Categories : Lean Manufacturing Principles


Kaizen event – A facilitator must be able to participate in and guide the creative process!

I was recently invited to work with a team and take them through a three day Kaizen event.  I prefer these short events because it gets the team really focused, and they have more of an .  Why would I want the team to experience this level of intensity?

It’s all about tapping into their creativity. Many years back when five day were all the rage, a team started early and stayed until the job was finished, this could be as late as 2:00am.

kaizen event

Kaizen Event

Usually by Wednesday, the team members were all feeling tired and sometimes very frustrated so they tended to be a little testy at times. However, at this point they began to experience breakthrough at the peak of their frustration and tiredness. Why?

Each team member would enter a state of brain drain. They would find themselves starting to operate on some other faculty other than their functional thinking processes. They would experience a place where they could not think straight because they were too tired. They had entered a state of creative tension.

What is creative tension?

In his book “Creating”, explains the creative tension process. He says this, “I call the relationship between the vision and current reality structural tension. During the creative process, you have an eye on where you want to go, and you also have an eye on where you currently are.”

Adapted for a Kaizen event

In one of his other books called “The Path of Least Resistance” he uses an example of a rubber band to demonstrate creative tension. Here is my interpretation of his rubber band example adapted for a Kaizen event. As you stretch it, tension is generated and the inclination of the rubber band is to pull back to release the tension. If you can imagine for a moment the rubber band is stretched around both hands. The future state is represented by the right hand, and the current reality is represented by the left hand. The greater the gap between your vision and your

Kaizen event

Kaizen Event

reality, the more the rubber band will be stretched, and increase the tension. This tension will develop the motivation for the team to resolve the tension.

So, based on Fritz’s explanation creative tension is the pressure generated when a team has an understanding of their current reality, and they are working towards creating a future reality. The difference between the current and future states is that the current one is not working as it should and the future one is supposed to improve the process to make it work more effectively. The difference between the two viewpoints is what creates the tension. A team is trying to work towards something that is unknown to them in the early stages of the Kaizen event. As they progress through the event, they start to become aware of the gap but have little understanding of how to fill it. Finally, when the tension peaks there is a breakthrough, and the team discovers a solution to move them closer to the future state.

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