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Jishuken--Management Led Gemba Kaizen Event

Continuous Improvement (Kaizen) practitioner with over ten years’ experience in airline supply chain logistics and inventory management.

Jishuken involves many gemba meetings

Jishuken involves many gemba meetings

What is Jishuken ?

Jishuken is a kaizen term that means ‘management led event’. It is a hands-on approach to management’s involvement in improvement activities and is not much different from the normal gemba kaizen event.

The only difference in Jishuken is that these events are initiated and driven by managers.

What is a kaizen event?

Most people confuse the terms ‘Kaizen’ and ‘Kaizen events’ and use both of them interchangeably. This is not correct as both terms are different in context and usage. Kaizen is more of a philosophy of continuous improvement every day and everywhere.

It is more of a way of being, a mind-set geared towards making things better by continually solving problems that arise at the gemba.

Kaizen events on the other hand are specific and deliberate actions at the gemba meant to address specific problems that the organisation is facing. Kaizen is therefore a philosophy while a kaizen event is a specific improvement action.

The role of managers in Jishuken events

Jishuken is a kaizen event initiated and led by managers. Projects that managers initiate under a jishuken program are linked to a company’s overall business goals and are included in a manager’s key performance indicators (KPIs). The fact that Jishuken projects are included in a company’s strategic plan makes it crucial that managers are involved.

When managers are involved in initiating and leading kaizen events, they send a message to other workers that the initiative is serious and requires everyone’s involvement. In many organizations, it is not uncommon to find managers who take a back sit as their staff are actively engaged in improvement activities. This misalignment is taken to comical levels when you find the same managers castigating their staff for not ‘doing kaizen’ properly.

Companies that practice jishuken send a clear message to their staff that they are serious with the kaizen initiative and that everyone should align themselves with the goals of the company.

Benefits of Jishuken

  • When the general workforce see managers getting involved in improvement activities, they are more likely to accept the changes that are initiated
  • Jishuken is a clear communication to the staff that the management is serious with its kaizen initiative and that it is not just a ‘flavour of the month’ initiative
  • By getting involved, managers are able to learn and understand the kaizen concepts in a practical way
  • Managers take ownership of the problem solving activities that take place in their area of control.
  • Managers learn the concept of going to the source of a problem, or genchi genbutsu, instead of solving problems from their offices
  • Managers become teachers, coaches and mentors to their staff in teaching them the kaizen philosophy. This makes the organizational problem solving learning curve less steep.
  • Jishuken is a means of solving pressing organizational problems using cross-functional teams who can give an outside eye to hidden problems.
  • Jishuken encourages managers to highlight problems in their departments in a non-blaming atmosphere. Most managers do not like exposing problems in their sections because they fear been reprimanded by their superiors. Within a company that practices jishuken, hiding of problems is a bigger sin than exposing them

The Jishuken Process

1. Problem Identification

Jishuken processes are initiated by managers at any level who feel that there is a problematic aspect of their department that they need to address. It can be a self-initiative or a request for help from other departments within an organization.

The deviation of a process from the established standards is often the trigger for a Jishuken by the manager. If the manager notices that a key performance indicator is going off standard, he may initiate a Jishuken in order to stabilise the system. There are four possible scenarios that can trigger a Jishuken:

  • A deviation from the existing standard
  • The establishment of a new standard
  • The need to maintain a standard
  • An improvement of the new standard
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2. Team Selection

A Jishuken team consists of five-seven members from different management tiers and departments. The team has three main roles who perform different functions:

  • Team Leader: Is a manager chosen from the function that is closest to the problem being addressed. The main role of the team leader is to allocate the team resources, set the targets and goals and give direction to the team members. He provides leadership to the team members when it comes to problem solving approach and building consensus.
  • Coordinator: Should be a person who is neutral so as to gain trust from the team members. The main role of the coordinator is to guide the team and ensure the Jishuken methodology is adhered to during the whole process. He teaches the team kaizen methods and tools, while at the same time ensuring proper flow of information within the team.
  • Team Members: Make contributions during the problem solving activities. They may be given different roles at different times such as data collection, data presentation and general communication. Members can be from any function but have to undergo basic training in lean production.

A jishuken team needs support from the management for facilitation and resources needed to make it a success.

3. Jishuken 8-Step Methodology

Once the problem area has been identified and team selected, the next stage is attacking the problem. The Jishuken team has to follow a standardized methodology to solve the company’s problem. This process has standards just like any other process within the company so as to ensure repeatable results are achieved. The kaizen approach is to always understand a problem before rushing to implement a solution and the Jishuken approach is not different.

  • Step 1- Understand and state the problem clearly
  • Step 2- Breakdown problem into manageable bits
  • Step 3- Set reasonable targets
  • Step 4- Perform a root cause analysis
  • Step 5- Develop countermeasures
  • Step 6- Implement countermeasures
  • Step 7- Check the results and processes against set targets
  • Step 8- Standardize the processes that succeeded

Each suggested countermeasure should be checked for effectiveness before being standardized. This is very important as standardizing the wrong countermeasures will lead to more problems than those you started with in the first place.

Features of a successful Jishuken

For a Jishuken event to be successful it must have the following features:

  • Management driven
  • Standardized
  • Thoroughly checked countermeasures
  • Must be in line with the Kaizen philosophy of mutual trust and responsibility
  • Must complement, not replace, daily kaizen activities
  • Must not be forced on workers
  • Continuous

The time frame for a Jishuken event can be long because of the thorough investigation required. There is always a temptation to rush to immediately recommend countermeasure as stated before. When team members learn to persevere long enough, they will see sustained results in the gemba


The following are the references of the Jishuken information provided above:

  1. Liker, J., Hoseus, M. (2008) Toyota Culture – The Heart and Soul of the Toyota Way
  2. Liker, J., Meier, D. (2006) The Toyota Way Field Book
  3. Masaaki, I. (1997) Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Low-cost Approach to Managemen

This article was written by David Gitachu

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