting requirements both increase personal accountability and help each participant develop effective process improvement habits. Instead of sending someone to a class and asking them to change, this certificate process actually requires them to demonstrate the effects of the changes they have made over a six month time frame.



Example Process Excellence Leader Certificate Criteria

What types of process excellence certificates are available?

Process Owner – This certificate is for lead people, supervisors, and managers who have process improvement responsibilities but are not expected to lead work group or project team meetings.

Team Leader – This certificate builds on the Process Owner certificate in that it includes a two day, practice intensive, team facilitation and leadership skills workshop.

Organizational Leader – This certificate is for site leaders or upper managers. In addition to completing the work that is part of the other two certificates, participants also learn how to redesign their work systems so that they can their sustain process improvement initiatives in the coming years.

How can this certificate process significantly reduce management system waste?

I sincerely believe that if you use this certificate process in your organization, you will recover the certificate process costs BEFORE the end of the six month certificate process itself. Why is this possible? If for no other reason, you will significantly reduce both the amount of time you spend in meetings and improve the effectiveness of those meetings. Meetings are a process, and process improvement tools can, and have, been used to reduce meeting waste. Additionally, this process brings to light much of the key process waste that most people simply accept as being part of the job. Once the waste becomes much more obvious, and the systematic causes of that waste become much more evident, you will be able to better identify and make the system changes necessary for reducing that waste.

Ironically, this process pays for itself simply because such a high percentage of process owners don’t use these tools AT ALL on many of the processes they are currently responsible for. Many organizations have done a great job of reducing front line process waste, but they continue to act as if they don’t have any waste in their own jobs. Think about – what types of actions do your managers, supervisors, directors, vice presidents, and owners personally take to reduce the waste that exists in their own jobs? Am I off base here? Is it possible that these people are rarely wasteful? The hundreds of people I currently work with don’t seem to think so – they know there is waste out there in the management world, and they know how much can be saved by minimizing management waste by using process improvement tools.

What does the certificate process cost?

The costs that are shown below are based on a group size of 15 people:

Cost / Person
Workshop Days
Process Owner
Team Leader
Organizational Leader

Travel expenses are not included in the costs shown above, and all costs are subject to change. The travel cost for a given course is fixed, and in turn it goes down as the number of participants at a given location increases. For a quote that is specific to your own organization, or to explore other pricing options, please send me an e-mail at kevin@greatsystems.com with your questions.

Would you like to learn more about my ‘Personal Kaizen – Supporting Process Excellence ®’ certificate?

If the information on this web page has made you think a little about the degree to which process excellence is currently an option in your organization, then you may be interested in learning more about how this certificate process can help you engage more people in your pursuit of process or operations excellence. If you would like to learn more, simply give me call at the number provided on this site or send me an e-mail (kevin@greatsystems.com) with your questions.

I also expected each of my process owners to provide the following each month – a key project list for their processes, a monthly summary of their key accomplishments and challenges, and a performance summary spreadsheet that shows DAILY process inputs and outputs.  Because I expected my supervisors to spend 30-60 minutes a day on these items and use a spreadsheet to compile and organize them, I could review their progress at any time by simply looking at the spreadsheet itself, the results trend lines posted in their process areas, and/or their hard copy monthly report (or intranet web page).

Keep improving! Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer and Systems Guy, Great Systems

If you would like more information about the ‘Personal Kaizen – Supporting Process Excellence® certificate, or any of the other system improvement tools I have to offer, please send me an e-mail at kevin@greatsystems.com.